The Circular Economy: Is Greece Ready?

Athanassios Savvakis, Co-Founder and Managing Director of BioSolids S.A., talks about the circular economy, the Three Rs, and green enterprise in Greece

First things first. What is a circular economy?

The concept of the circular economy has risen in response to the “take-make-dispose” type of linear economy that we have had for a long time. The circular economy is a regenerative system that contributes to sustainable development by minimizing resource input as well as waste, emissions, and energy leakage. This is achieved through efficient use, reuse and recycling of materials and products. Things that were previously considered waste can now be transformed into raw material.

How is the transition to a circular economy happening? What needs to be done?

The transition is a process that requires appropriate policy, effective communication of the benefits of this new sustainable model, and business, consumer, and government participation.

The European Union has laid the groundwork for transitioning to a stronger, more sustainable, and more circular economy. The transition will be supported financially by the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), which include €5.5 billion for waste management. An additional €650 million will be provided under Horizon 2020 (the EU funding program for research and innovation), and there will be further investments at national level.

Various programs and initiatives aim to raise awareness and encourage waste reduction and sustainable waste management. They center on the Three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. For example, the European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) 2017 included more than 13,000 actions to reduce, reuse, and recycle in more than 30 European countries. The average European generates almost 500kg of waste yearly, and less than half of this is recycled. We need more initiatives to change people’s habits at home, at work, and even shopping.

What about Greece? Is the country ready for to transition?

There are a number of government regulations on waste management, but Greece recycles just 19.3% of its municipal waste, compared to 41.8% in the EU, and landfills 79% of its municipal waste, compared to 28% on average across EU countries! European targets for 2030 are to increase recycling to 65% and reduce landfill to 10%. So it’s clear that while Greece still has a long way to go, a circular economy could create a wealth of business opportunities in the country.

How is BioSolids supporting the country’s transition to a circular economy?

Founded in 2012, BioSolids offers fully certified waste and biomass management services that focus on minimizing environmental impact and promoting sustainable development. Our production facility in Pella has a capacity of 22,000 tons per year for processing non-hazardous solid waste into soil improvers, with plans to increase this over the coming years. Working with the American Farm School since 2015, we’ve been able to determine that our soil improvers can increase yield by up to 32% for certain crops.

What does the future hold for BioSolids and green enterprise in Greece?

There are plenty of entrepreneurial opportunities in sustainable development and these are key to transitioning to a circular economy. What we need to focus on to really bring this together and achieve a successful transition is changing the habits and attitudes of citizens and companies. The potential is there, and the benefits will be tangible for businesses, society, and the environment alike.

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