The Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment, Costas Kadis, aspires to pass a new law on garbage collection fees by the end of 2019, based on the usage-pricing model “pay as you throw”
As the Minister of Agriculture told CNA, the model which has been implemented in several European countries, was chosen after studying several pricing models. According to the model, the users will pay in advance for all the garbage they wish to be collected, by purchasing a custom bag, at a relatively high cost.
"Citizens will try to fill as few bags as possible in order to pay less, so they will be pushed to recycle more and the bags will only be filled with materials that cannot be recycled", he said.
Waste for disposals in treatment plants such as Koshi or Pentakomon will only be discarded in the custom bags, the cost of which will act as an incentive for more recycling.
"The way of calculating the collection fees will change, based on the amount of the waste that someone generates," the Minister said.
The bill, which provides for source separated recycling and pay as you throw programs, is currently under public consultation, and in the next few days the Minister will have meetings on the issues with the Union of Municipalities and Communities.
The Minister hopes that the consultation would be completed within the next few weeks, so the bill could proceed for a legislative check on the legal service.
"We hope that the legal check of the bill would not take much time, because it is very important. Soon after, the bill will have to go from the Cabinet to the Parliament for discussion and approval. I would be happy if this process could be completed in 2019, but there are unpredictable factors such as legislative check and the debate in the Parliament, " he said.
All responsibilities for waste management were concentrated two years ago at the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, from the different Ministries. Mismanagement, delays, or even issues of interweaving had arisen in the past in relation to waste management. Cyprus had often been faced with the risk of fines imposed by the European Union due to delays in the closure of landfills.
"One of the biggest challenges for our ministry is the proper management of waste, for environmental, good administration and quality of life reasons," the Minister noted.
The Minister also referred to the Ministry’s plans for the after use development of former landfill sites for which specific funds have already been allocated.
Support for municipalities in the transition period
At the same time, the Minister of Agriculture said that the Ministry`s intention was to support the municipalities in the transitional period, after the closure of Kotsiatis landfill and the increase cost for garbage transfer.
He said that the Ministry has been in consultation with the municipalities for the issue for quite some time and that in the last meeting taking place on 26 February, the Mayors raised the issue of a subsidy.
"What we have asked them is to give us the evidence that confirm that they will not be able to cover the extra cost," he said.
He added that they have agreed with the municipalities that they should work together to move towards new directions of more rational management of municipal waste that would respect environment, health and lead to a better quality of life. Waste management, he said, must be in line with the cyclical economy, through the use of wastes as raw materials.
He also acknowledged the problem of increased cost after the closure of Kotsiatis landfill and said he would discuss the issue with the mayors, after having the data he asked for.
Kadis also said that at the meeting on February 26, the Ministry presented to the municipalities the management methods that exist for all waste streams, for which, as he said, there was at least one management unit. However, as he said the management at these units had some cost that the municipalities would have to pay and for which they would ask citizens to pay more. He added that the government had given the legislative instruments to the municipalities to raise these amounts from the citizens, but they also imposed a ceiling so as not to overburden the citizens.
However, he clarified that the Ministry`s objective was a more radical and integrated solution to the problem by reducing the waste that end up in the management units, so that the cost would ultimately reduce to the minimum for both citizens and municipalities.
"We will support municipalities to implement such programs. My intention was instead of giving now an amount to the municipalities because of the increased cost, to give them funding to build new infrastructure, new programs based on this philosophy," said the minister.
He also noted that for some waste streams with limited choices at present, new units from the private sector would be in operation in the next few months, increasing competition with lower prices.
The next challenges for Cyprus
Noting that the EU has set ambitious targets for waste management, Kadis said that the ministry would like to meet these goals.
"Cyprus can’t be a laggard in this course, we should improve our position. We are behind, but with the implementation of such policies I am very optimistic that we can substantially improve our position and reach the goals set by the EU, "he said.
He also referred to the European directive, expected to be implemented soon for the ban of single-use plastic products, and said that both the system and the society of Cyprus should be ready to adapt to the new reality.
Regarding organic waste, the percentage of which is very high in Cyprus, the Minister said he intended to give incentives for their management either for energy production or through composting process.
He said that the Ministry is working on incentives to implement pilot programs, especially in rural areas. The goal, as he said, was to support local communities by implementing appropriate programs for each region.