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Athens bid to bag plastic November 11, 2007

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Supermarket managers have responded positively to a bid by Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis to start replacing plastic bags with more environmentally friendly fabric equivalents or reusable heavy-duty plastic ones, City Hall said yesterday.

The initiative, an extension of Kaklamanis’s campaign to boost recycling, aims to reduce the amount of plastic bags being discarded. The use of fabric bags and reusable plastic bags is common in other European cities such as Paris, Brussels and London. “The plastic bag may be used just once but has a life cycle of 400 years,” a City Hall announcement said.

Initial talks with senior officials from top supermarkets, including Metro, Veropoulos, Atlantis and A-B Vassilopoulos, were encouraging and a new meeting has been set for next month, Kaklamanis said. Until then, the Mayor is to discuss the scheme with officials at the Environment and Public Works Ministry, the Development Ministry as well as consumer associations.

Athens City Council calls for help on blue bins November 9, 2007

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The Athens City Council has appealed to the state-owned Hellenic Recovery & Recycling Corporation (HERRCO) for assistance in improving its recycling program.

Regular rubbish trucks collecting recyclable material, consumers failing to sort waste before placing it in blue bins and an insufficient number of dumpsters are some of the program’s key problems.

George Dimopoulos, Athens’s Deputy Mayor responsible for recycling and cleaning, said the city needs to add 6,000 recycling bins to the current 1,900, but added that rubbish collection resources are tight. “In order to reach 6,000 blue bins we need another 160 employees along with the respective wage, fuel and truck maintenance costs,” he said. “We are asking HERRCO to assist in the collection procedure,” he added.

HERRCO provides the blue bins but Municipalities are responsible for rubbish collection. Dimopoulos said the Environment Ministry needs to change the broader framework regulating recycling programs as a means of overcoming funding problems. According to HERRCO, it is not contractually obliged to provide money for rubbish collection.

Meanwhile, a study commissioned by Skai Radio and Television indicated that 75 percent of respondents believe the government ought to create a separate Environment Ministry to deal solely with environmental issues.

Cyprus biofuel hiccup October 25, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy.
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Cyprus’ haste to adopt European Union tax regulations could see the island’s only biofuel producer relocate to Greece because of a legislative muddle on whether the commodity should be taxed.

Cyprus is already lagging behind its EU peers in consumption of biodiesel. Europe-wide, the consumption target was 2 percent in 2005, and is to rise to 5.75 percent in 2010. In Cyprus’s case, there is a national consumption target of 1 percent.

The island’s only licensed biofuel producer is now in court because lawmakers failed to exempt the commodity from excise tax in a broad-based review of pricing structures on diesel prior to Cyprus joining the European Union in 2004.

“After EU accession in 2004, the authorities raided my production premises, demanding a certain amount for unpaid excise taxes, VAT on the unpaid excise taxes and a fine, plus interest,” said Demetris Lordos, director of Environmental Energy Ltd, a production plant based in the southern town of Limassol. Production from the facility, which recycles cooking oil collected from hotels and restaurants, amounts to 300 tons of biodiesel a year.

Officials acknowledge that the company fell foul of the haste to change subsidy laws. For decades, diesel was subsidized at the expense of petrol and largely spared taxation as part of the island’s agricultural policy.

However, when lawmakers were introducing EU-harmonized excise taxes on fuel, they failed to exclude biofuels, in contradiction to stated policy, resulting in the product getting the same tax treatment as mineral diesel. The discrepancy is about to be phased out but will only apply to an exemption of tax on transport diesel. Inferior-grade heating diesel produced at Lordos’s facility will continue to be taxed, but at a lower coefficient, officials said.

“We saw that the law had flaws and we decided to correct it,” a customs official said, referring to the legislation, which is about to come into force. “But when customs finds out that taxes were not paid, it has to treat the case as an offense… We have no right to refrain from seeking payment of these taxes,” the official said.

