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14 July, 2024
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Cyprus struggles to reduce landfill waste, falling behind targets

European Commission uncovers inconsistencies in official figures and reported waste data in Cyprus

Cyprus is facing significant challenges in meeting its municipal waste management and recycling targets, prompting concerns from the European Commission, according to a report on Philenews. The country is at risk of falling short of its commitment to prepare for the reuse and recycling of 55% of municipal waste by 2025. Furthermore, achieving the target of recycling 65% of packaging waste by 2025 also appears uncertain. The Commission is particularly worried about Cyprus's progress in reducing landfilling of municipal waste to 10% by 2035.

The Commission's report highlights that Cyprus is among the 18 Member States struggling to reach the 55% recycling target for municipal waste by 2025. Similarly, it is one of the 10 Member States facing difficulties in achieving the 65% recycling target for packaging waste, with a particular focus on plastic, glass, and aluminum recycling. Additionally, Cyprus is part of the 13 Member States that are significantly far from meeting the landfill reduction goal of 10% for municipal waste by 2035.

On June 8, 2023, the Early Warning Report was shared with Cypriot authorities, offering recommendations and showcasing existing good practices in waste management. The report also suggests potential actions to enhance Cyprus's performance in this crucial area.

Discrepancies between the official figures and the data communicated by Cyprus's competent authorities were revealed in the report. Despite Cyprus generating a higher volume of waste compared to the European average, less than half of the packaging waste is being correctly managed. In 2019, Cyprus's municipal waste generation exceeded the EU average, reaching 648 kg per person compared to 502 kg per person. The tourism industry's significant activity on the island may contribute to this disparity. However, the production of packaging waste in 2019 was only about half of the EU average, amounting to 92 kg per person compared to 177 kg per person.

The Commission notes that the seemingly low figure for packaging waste may indicate a failure to report significant amounts of packaging placed on the market. Furthermore, 17% of the generated municipal waste in 2019 remained unaccounted for in terms of treatment, primarily due to temporary storage and losses during mechanical-biological treatment processes. However, the Commission also highlights the possibility of improper landfilling in irregular or substandard facilities.

Cyprus reported a municipal waste recycling rate of 16.8% in 2020, falling 38% below the 55% target set for 2025. In contrast, the landfill rate reached 67%, approximately three times the EU average. The lack of progress in waste management is concerning, with the recycling rate stagnating at around 16% between 2016 and 2020, and only a slight decrease in the landfill rate of approximately 9% during the same period. Insufficient capacity for separate collection and treatment of biological waste contributes to this performance, while the amount of municipal waste sent to landfills remains unacceptably high.

As reported by Philenews, Cyprus exceeded the 2025 target by achieving a recycling rate of 66.8% in 2019. However, the Commission raises concerns about the quality of data related to packaging. There is a significant discrepancy between the low recycling rate of municipal waste and the high recycling rates of packaging waste. Since a considerable portion of packaging waste is generated by households and classified as municipal waste, the datasets for municipal waste and packaging waste appear incompatible. In 2020, the recycling rate for all packaging waste declined to 59.9%.

Cyprus is currently grappling with significant challenges in waste management, and despite recent measures, tangible results are yet to be achieved. Intensified efforts are required to address these issues and meet the 2025 targets. The Early Warning Report highlights several key challenges, including excessive reliance on landfill without a corresponding landfill tax, inadequate infrastructure and systems for separate collection and treatment of biological waste, and concerns about data quality related to packaging waste.

To support Cyprus in improving its waste management performance, the report proposes key recommendations. These include supporting the implementation of municipal waste preparation for reuse and promoting packaging reuse schemes, expanding the implementation of separate collection initiatives throughout the country, enhancing public awareness of waste sorting and prevention, considering economic instruments such as payment at disposal schemes, and introducing a landfill tax to incentivize separate collection and reduce landfill waste, enhancing waste treatment infrastructure with a focus on the higher stages of the waste hierarchy, strengthening the capacity for bio-waste treatment and supporting household composting, and establishing national quality standards for compost and digested derived from bio-waste.

Despite the concerns expressed by the European Commission, there is confidence that the waste management targets can be achieved through the implementation of appropriate measures. To address these challenges more effectively and avoid potential fines, establishing a State Secretary for the Environment, responsible for a significant portion of EU directives and regulations, is being considered. Such a dedicated department would allow for a sharper focus on environmental sectors, leading to improved waste management policies and performance.

Cyprus  |  waste  |  garbage  |  Europe

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