ECONOMY

Ecological tannery up and running in Kastoria

Naoum Ditsios took the plunge and invested the astronomical — for these times — amount of 11 million euros to build a cutting-edge environmentally friendly tannery in the northern Greek city of Kastoria.

The risky initiative has already attracted the interest of businessmen from Italy, France and Germany, who will be visiting the facility to see how the mechanical engineer was able to make an industry that is notorious for environmental pollution a whole lot greener.

?There is nothing like it, not just in Greece, but in the rest of the world, which is why experts and businesspeople from abroad want to come and see it,? Ditsios told Kathimerini.

With investment in Greece frozen like the Siberian tundra, it?s a wonder Ditsios decided to take such a risk.

?Investments should be made when materials are cheap and the conditions favorable on the market, and right now, despite the economic crisis, the conditions are right for those who want to make an investment,? he said. ?I put everything I had into it, my entire fortune, and I believed and I continue to believe that I was doing the right thing. At the end of the day, if I can help in the economic recovery of my country in my own small way, then that?s a good enough reason.?

The innovation at Ditsios?s tannery lies in the fact that it makes full use of natural resources and recycles all of the waste produced in the messy business of processing leather.

?We mostly use rainwater and runoff from the mountains for washing and finishing the leather,? Ditsios explained. ?All of our electricity is produced using solar panels and we use natural gas instead of gasoline to run the machines, as well as environmentally friendly dyes. All of the waste is treated and cleaned of toxins, and the residue, the mud, is used as fertilizer. The treated wastewater ends up in the city?s water-processing unit for final purification.?

The plant currently employees 48 people, a number that is expected to rise to 150 within the next 12 months.

Ditsios is confident that he will achieve all of his targets.

?So far we have processed pelts for Kastoria?s fur industry, but we are also bringing in leather from Russia, which used to be shipped off to the United States for processing,? he said. ?The brass ring would be to grab a significant share of the unprocessed fur auction market in Europe, which is currently dominated by China. I am confident that we will make it.?

The Kastoria-born entrepreneur embodies a different face of Greece, one which is creative and adventurous, or, as Ditsios said, ?a Greece that is not willing to come to terms with the idea of bankruptcy.?