SOCIETY

Peloponnese plant shares the benefits of recycling

Those behind Laconia Bioenergy, a waste management company founded in September 2011 in the Peloponnese, know that it is much easier to convince people to do the right thing if they know they have something to gain from it.

With this simple truth in mind, Laconia Bioenergy has offered shares to all residents of Laconia in a drive that it hopes will make them part of the process.

?Mixed waste is trash but sorted waste is product,? explains Stavros Argyropoulos, the company?s president and CEO. ?When you open a packet of rice, you use the content and throw out the packaging. But you have paid for that packaging and therefore you?re throwing your money away.?

Changing the way the people of Laconia think of their garbage disposal and helping them make a few euros in the meantime is the premise on which Laconia Bioenergy hopes to make a go of its recycling program in an area where garbage is disposed of in the ?traditional? Greek way: tossed into one of the seven landfills in the area and then burned.

Shareholders in Laconia Bioenergy will split any profits made by the company at the end of each fiscal year, while Argyropoulos is also in talks with local authorities to buy into the company so that municipalities own a 49 percent stake and then use any profits for the improvement of their area of jurisdiction.

?Of course waste management has a certain cost, but it also has certain financial benefits. Why shouldn?t the people who ?produce? the waste reap some of these benefits then?? says Argyropoulos, explaining that all shareholders will have to sort their own garbage properly in order to be rewarded, as this is the step in the recycling process that takes the longest and ultimately costs the most in terms of man-hours.

Another problem, says Argyropoulos, is with organic waste, which represents 40-50 percent of all household trash and needs to be collected at much more frequent intervals than non-organic garbage. To this end, Laconia Bioenergy has bought a plot of land on which it will build a plant to process organic and agricultural waste into compost that can then be sold to farmers in the area.

Argyropoulos explains how paper, which represents 20-25 percent of household waste, can fetch around 50-150 euros a ton, depending on quality, plastic (20 percent of household waste) is sold at 50-350 euros a ton, and how glass (2.5 percent) and especially metal (2 percent) are seeing their prices rise by the day. Iron, for example, can go for as much as 260 euros a ton, aluminium for 2,500 euros a ton and copper for 4,500-5,000 euros a ton.

The prefecture of Laconia produces around 42,000-45,000 tons of garbage a year, while the entire Peloponnese, which consists of 26 municipalities, is estimated to produce around 330,000 tons annually.

Laconia Bioenergy currently has 7,500 shareholders, with a goal of reaching 90,000, or every resident of the prefecture, to ensure that sorting is done properly at source.

?Once the materials are well sorted, then it is obvious that there is a profit to be made,? says Argyropoulos.