Cyprus Mail

Fragmented responsibilities and public apathy bode ill for waste reduction – study


By Rebekah Gregoriades

Incorrect planning of infrastructure for waste management and the absence of a comprehensive strategic plan by the state, are among the general problems Cyprus is facing in the sector of waste management, according to the results of a study carried out in the context of the European programme LIFE-Rethink.

The results of the study indicate other problems, such as the fragmentation of responsibilities among different departments and the absence of a single waste management entity, as well as delays in passing legislation which would provide incentives and disincentives, and would contribute towards cultivating environmental behaviour and generating more private initiative.

It also said the small size of Cyprus makes it more difficult to implement sustainable solutions for waste management, while at the same time private initiative in the sector of the management of recyclable materials is limited.

The study also points out that there is a lack of culture among the public and, although the average Cypriots are informed, they are not sensitive to issues regarding waste management. There is also insufficient recycling infrastructure, with a typical absence of recycling in public buildings and a limited variety of recyclable materials recycled.

According to the study, the picture painted through discussions with the decision makers for waste management is not especially positive.

The lack of interest is spread across all sections of the society, and the decision makers see problems in the implementation of a single, coordinated strategy on behalf of the government, insufficient support from the legislative authority, a lack of will on behalf of the local authorities to undertake actions at their own discretion or in coordination with other local authorities, a low level of dissemination of information by the media, and scandals overshadowing any positive actions taken and any progress made in cultivating environmental awareness in waste management.

Decision makers also see partially-informed, non-sensitive consumers, who have not sufficiently incorporated “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” into their lives. They believe it is necessary to change the behaviour of the consumers and that experience so far indicates the necessity for legislative regulation and the use of incentives and disincentives. At the same time, they believe that existing awareness campaigns do not seem to be especially productive and that it is possibly necessary to change the approach towards the public.

The report also said that the biggest positive impact in Reduce, Reuse, Recycle would be measures promoting sorting at the source, such as the obligatory separation of waste and recyclables, and the “pay as you throw” system. “Measures such as the operation of units of integrated waste management facilities are less desirable because they do not lead to a shift in the behaviour of the consumers,” it said.

“At the same time, the decision makers support expanding the network for the collection of recyclable materials from homes across Cyprus, increasing collection points in public places, extending the flow collected, broadening the categories of products under the responsibility of the producer, and targeting information at the public.”

The study, which was carried out between February 4 and March 21, 2016, comprised eight indepth interviews with decision makers in the private sector, the media, the local authorities, and custodians in the public sector, to investigate their views regarding the implementation of environmental policy on waste management, the degree of knowledge and implementation of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and the role of the interested parties.

Recommendations that would help promote recycling include increasing the flow of materials to be recycled include, broadening the coverage of the packaging recovery system island-wide, increasing the collection points for recyclable materials which are not collected from homes (e.g. glass, batteries), increasing the recycling points in public areas, stepping up information for materials currently being recycled and available collection points, and implementing the “pay as you throw” system, which will increase the cost of collecting waste for those not recycling.

The Rethink programme aims at properly informing and cultivating awareness among the public, in order to achieve changes in thought and behaviour when it comes to waste.

Campaigns are now being promoted on television, radio, printed and electronic press, social network media, and digital media.  (CNA)

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