Kozani raises Greece’s environmental bar

When Michalis Gatziouras found that while his newly built apartment block in Epirotika, Kozani, had been connected to the teleheating network in record time, the building’s recycling bin had not yet been delivered, he called the mayor’s office to complain. Recycling paper has become a way of life in this town where metallic containers for collecting paper have been placed on every floor in civil service buildings and in every apartment block. Since 1992, the Municipality of Kozani has invested considerably in raising environmental awareness and organizing an environmental movement that has tried to offset damage caused by the Public Power Corporation (PPC) power plant in the area. Students at the Western Macedonia Technical College, also in Kozani, have also been highly active in cultivating an environmentally friendly attitude. Recycling, teleheating (also known as district heating) and the Smart Village Project in the western part of the town are three of the most significant innovations introduced in the last few years. Since recycling began 16 years ago, the town has collected over 14,000 tons of paper, reducing the amount of lignite burnt in the power plant by 57,000 tons. This corresponds to saving an entire forest of 200,000 trees. Kozani recently won the title of recycling champion as a result of the town’s efforts in paper, aluminium and glass recycling. Local authorities believe that in proportion to its population, the rate of recycling is higher than in the Attica basin. The town also played a key role in setting up an association for waste management in Western Macedonia in which all the municipalities concerned take part (DIADYMA). The association has been active in closing some illegal landfills scattered in the area and 40 that were considered to be highly hazardous.