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Our View: Cyprus needs to clean up its waste management failures

Ypsonas, trash, dumping, illegal dumping, landfill, litter, waste, waste management
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The House environment committee performed a useful duty in alerting everyone to the ineffectiveness of the waste management policies of the last 20 years. Cyprus will not meet the targets set for 2025, warned the president of the committee and leader of the Green Party, Charalambos Theopemptou, after Wednesday’s meeting.

The EU had asked Cyprus to formulate a waste management strategy in 2004, when the matter was still the responsibility of the interior ministry. What little had been done for the first ten to 15 years, was eventually left unfinished, as the responsibility for the policy was transferred to the Environment Department that was part of the agriculture ministry and has been struggling to cope with mountain of issues.

Recycling has not been pursued properly, with the result that some 1,000 companies that should have been registered with Green Dot, have not yet done so. Then there was the issue of re-using materials, for which there was no policy either – furniture, for example, was taken to dumping areas and destroyed. There was no way the target of 55 per cent of waste being recycled or re-used by 2025 would be met, said Theopemptou.

These are not the only targets Cyprus will fail to meet. There is no way the target for reducing the amount of household waste being buried would be met by 2035, said Disy deputy Prodromos Alambritis. “We are burying more than 70,000 tonnes directly without any management or separation (of the waste),” he said. Although nobody admits it, this is because of the long list of blunders made by the Anastasiades government on the waste treatment plant in Pentakomo.

The government asked for tenders on obsolete technology and awarded the contract to the lowest bidder, which had zero experience with waste treatment, against the very clear advice of the European Commission that funded the project. The result is that household waste is being treated and then buried, with Pentakomo being turned into a landfill. It is unable to sell its treated waste, which was the original plan, making its operation also financially problematic.

It is a big mess left for this government to manage. It should consider closing the Pentakomo plant and taking the financial hit – money would have to be returned to the EU – so it could set up a properly-functioning, technologically modern, waste treatment plant. And it should listen to the advice of the EU technocrats this time. Comprehensive policies for recycling and re-use must also be formulated and most importantly, implemented.

Theopemptou said the government should hire more people to implement its policies. The Environment Department may be understaffed, but what it really needs is expertise and know-how on issues such as recycling policy and waste treatment technology, which do not seem to be available in Cyprus. This is what the government needs to secure if any progress is to be made.

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