Lordos has appealed his fine at the island’s supreme court and the case is pending. He says authorities’ conditions for the production of biofuel is making the business unviable and is considering his relocation to Greece.

“The law prescribes that biofuel has to be produced in a strict bonded regime. But this also involves an extra daily cost of 200 Cyprus pounds (US$488) for the producer… For a small producer with a daily output of 2,000 liters of biodiesel, this translate into a cost of 10 cents per liter. So, if the state is intending to support production, why is it then imposing such requirements that make production unviable?” he said.

Recycling of Greece’s electronic waste gets off to a tentative start October 24, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment, Technology.
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Only a small percentage of old computer hardware is processed > “Where does my personal computer go when it dies?” wondered Yiannis Dimitriadis, a graduate of the National Technical University.

He may well ask. A Presidential decree in 2004 ruled that we should be recycling 44,000 tons annually, that is 4 tons per capita, at controlled recycling centers, in line with European Union legislation. At the end of the 1980s, along with 169 other countries, Greece signed the Berne Convention against the illegal distribution of waste. The member states that have ratified the convention (63, including Greece), do not export e-waste to developing countries.

The average life span of the average PC declined from six years in 1997 to just two years in 2005. By 2010, the amount of e-waste in the European Union is expected to reach 12 million tons annually. Ioanna Dantidi, public relations officer for Appliances Recycling SA, www.electrocycle.gr, explained the procedure and the part her company plays in it. “The firm is the first national collection agency for the alternative management of electrical and electronic appliances. It functions as a kind of state concession. “We are licensed by the Environment and Public Works Ministry, to which we are answerable,” she said.

E-waste collection depends to a great extent on the Municipalities and the agreement they reach with the authority concerned. Nevertheless, this is no easy matter. “The first problem is finding a storage place and the second is finding a way to collect the waste from the Municipalities.”

The Municipalities who do collect this waste undertake to transport it to appropriate sites and from there to the Greek Recycling Center (EKAN), the only recycling center for PCs at the moment, although another eight are expected to start operations in 2008. Appliances Recycling has arrangements with 136 Municipalities, which are paid 140 to 180 euros per ton for their cooperation.

“This gives them an incentive, because even though they are obliged by law, there are many ways to shirk that obligation and they often make great efforts to do so,” said Dantidi.

Gypsies have always collected scrap metal, but now much of this waste consists of electrical appliances, including computers. According to mechanical and civil engineer Giorgos Vakontios, Vice President of EKAN, the Gypsies remove the glass, plastic and copper to sell separately to the recycling centers. However, they then throw away what is left in garbage dumps. Computers are pollutants in themselves. Even if EKAN collects PCs from waste lots, it is too late.

EKAN processes up to 20,000 tons of e-waste every year. As Greece produces a total of 170,000 tons, the rest ends up in garbage dumps. But EKAN is a dismantling plant, not a recycling plant. PCs are broken up and dangerous materials separated from the useful materials, which are taken to recycling plants elsewhere in Europe. However, some materials do end up in the Third World, in China and Pakistan.

According to Vakontios, these countries receive different types of plastics, motors, transformers and hard disks which are sent abroad for further recycling. So Greece does send material to China once dangerous materials have been removed. The question is who decided what is dangerous.

Apart from the Municipalities, retailers also bear a responsibility for collecting e-waste. Although required by law to do so, it is very rare with only a few exceptions. According to Appliances Recycling, some retailers do make an effort. The DIY chain Praktiker has installed collection points for small appliances. Since the end of 2005, Cosmote has installed bins for collecting old cellphones, bluetooth appliances and batteries.

International organizations are struggling to persuade manufacturers to assume their responsibilities. Greenpeace, the Basel Action Network (BAN), the main agency for monitoring e-waste based in Seattle, USA, and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, an NGO defending public health from the side effects of high technology, are waging a daily battle to prevent the illegal movement of e-waste but also to change the way major manufacturers manage their waste.

