Cypriots say they are sensitive to environmental issues, but do little to reduce and reuse their waste and don’t care where their waste ends up, as long as it leaves their home, a new study has shown.
These are some of the conclusions derived from a public opinion survey carried out for the EU-funded Rethink programme.
Project coordinator Giorgos Kirkos, who presented the finds of the survey in Limassol on Wednesday, said the survey indicated that Cypriots on the whole “do not understand some concepts concerning waste management”.
He explained that, while Cypriots easily understand the concept of recycling, with which they are more familiar, they do not understand the concept of reducing the production of waste or reusing it, which are high on the pyramid of waste management strategies in the EU, even more so than recycling.
According to the study, Cypriots see waste management as connected to their health or linked to charitable causes, such as the donation of clothes, and not necessarily with protecting the environment.
“Through the survey we find that, as long as the waste leaves their home, Cypriots are not interested what happens, as long as they don`t see the waste in front of them,” Kirkos said.
“This is a notion we have to change, we have to think where the rubbish we throw away ends up, and help the process by separating the recyclable materials.”
He added that, although the Cypriots say they are sensitive towards environmental issues and are concerned by them, when asked what they do “we see that they do very little, either because they are not properly informed or because they do not try to stay informed.”
Cyprus is third in the production of waste in the EU, Kirkos said.
“It is worrying that, although there are some countries worse than us, the way we manage the waste we produce is much worse than those countries, since for their waste they have more environmentally friendly solutions, not landfills. We must change our behaviour and consumer approach.”
Even with recycling, where the public is strongest and will recycle without any incentives, a new legislative framework would improve matters, said Kyriacos Parpounas, the general manager of Green Dot Cyprus.
“With the few tools we had at our disposal, over the past 10 years there has been a significant shift and we see that half the population recycles where there are recycling programmes, without any incentives,” he said.
Programmes such as Pay As You Throw and obligatory participation in recycling are the way forward, he said..
Parpounas said Cyprus compares badly with waste management processes in other European countries, in which there are laws, incentives and disincentives.
Regarding waste management in industry, Parpounas said there was a good response and prospects for improvement, however there is a problem with the large landfills which receive waste on a daily basis at minimal cost for the industries.
“From the moment we are trying to withdraw materials and take them to other forms of management which cost, there should also be a cost for taking waste to landfills, so that it is not the most cost effective solution for companies,” he said.
During the event, the state environment department presented legal obligations for waste management in the industry. The department`s representative Elena Christodoulou said efforts were being made to intensify the relevant checks and inspections, so that as many as possible companies comply, because it was important that they comply, not fined.
“We are reaching our total goals of recovering and recycling, based on the last report of 2013, but we have some problems in recycling glass and wood, and efforts are being made to intensify the collection and recycling of these materials”, she said.
She also expressed her hope that Cyprus will manage, to meet many, if not all, of its EU obligations regarding waste management. (CNA)