Waste management applies only to 15.5% of E.C.D.W. in Cyprus
The European Union, in line with the goal of zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 (net zero goal), sets new targets, updates the legislation, and invests heavily in the decarbonisation of the construction sector as it is responsible for 35% of the total production of waste in Europe. In this context Cyprus, was expected to achieve the goal of recycling at least 70% of Excavation, Construction, and Demolition Waste (E.C.D.W.) by 2020, as defined in the laws of 2011 to 2016 and the waste framework directive, according to Dr. Evgeni Evgeniou, Technical Engineer in the Environment Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment (2017). However, the reality is very different as only 15.5% of E.C.D.W. not ending up in the forests, rivers, and streams of Cyprus but being recycled in some way.
The RECONMATIC project partners and Future Needs, as the Cyprus-based partner, have been in contact, conducting a survey and interviews with the sector stakeholders during the past months. The aim was to understand the current state of construction and demolition waste management as well as the needs of the stakeholders regarding support to implement and assess circular practices.
According to the data of the Statistical Service of Cyprus, covering the years from 2008 to 2020 (these are the most recent ones, while the data for 2022 will be available in June 2024), in Cyprus were produced over 13 years, 5,695 tons of construction waste including excavated soil and construction waste (rubble of all kinds). It is worth mentioning that this number corresponds to a share of 38% of the total waste in Cyprus for the period 2008-2020.
But how much of this waste was managed in some way and how much ended up in nature or buried in landfills?
Waste management – involving five types of treatment (recovery, incineration with energy recovery, other incineration, land disposal, and land treatment) – in the same period of 13 years, was applied to 879,486 tons, i.e. only 15.44% of the total waste from constructions, demolitions and excavations in the corresponding period.
“Almost 2.2 million tons of E.C.D.W. are produced in Cyprus with 57% of these ending up in landfills. In Europe, the E.C.D.W. in total corresponds to 1/3 of the total waste of economic activity, reaching 3 billion tons.” Costas Kadis, former Minister of Agriculture of Cyprus, February 2023
According to our sources in Cyprus, until February 2019, all E.C.D.W. ended up in landfills, resulting in the country paying large fines to the European Union. Since then, a few recycling units have been created, some in the right way, and some not. The goal is to change attitudes and for all those related to construction to understand the “polluter pays” principle. Now what often happens is that the polluter, while on paper must pay for the waste management, in reality, he calls the so-called Skip transporter who picks up the Skip with the waste, and is paid an amount which is supposed to include transport costs and the “gate fee” which the transporter will in turn pay to the management unit. Eventually, he will either take it to the recycling centre or dispose of it in improper locations, thereby adding to the environmental burden.
Why is construction waste not recycled in Cyprus?
A key reason is that the law is not enforced, which is also a consequence of insufficient control and low fines that consequently do not prevent illegal practices. In Cyprus, many construction waste managers do not apply good practices, do not forward their materials to other recyclers (e.g. for wood), and simply pick up the waste and bury it with zero management. Naturally, this has a much lower cost than comprehensive management, making the illegal procedure cheaper and therefore the manager unfairly competitive. According to our sources in Cyprus,
“We are prone to finding “loopholes” in the law, which become “backdoors” and whole trucks can pass under them!”
However, if the law is indeed implemented, then the penalties are very low in Cyprus (for example 4,000 euros), so they do not deter illegal practices. In other European countries, if someone is caught throwing waste in the countryside, he will be immediately arrested, his license will be taken away and he will pay a fine of up to 100,000 euros!
According to our sources in Cyprus, a solution for better application of the law is to hire additional inspectors, whose labor costs would be largely covered by the widespread imposition of fines on the island.
From another point of view, the problem does not lie in the lack of education and culture.
According to our sources in Cyprus,
“The system of the management companies is insufficient, there is not enough knowledge on the issue of sorting materials at the source and the market has not reached the point where it is economically beneficial to recycle construction waste.”
A common question from construction contractors is “How many routes shall I make to dump the rubble?”, suggesting the increase in cost when multiple routes must be made.
Construction climaxes in Cyprus
In recent years there has been a construction boom in Cyprus mainly in the tourism sector but also in the construction of luxury homes. At the same time and according to an interview in the Cyprus Mail in 2021 by Mr. Dimitris Nikolaidis, associate professor at Frederick University in Cyprus, the majority of the buildings were built around 1974, so they are 50 years old, making it imperative to either demolish them or renovate them. Therefore, from all the above activities, one can imagine the volume of waste generated in a small country like Cyprus with a size of 9,251 km2 which ranks it among the 10 smallest countries in Europe.
The building development of Cyprus is also emphasised by the political leadership and the relevant bodies. In March 2023, the Minister of the Interior of Cyprus, Mr. Konstantinos Ioannou, stated at the 17th Conference of Land Development, Planning, and Construction of Buildings, that the real estate sector is “one of the most important pillars of the Cypriot economy” and despite the international economic crisis “the data demonstrate that real estate investments in recent years in Cyprus have a steady upward trend, which continues into 2023”. Furthermore, Mr. Michalis Chatzipanagiotou, coordinator of the conference and president of the Cyprus Land and Building Developers Association, referred to the role of the development sector in “changing the face of Cyprus” as he said, with modern infrastructure and large developments. He added that the country has become a magnet for tourists, investors, and new businesses from abroad, leading to a positive growth of 6% for 2022.
Latest changes to the relevant E.C.D.W. law – Obligation to screen at source
In June 2023 the Department of the Environment of the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, presented the new regulations for the Management of Construction and Demolition Waste (E.C.D.W.). The scope of the legislation concerns all project owners, C.D.W producers, and the management bodies for construction and demolition waste and of more than 12 cubic meters in volume.
An important change brought about by the law is that it now obliges contractors to sort materials at the source and not pile all waste materials together. This may lead to a reduction in cost, because when construction waste ends up sorted and not mixed in the management units, then the so-called gate fee paid by the transporter/contractor to the management unit is lower. So, this change might be a good incentive for contractors to implement more rational practices.
You can see the new regulations in detail on the relevant page of the Ministry of Environment.
Who manages the E.C.D.W. in Cyprus?
In Cyprus, the non-profit Cyprus Recycling Organisation (C.R.O.) has been established, which created and licensed the first Collective Management System for Excavation, Construction, and Demolition Waste (E.C.D.W.). C.R.O. acts as the agency for the implementation and promotion of the operating procedures of the Collective Waste Management System from Excavations, Constructions, and Demolitions of its contracted producers. It has created a list of all contracted and participating E.C.D.W. producers. of the Collective Management System and all Licensed Construction and Demolition Waste Recycling Units. You can find this list of contractors here.
The RECONMATIC project examines all aspects of the creation and management of Construction and Demolition Waste (C.D.W.) and involves the entire supply chain in the construction sector in the development of an integrated package of innovative tools, solutions, and techniques, for the prevention and reduction of C.D.W. The aim is to increase the utilisation rate and improve the quality of the produced recycled materials.
Read more about the project on its website, here.