A seaside village in Tilos, Source: Nikolaj Lock on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This Greek island is the first in the world with zero waste

This Greek island is the first in the world with zero waste

Finally, some good news from the Aegean Sea this month

The small island of Tilos, part of the Dodecanese Archipelago, in the Greek Aegean Sea is now certified as the world’s first zero-waste island. The pioneering feat was achieved after a two-year journey, which underscored the intent of the local authorities and residents to transform their beautiful isle into a place free of trash.

July has been hellish, to say the least, for some of the popular Greek islands like Rhodes and Corfu, which have been scorched by horrendous wildfires causing unprecedented evacuation efforts. This news, unfortunately, overshadowed the amazing success story of Tilos.

That island is located west of Rhodes and is the home to some 745 inhabitants divided among four communities. However, in terms of environmental performance, it might as well be in another universe when compared to its neighbours.

No landfills, no waste bins or plastic bags in sight

It all started in 2021, when the municipality, together with Polygreen, a Piraeus-based network of companies promoting a circular economy, implemented a waste management program called Just Go Zero that allows its local community to dispose of almost all types of waste through a sorting and recycling system.

What followed was a period not only of raising awareness but directly teaching the residents the basic principles of waste sorting and circularity. The households and businesses were given QR-code-marked special bags to separate their trash. A door-to-door system of waste collection was then implemented to ensure that trash doesn’t go off-track.

The result has been truly impressive. 90% of the island’s waste is recovered and/or composted and all the landfills have been decommissioned. Two years before, that same amount of waste ended up in said landfills.

In the words of Tilos’ mayor Maria Kamma: “The [island] has achieved a green revolution beyond comparison.”

From 770 kg of municipal solid waste per inhabitant per year being produced before the implementation of the Just Go Zero Tilos project, the municipality’s figure now sits at 440 kg – a 43% reduction. Of this, only 54 kg is considered residual waste.

The above achievements were enough to merit 4 out of 5 stars in the Zero Waste Cities Certification. That was created by Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) and run by its sister organisation Mission Zero Academy (MiZA). The goal of the NGO is to accelerate the transition to zero waste and the implementation of the circular economy in European towns and cities.



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