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Greece’s Tilos Island Becomes Global Leader in Recycling

Tilos Greece recycling
Tilos island has already managed to recycle 86 percent of its waste. Credit: Facebook/Ministry of Environment and Energy

Greece’s Tilos island is the island with the greatest recycling rate globally due to a program introduced in December 2021 by a private company.

The program plans to turn Tilos into the first green island globally with zero household trash, which it has already managed to recycle at 86 percent.

“Tilos has become the island with the greatest rate of recycling globally. This fills us with hope,” Environment & Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas said on Tuesday at an event on the remote SE Aegean island.

Skrekas attended the presentation of the “Just Go Zero” recycling program introduced by the Polygreen company.

Recycling in Greece’s Tilos through the “Just Go Zero” program

When “Just Go Zero” was initiated, residents of the sparsely populated island received bags and containers to separate their trash into recyclables, biowaste, and non-recyclables.

Polygreen comprehensive waste management trucks collect trash from homes three or four times a week, and the facility separates it into 25 streams.

The greatest percentage is recycled or reused while a minuscule amount is processed for energy use. With the local community’s participation, the recycling rate will soon exceed 90 percent.

As Mayor Maria Kamma-Aliferi noted, “We proved that innovation does not start from the center, but from our small islands, which can serve as examples,” and she referred to the late mayor, Tassos Aliferis, who “convinced the local community we could stand on our own two feet.”

CEO and founder of Polygreen, Thanassis Polychronopoulos, said that “all began from a dream: we are at the start of a new civilization—a civilization without trash.”

In a videotaped message, European Commissioner for Environment Virginijus Sinkevicius praised the island’s efforts and expressed the hope it would inspire many to follow its examples.

Tilos is also Greece’s first energy-self-sufficient island

Tilos, lying between Nisyros in the north and Rhodes in the south, long a site of pioneering programs, also covers nearly 100 percent of its energy needs through renewable energy sources.

With a population of just over 500 people and the addition of 13,000 tourists a year, Tilos was the first out of 80 total projects chosen to receive funding under an EU program called “Horizon 2020.”

The main goal of the Tilos project was the creation of Greece’s first hybrid power station, which produces energy from its very own wind farm and solar power generators that it later stores in batteries.

With the project now completed, Tilos can boast of becoming completely self-sufficient in energy.

“I am very proud of what we have achieved,” Maria Kamma- Aliferi told Greek Reporter recently.

“Our success is a lesson for all island communities in Greece,” she commented happily.

By producing its own power entirely derived from renewable energy sources, the island has significantly reduced its own carbon footprint while simultaneously reducing the costs carried by locals.

“The benefits to the islanders will soon be made apparent as their electricity bills will be reduced,” Kamma-Aliferi told Greek Reporter.

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