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Workers at Koshi waste management plant sorting through rubbish

THE GOVERNMENT is seeking to build three new expensive waste management plants - touting them as a solution to the imminent prospect of incurring huge fines from the EU - even though forcing people to recycle at home would cost much less, Environment Commissioner Charalambos Theopemptou has said.
On Wednesday, the European Commission asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to impose huge fines on Italy for failing to comply with a 2007 court ruling to clean up its landfill sites.
Cyprus, which has also failed to comply with the 2007 court ruling, was referred to the ECJ on June 21 for violating the EU Landfill Directive which will enable the commission to request the imposition of fines if the court rules - as expected - that Cyprus infringed the directive.
The directive aims to limit negative effects on the environment from piling waste onto landfills and also to protect public health.
In Cyprus, six landfills known to the commission continue to operate in breach of the EU legislation.
The interior ministry’s proposed solution is to build two new waste management plants - in Limassol and Nicosia - by 2015 to support the existing Koshi plant in Larnaca and enable Cyprus to clean up and sort out its landfills. A third new plant is also planned.
That might double rubbish collection fees per household bringing them up to €250-€300 per year. Recycling company Green Dot’s general manager, Kyriacos Papoutsas says the cost could be even higher at around €350 per annum.
The government’s waste management policy is based on a 2003 decision whereby rubbish gets sorted when it reaches the waste management plant even though a 2008 EU directive puts the onus on waste reduction and on the public to recycle their own rubbish as happens in elsewhere in Europe.
If individual households and businesses sorted their recyclables before rubbish collection, waste would be reduced by 50 per cent and only two plants would be needed to handle the island’s waste, Theopemptou said. It would also be cheaper on cash-strapped municipalities and households.
And sorting the remaining rubbish (e.g. sorting out what can be composted and collecting it) could reduce quantities even further, Theopemptou said.
London residents for example can opt to separate their compostable rubbish and hand it over to authorities which give them high quality compost for their garden in return.
“But the 2003 law gives the impression that we Cypriots think we are above recycling,” Theopemptou said. “Why doesn’t the government recycle? Why is recycling not compulsory?”
And the agriculture ministry’s environment department does not even have a waste reduction policy, he added.
Interior Minister Eleni Mavrou has told the Sunday Mail that getting the ball rolling on the plants would help Cyprus argue against the imposition of crippling fines.
The commission decided to refer Cyprus to the ECJ because “full compliance [was] not expected before 2015”.
The interior ministry told the House Interior Committee in August that it was expecting the ECJ to issue a verdict in favour of the commission by autumn 2013 at the latest.
The Republic “must take all necessary measures to comply within a reasonable time span to avoid… the imposition of fines by a lump-sum and/or a daily fine for every day the violation continues,” the interior ministry’s permanent secretary, Andreas Ashiotis told the House in writing.
Italy, for example, is facing a huge lump-sump fine of €56 million and a daily fine of €256,819 although Cyprus’ comparably tiny economy will be fined less and is looking at €16,000 a day, Theopemptou said.
And the commission’s aim is to see the directive implemented, not to impose fines.
"Before deciding how to proceed, all information is taken into account including changes in the situation that first brought about the legal action," said the commission’s environment spokesman Joseph Hennon.
But Cyprus’ technical chamber ETEK, environment commissioner, and recycling agents have all asked the government to implement the existing infrastructure and introduce waste reduction policies instead of rushing into tenders for waste management plants which will be “binding for the next decades” said ETEK in an announcement last month.
“We have been saying the same thing for years - basically everyone disagrees with the state,” Theopemptou said.
Be that as it may, Mavrou has previously put delays down to discussions and presentations, saying that it was time to end dialogue with interested stakeholders and take decisions.

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