They are also fighting for limits on the use of dangerous substances in the manufacture of computers and other appliances. Nokia tops the Greenpeace e-waste scorecard. It is withdrawing dangerous chemicals from many of its products. Sony Ericsson is close behind. Near the bottom of the list are Apple, Hewlett Packard and Panasonic.

EU legislation has already been amended so that producers will now be responsible for recycling their waste. The cost of abiding by the legislation, which is likely to raise product prices, is estimated to amount to 500-900 million euros.

Limassol leads the way in recycling October 11, 2007

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Limassol Mayor Andreas Christou has signed an agreement with recycling company Green Dot Cyprus, to offer recycling services to the town, as well as to four additional councils in the district.

The co-operation agreement, entering into force on January 1, 2008, covers the city of Limassol, Pano Polemidia, Mouttayiaka and Ayios Tyhonas. The programme will see the collection of three types of household waste: paper, glass and PMD [plastic bottles and trays, metal and cartons]. The service will be provided to 190,000 people in Limassol. Green Dot has been offering these services to 60,000 people in smaller councils since the beginning of 2007.

“We are now entering the large-scale phase of the recycling project, which has been tested on a pilot basis in five smaller councils since the beginning of the year. We strongly believe in the potential of waste, which is a valuable commercial commodity. Recycling may not be financially profitable at the moment, but it offers many benefits to the environment and to citizens,” the Mayor said.

Recycling undoubtedly offers great benefits, but comes at a significant cost. “In terms of cost, it is £5 per citizen per year, meaning that the provision of recycling services to Limassol alone will cost £550,000 per year. To cover the whole of Cyprus the cost would be £4 million per year,” explained Constandinos Ioannou, President of Green Dot’s Board of Directors.

Paper and PMD will be collected on a weekly door-to-door basis, while glass will be disposed of at collection points throughout the area. A public information campaign will be launched in November to explain the aims and operational details of the programme to citizens.

The waste will be transported to the Moni Sorting Unit and will then be sent abroad for processing. Cyprus presently does not possess the capacity for treating recycling waste, except for small quantities of plastic which stays in Cyprus for use in the domestic market.

“We are looking into ways of keeping glass in Cyprus for recycling, and using ground glass as raw material for cement-making,” added Kyriacos Parpounas, General Manager of Green Dot Cyprus.

Cyprus has adopted EU Directive 94/62/EC on recycling through domestic legislation. The law dictates that producers and importers of packed products have an obligation to collect and distribute waste packaging and to ensure that they are taken to processing units.

Athens Mayor steps up flood measures October 11, 2007

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Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis called on the government yesterday to help clean up the city’s storm drains as the Municipality presented its winter action plan aimed at flood prevention.

Kaklamanis accused the companies contracted to clean up storm drains of not doing their jobs after being appointed the task by the Environment and Public Works Ministry.

“Contractors that have undertaken the specific work either do not know how to do their jobs or have not completed the work,” said the Mayor. He also called on the Public Works Ministry to give contractors a three-month extension to fulfill their obligations. A check by the Municipality of Athens inspection teams found that 80 percent of storm drains are blocked with rubbish, including mattresses and rolls of carpet, posing a serious flood threat. The task of cleaning storm drains will be undertaken by the Municipality as of next year.

The Municipality of Athens has marked out danger areas in the city and prepared an action plan on how to be better prepared for any winter rain. The target of the plan is to avoid placing human lives at risk and prevent homes and shops from being flooded, added Kaklamanis. Sudden and intense thunderstorms often bring the city to a standstill during the winter months with flooded roads a common problem for drivers and pedestrians.

With regard to recycling efforts that have been slow in getting off the ground, Kaklamanis said that the council is looking into setting up a new company to oversee and implement programs. The Hellenic Recovery and Recycling Corporation has offered the Municipality trucks to collect recyclable goods but has not provided drivers and trained staff, according to Kaklamanis.