Guide on Separate Collection of Municipal Waste in Greece

The time until 2025 is short in relation to the challenges Greece is facing, and as such the municipalities should start making changes now!

I. Franzis & Associates LTD and Black Forest Solutions GHBM

Executive Summary

In 2018, the European Union (EU) set highly ambitious and strict targets for the next ten to fifteen years regarding waste management as part of the Circular Economy Package, which will apply in all Member States, including Greece. Greece is facing a significant challenge taking into account the low recycling rates for the latest submitted data of 2017 (19%) compared to the EU’s average (46%) and especially compared to the EU recycling targets for 2025, of 50% recycling of municipal waste (the Year 2025 is set for Greece under the five-year prolongation the country secured in getting to achieve this aim) and 2035, of 65% recycling of municipal waste.
Within this framework, the "Guide on separate collection of municipal waste in Greece” is intended to guide the Greek Government and mainly the municipalities on how to improve their performance in waste management, and separate collection of waste (i.e. paper, plastic, metal, glass and biowaste), according to the EU standards. Furthermore, this guideline is intended to facilitate the discussion on the topic, to name decisive key figures, to support the examination of optimisation possibilities and to provide information on the onward procedure.

Which approach the Guideline is following?
Based on the developed methodology, this guideline is describing a recommended step-wise approach for each waste stream considering an evaluation of their settlement structure (urban, rural, island) and performance criteria under which the municipalities will identify themselves in lower, medium or advanced status.
The recommendations are suited for the Greek context and were derived from an extensive literature review, as well as from international, European and national good practices.

What is the status of separate collection in Greece and the proposed stepwise approach?

Separate collection of bio-waste is almost non-existent in Greece, with only a few piloting projects running. The average municipal waste composition in Greece is about 44% organic which leads to a potential of about 223 kg/(cap x yr) for bio-waste.
Dry recyclables’ separate collection of municipal waste in Greece is mainly applied to packaging through the existing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Systems and the PRO’s operating in the country. That includes the collective HERRCO, Rewarding Recycling S.A. and the individual system AB Vassilopoulos.
Separate collection of paper and cardboardpackaging is being performed through the existing Producers Responsibility Organisation (PRO) with the printed paper being included in HERRCO’s due to the lack of an established EPR. The average waste composition in Greece contains about 22 % paper (sum of non-packaging and packaging paper), which leads to a potential of about 112 kg/(cap * yr) for paper.
Plastic is a challenging waste fraction due to the several types of plastics available in the market, along with the hazardous environmental impact of plastics. The average waste composition in Greece contains about 13.9 % of plastic waste which leads to a potential of about 70 kg/ (cap x yr) for plastic waste.
In terms of metals, separate collection is relatively easy as it can be efficiently separated by the existing sorting/recovery technologies, nonetheless, impurities are occurring especially in treatment facilities dealing with mixed waste. The average municipal waste composition in Greece consists of about 3,9 % of metals (sum of non-packaging and packaging metals) leading to a potential of about 20 kg/(cap x yr) for metals.
Lastly, a separate collection of glass is already establishedas a single waste stream collection, through the "blue bells” containers and the other PRO’s means of collection in an effort to improve the low recycling rates. The average waste composition of the country contains about 4.3 % packaging glass, leading to a potential of about 22 kg/(cap x yr) for packaging glass.
A step-wise approach is given for each fraction which in general concludes that for the first-year municipalities under the "advanced” categorisation should keep running the awareness campaigns, while for municipalities under "medium” and "lower” status should intensify their bins network or in the case of biowaste consider the initiation of a "pilot” project within the Greek context based on international and Greek experiences. Within the next two to three years, the status of the municipality should be re-evaluated and the measures to be reconsidered based on the new data under the evaluation table, and the new measures to be undertaken accordingly. For bio-waste municipalities not identified as "advanced” should extend their pilot schemes (if implemented) until full coverage is achieved.
Within this guide, a separate reference to the optimisation of collection and awareness campaigns is given. Some of the key recommendations for the optimisation of collection include that for biowaste, brown bins of 120 litres to 240 litres are mostly recommended for urban housing areas, and in rural areas, 80-litre brown bins might be necessary
in combination with home composting.
For dry recyclables, it is highly recommendable to split the co-mingled collection system of packaging, into four different collection streams, one per each fraction, with the collection bins, to be easily identifiable with specified colouring. Lastly, the importance of the closed lids of the containers is emphasised, to secure the quality of the collected material, especially for paper and cardboard.
The cost of collection depends on the aspects of the applied waste management system. For biowaste, the cost of collection is expected to increase while for dry-recyclables to decrease as it is relevant to the quantity and quality of both the recyclable and residual waste to be collected.
Lastly, awareness campaigns should be increased and intensified by the municipalities in addition and collaboration to the EPRs campaigns and should include actions in public markets, schools and Civic Amenity Sites, while utilizing social media and other modern approaches is strongly recommended.

