By Nicolas Netien

Cyprus faces a daunting challenge to meet the European Union’s waste management targets.

The island nation sends a whopping 67 per cent of its municipal waste to landfills, far above the EU average of 25 per cent. This not only harms the environment, but also costs Cyprus hefty fines from the EU. In 2022, Cyprus produced 523,000 tonnes of municipal waste, or 609kgs per person. Out of this, 202 thousand tonnes of organic waste ended up in landfills. Cyprus has 11 landfills, but only three of them are sanitary and comply with EU standards. The rest are non-sanitary, where organic waste decomposes and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

In one year, this process can generate 424 thousand tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which is equal to flying around the world in a plane 40 thousand times.

Pentakomo, one of the two mechanical-biological treatment (MBT) plants in Cyprus has recently faced severe operational setbacks after the Water Development Department took over the facility’s management, allowing for most all of Limassol’s mixed solid waste to be directly landfilled rather than processed thus functioning more like a landfill rather than a modern waste treatment facility. It is clear that a paradigm shift is needed in Cyprus regarding its waste management approach, both from the top-down and from the grass roots level up to the decision-makers in government.

That’s where “Kot-Kot” comes in.

Kot-Kot is a ray of hope that shines from the olive and orange groves of Akaki village. It is an initiative led by Elena Christoforos, who has turned her family grove into an organically certified, holistically managed agro-ecosystem. She is now offering a circular economy solution for food waste management.

Kot-Kot is a simple yet innovative way to tackle the pressing issue of food waste. It is a circular economy initiative that aims to not only manage food waste efficiently, but also to enhance environmental sustainability. Its appeal lies in its simplicity and the ease with which its audience can participate. Kot-Kot’s strategy involves collecting food waste from schools, restaurants, hotels and businesses.

The food waste is then used to feed rescued chickens. After completing their laying cycle, instead of going to the slaughterhouse, the chickens retire at the Akaki grove, where they contribute to the agro-ecosystem by naturally fertilising the soil and helping with pest control and ground cover management.

Kot-Kot is currently launching a pilot project with the Junior School of Nicosia, involving 800 students. Kot-Kot estimates that it will collect 1.2 tons of food waste monthly, or 1.5kg per student. This can sustain 150 retired chickens, producing 90kg of dry fertiliser monthly and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2.4 tons of CO2 equivalent. The Kot-Kot team will also educate the students on waste sorting and circular economy principles, and invite them to visit the farm and interact with the chickens.

Kot-Kot may have a modest scale compared to Cyprus’ waste production, but it has a huge potential to transform the way people think and act about waste management. In a country dominated by landfill practices, Kot-Kot offers a glimpse into a future where circular economy practices, sustainable agriculture, and waste reduction become the norm.

To scale up for a sustainable Cyprus, Kot-Kot aims to expand its capacity to 15,000 chickens, which can divert 547 tons of food waste from landfills annually, preventing the release of 1,150 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

The initiative plans to collaborate with more schools, restaurants, hotels, and businesses across Cyprus, and is now seeking support from governmental and non-governmental organisations, as well as the public.

Kot-Kot is more than just a catchy name. It is a vision for a greener and cleaner Cyprus.

You can contact them by email: [email protected] or find them on instagram @kotkotcyprus

Nicolas Netien is an environmental engineer, expert in Agro-ecology and Permaculture Design