2nd place 2023 – Tilos (Greece)



GTI Awards 2023 – 2nd place

General information:

Island (Region, Province, Country):
Tilos – Dodecanese,Greece

up to 10.000 inhabitants

Budget / cost of the project:
€ 600.000

Project status:
Completed project


Project objectives:

  • Reconstruction of the solid waste management model so that all waste streams are reused, recycled or recovered and zero waste is disposed to landfill
  • Reformation of the municipal landfill site into a Circular Innovation Centre, where waste is sorted, processed and managed
  • Promotion of reuse and upcycling of no longer desirable objects
  • Awareness raising, education and active participation of residents and tourists in solid waste management through the modification of consumption habits and daily disposal behavior
  • Waste sorting at source (households & businesses)
  • Environment upgrade and improvement of life quality for the residents and visitors
  • Water, land, air pollution prevention and degradation of the ecosystem
  • Tilos island is the first zero waste island and a pioneer in the global trend of sustainable tourism destinations


Project description of activities and specific interventions:

Polygreen came into an agreement with the Tilos municipality for the responsibility of managing solid waste on the island.

The program required the removal of all public waste bins. The local population received instructions on how to separate their waste into three streams, recyclables, organic waste and non-recyclables at the source. Through a door-to-door collection system the separated waste streams of all households and businesses are transported to the Circular Innovation Centre, the pioneer management plant constructed at the previous landfill site for the collection, sorting and processing of all materials. In the Circular Innovation Centre all recyclable streams are collected and further separated into sub-categories, balled, weighted and prepared for shipping to recycling plants. A separate bio-waste processing unit is also in place for the processing of the island organic waste and the production of compost. The resulting material is utilized locally for the fertilization of the soil. Non-recyclable materials are preprocessed to be used as an alternative fuel in industries in the mainland.

Aiming to promote the reuse of objects, and at the same time link the program to educational and cultural activities, a Center for Creative Reuse is established, where artist residencies of recognized art and designer upcycling groups are in place. The Center also hosts repair, recovery and reuse of materials as well as open seminars and educational programs and activities demonstrate the principles of upcycling to the wider public.


Public outreach, education and awareness efforts and results:

Public outreach and education have been the main instruments of success in the implementation of the project. The local engagement team has supplied all households and business with sorting equipment, along with instructional material focusing on waste separation, information on the values of circular economy and how it can benefit both the community and the environment.

The program is supported by an innovative platform, through which the local community can draw information in real time, on the quantities of materials that are collected. The information incentivizes them in doing a better separation and to produce less waste.

Children represent the future and schools are a priority. Activities are arranged in order to raise the children’s interest and environmental awareness so that best practices are directly conveyed to the elder family members.

The project’s information center is situated centrally and near the port so that both residents and tourists may easily find information on the program.

The project has already achieved high material recovery rates with over 85% recyclables, and less than 15% of non-recyclables receiving praise and recognition internationally.


Economic value added and how calculated:

  • Ecological benefits that are going to pay off in the future
  • Increased visibility for the island. Attraction of ecotourists, scientific tourists and tourists in general.
  • Creation of new permanent jobs on a small community whose only major commercial activity is tourism.
  • New job positions, more people are staying permanently on the island (benefits for the local economy and society in general).


Ecological and social project outcomes:

  • Enrichment of island soils threatened by desertification through usage of soil conditioner that is produced through the separate bio-waste collection and composting.
  • Closure of the landfill offers an effective and long-term protection for the environment and the water resources of the island.
  • Newly constructed state of the art recovery, recycling and reuse infrastructures.
  • By introducing the concept of sustainability and changing the everyday life and behavior of citizens, creating new values and aesthetics, both in the local community and the tourists.
  • High material recovery rates (>85% recyclables, <15% non-recyclables).
  • Increased visibility to the island as word spreads about the pioneering Just Go Zero Program, attracting more environmentally conscious tourists.
  • Upgrading the island’s environment improves the quality of life for the local community.
  • Creation of new, permanent and seasonal jobs related to the collection, transport and processing of recyclables. This has also made possible the retention of youth diaspora due to the lack of opportunities prior to the introduction of the program.
  • Provided the burial tax is implemented, the program will become more and more profitable compared to the current management.


Different conditions for the site where the landfill was situated before the implementation of the ‘’Just Go Zero Program’’. Waste separation and responsible handling of the materials means that is less risk for environmental pollution and guarantees better living conditions for the local community.


Typical waste collection day. Polygreen’s staff visits all residencies and businesses on a frequent basis to collect the sorted materials.A resident is depicted receiving the emptied sorting bags as locals of all ages actively participate in the program.