What are the key recommendations at a national level?

I. The Ministry of Environment and Energy should support and facilitate the adoption of the new EU Circular Economy Package in National Legislation including new calculating methods for recycled quantities.
II. The Ministry of Environment and Energy should consider the reestablishment of the landfill tax or the revision of the circular economy levy to increase it from 10 euros per tonne to above 50 euros per tonne based on international practices.
III. Calculations concerning totalproduced, reused and recycled waste quantities should be provided on an annual basis for at least the upcoming six (6) years, which will have to be in accordance with the EU target rates.
IV.Incentives should be provided such as the imposition of fines in non- compliance cases including non- economic incentives. Furthermore, the revenues from the circular economy levy should be utilised into enhancing separate collection schemes (bins, trucks, awareness campaigns).
V. The encouragement and support of piloting projects for bio-waste and dry recyclables separate collection in rural areas as well as, as in urban areas should be promoted through funding.
VI.The simplification if feasible of the funding procedures for separate collection projects should be promoted.

What are the recommendations of the project at a regional level?

I. All 13 Regional Waste management Plans should be revised in accordance with the forthcoming updated National Waste Management Plan and the overall European targets in a feasible way.
II. It should ensure that the submitted data by municipalities to the FoDSA are accurate, for example, through the auditing by an independent third party to check the reliability of the data. Any violation should be severely penalized irrespective to political ideals.
III. Strong and close follow-up during implementation is required in relation to regions and municipalities. Regular semi-annual meetings should be arranged in each region about progress and activities in the area of separate collection and treatment of municipal waste with the participation of municipalities, FODSAs and government, as well as the HRA.
What are the key recommendations of the project at a municipal level?
I. All Local Waste Management Plans must be revised in accordance with the forthcoming updated National Waste Management Plan and the overall European targets in a feasible way.
II. All related costs to waste management should be identified and through proper cost accounting using cost- accounting tools (e.g. the developedfull cost accounting tool provided by the second study of the overall GIZ project "Improvement of cost accounting in municipal waste management” or similar tools).
III. The most appropriate system of separate collection to be recommended in order to bridge the existing performance gap is to target waste streams as follows:
      a. Bio-waste via door-to-door or kerbside collection
      b. Separate collection of glass should be applied through bring-system
      c. Separate collection of plastic and metals should be collected via kerbside collection.
      d. All types of paper should be collected separately via kerbside collection.
IV. Containers in civic amenity sites and in other types of recycling points are essential.
V. Local authorities in Islands with high touristic impact should coordinate with three to five - stars hotels, restaurants (for cooked products as part of bio- waste) and groceries’ markets, for bio-waste separate collection. It is advisable to consider the option of a tourist tax to cover additional costs for separate collection, new transfer stations for dry recyclables, and treatment facilities for bio-waste.
VI. It should be considered the potential inter-municipal cooperation, especially in rural and smaller urban areas, in terms of efficiency and feasibility of collection (economies of scale).
VII. Additional staff for more efficient collection and monitoring will be necessary. A regular exchange of information amongst waste management departments in each Region or on a national level, is necessary within the same type of settlement structure, along with the set- up of a benchmarking process concerning the improvement of the collection efficiency.
The recommended actions and steps might need adjustment under the individual specificities of each municipality. The time until 2025 is short in relation to the challenges Greece is facing, and as such the municipalities should start making changes now!