To decide where to test green technology, Greek politicians chose the furthest point on the map: the tiny Tilia.
Providing electricity and basic services, even ferry access, is a challenge for this island of just 500 year-round residents. His most recent problem involves plastic.
But authorities announced this week that more than 80% of Tilos waste is now recycled. A landfill where raw waste was once buried on a hillside has been permanently closed.
The island already produces most of its own electricity since 2019using a solar park and wind turbine connected to trailer-sized batteries that maintain an uninterrupted supply.
S-shaped and slightly larger than Manhattan, Tilos is a remote member of a chain of islands in the southeastern Aegean Sea, where most of the beaches are empty, goats roam past centuries-old churches and the jagged mountains smell of wild oregano. Self-sufficiency is a must here and a source of pride.
It is also to adopt Technology.
At the main port, electric vehicles buzz among tourists carrying goods. Solar panels power information panels at bus stops and a ramp that allows people with disabilities to access the sea.
Mayor Maria Kamma-Aliferi said the declining population of Tilos added to the urgency for change. “In the 1990s, there were 270 people left on this island. There were very few births. The school was in danger of closing because there were very few children, I was one of them,” mentioned.
“And the island was about to be completely deserted.” But the mayor stayed on the island and took college correspondence courses to enter business school and learn public administration.
“We were close to the edge, and I think that’s what drives us now”he said, standing at the site of the old dump where flowers have now been planted.
As tourism in the Mediterranean is set to rebound this summer from the worst of the pandemic, many Greek islands are facing a urgent pressure on its resources: the lack of drinking water and the dependence on diesel produce electricity as energy prices continue to rise.
Greece has about 200 populated islands, many of whom still experience power outages in summer and struggle to cope with overflowing landfills, often hidden in the hills.
Tilos is expecting 30,000 visitors this summer, while the neighboring island of Rhodes will see more than 2 million by air alone.
Starting in December, Tilos piloted a program of home garbage collectionin which residents received recycling kits and were asked to wash and sort household waste.
“Works. We started with 10 houses and now we have over 400,” said Athanasios Polychronopoulos, who runs a Greek recycling company, Polygreen, which offered the service for free, hoping to expand its model.
“It’s an island community that is open to change. He volunteered to receive refugees and organized the first homosexual union ceremony in Greece. We had other options, but we knew we had to start here.”mentioned.
The old landfill has been replaced by a recycling plant where garbage is separated on steel sorting tables to produce powdered glass, cement mix, compost fertilizer, compressed cardboard and paper drums, and plastic string that an art gallery uses to make 3D-printed sofas and furniture.
The plant currently processes approximately 2 tonnes of waste per week, most of which is fully recycled.. About a third is composted and 15%, classified as “non-recyclable”, is sterilized and crushed for use in construction.
The company uses a proprietary application to prepare for the weight of incoming waste at each door-to-door collection. He did not release financial details of the plan.
“We still make mistakes and learn”said Polychronopoulos. “To our surprise, the elderly are the best at sorting waste. It makes sense, if you think about it: they can remember how things were before plastic existed. »
Some locals may also remember that it was rare to see a boat pass by Tilos. Rhodes is another two hours by ferry.
“We always wondered where all the plastic would go. And in the back of our minds we always thought we should do something about it“, says Nikos Atsiknoudas, owner of a restaurant by the sea.
Between preparing meals, serving tables and cleaning them for new customers, staff throw everything in color-coded bins.
“It’s extra work, but no one can argue with the long-term benefits“, He says. “We have a lot of foreign visitors. They are more used to recycling than us and they love it”.
Official visits to Tilos are rare and greeted with fanfare, with children dressed in traditional costumes gathering at the port. The most recent was the Greek Minister of Energy and Environment, Skreka Ribswho arrived Tuesday with aides from the Prime Minister’s Office to tour the new recycling plant.
“Our small islands are facing difficulties due to the remoteness from the mainland and the (environmental) burden of tourism,” he said after meeting schoolchildren during a recycling awareness class.
“Once again the beautiful island of Tilos is pioneer”.
(With AP information)