“Waste not, want not” goes the old saying. When we look around (on Samos, but also on other Greek islands) we will see a lot of waste. Sometimes it is in containers, sometimes thrown into “wild” landfills, but almost never we can see a working system to separate, reuse and upcycle valuable materials considered trash.
Worse is what we do not see: even if the waste mass is taken away, it still has to be transported — by sea, at a cost and inducing another pollution — or stored locally, creating long-term pollution problem.
The solution is not to take the trash out of sight (and out of mind). It is to reduce the volume of it, by reclaiming and reusing what can be reused. Preferably before it lands in a container.
There are three large categories of solid waste that can be easily reused. Technologies to do it are available to a small company or local community — they do not need big investments. These three categories are:
- Organic (compostable) matter.
Putting them in circulation instead of landfills, will not only remove a lot of pressure on environment, reduce secondary pollution and CO2 footprint (transport), but also improve local economy by adding a stream of cheap raw materials and new products — without the need to import them.
Cardboard is very good, lightweight structural and filling material. Being essentially processed wood with just a bit of glue and print on it, cardboard is environment friendly, easy to cut, bend, join, waterproof and paint. It can be used also a thermal insulation and the scraps can be composted.
Reclaiming cardboard is the first our projects. See details here.
Plastic waste is bad news. Plastic lasts long, decomposes slowly, hurts and contaminate living organisms meanwhile. Even successfully disposed, it creates problems — to replace it, more oil and natural gas have to be extracted, transported and converted into new plastic.
The only way to deal with plastic is to re-process it, shredding, melting and creating new items. At the end, it can be converted into building blocks or a filler for concrete mis, so it stays inert for a very long time.
Couple years ago, group called Precious Plastic started designing open source machines, to help local communities and small companies set up plastics recycling centers. Currently already 4th generation of designs is in progress. Machines allow basic operations: shredding the plastic, melting it into standardized pellets, mold injection to make various items. New generation will also contain machines to convert plastic waste into roof sheets and even into engine fuel.
We plan to initiate a pilot installation on Samos and use it first of all to clear places where plastic waste is dumped “in the wild”. Hopefully we will get enough support to build more machines and start manufacturing useful items, making the whole process financially sustainable.
Compost is life. It is new, rich and vibrant soil. Food for garden, field or olive grove. Food for plants — eventually for us all.
Making compost is relatively simple, but it takes patience and care. The good news, however, is that almost every organic waste can be composted. All food leftovers, untreated wood, paper, shreds of plants — this is the mainstay component of composting mass.
Samos is one of the most fertile islands, but it still needs fertilizers, as food production drains nutrients from the soil. With transition towards organic agriculture, the need for compost will be growing on Samos, let alone on other islands.
We have already started the research, to find successful examples of composting activity in the region (Samothraki for example) and will be working with them, to share knowledge both ways.
These three lines of work represent major challenges and opportunities regarding waste management on Samos. As a small technological cooperative we focus on practical implementation of technologies, to the level of pilot installations. Beyond this point it will be up to local communities to take over and be responsible to follow-up, this way or another.
CNI Coop will always be ready to provide support, education and troubleshooting to keep the projects going.