The Greek island of Tilos “is the island with the greatest rate of recycling globally, and this fills us with hope,” Environment & Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas said on Tuesday, representing prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at an event on the remote SE Aegean island.
Tilos, lying between Nisyros in the north and Rhodes in the south, and long a site of pioneering programs, also covers nearly 100% of its energy needs through renewable energy sources.
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. The Polygreen comprehensive waste management trucks collect the 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 percentage is processed for energy use. With the local community’s participation, the recycling rate is soon expected to exceed 90%.
As Mayor Maria 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.