ISWA

Guest Blog | Finally Good News from Corfu

Professor Dimitrios Soukeras is the first Chairman of the Board of Waste Watch Corfu and the CEO of Organisational Diagnosis Ltd, a proactive Safety Business Consultancy which assists high risk entities with their risks decision making and analysis, so as to prevent them from unexpected business upsets. In this guest blog he discusses Corfu’s unique bottom-up approach to deliver recycling.

8 Nov 2019 -

     Corfu is one of the most beautiful islands in Northern Western Greece, but 16 months ago it became notorious due to a lingering garbage crisis which had led to piles of rotting trash lining its streets. The authorities at the time referred to it as a “local” problem. In reality, it was an indication of the lack of care, forethought, and plain common sense that, in turn, deprived local leadership of any ability to understand waste management as a perplex system with tight coupling and complex interactions. What was happening in Corfu was a systemic accident, or as Charles Perrow would have called it, a “Normal Accident”.


       Tourism, the leading industry in Corfu, was affected as the numbers of visitors to the island continued to decrease. With its main landfill full, Corfu’s future was being threatened with a series of disasters, not only financial but also ecological and social. Statistics about waste management on the island revealed that in 2018 recycling remained low, as in a mass of 65.000 tons of solid garbage collected, only 4,4% reached recycling, far away from what the European Union expects from its member states.


        In the midst of the local municipality’s failure to enact an effective recycling policy in Corfu, hope emerged unexpectedly. In March 2018, a few months before the garbage crisis in Corfu made global headlines, a small group of friends in a village, Spartylas, had an idea to create a local “Green Corner”. The Green Corner is essentially a “structure” that houses builder’s large sacks (equal to at least 1m3) where people can sort out seven categories of recyclables at the source (PET, HDPE, PP, LDPE, metal, carton-paper-tetrapak and aluminium). Initially in Spartylas, it was out in the open air, but later on as the initiative expanded it was operated under a tent or small pavilion. The Green Corner operates in a confined area for better control, with a specific timetable. It is run by local volunteers, who not only pile up full builder’s sacks, but also inform people on how to do the recycling.


        News and knowledge of how the Green Corner worked spread through Corfu, and within a few months there were 23 Green Corners operating across the island. Contrary to what the Mayor at that time had said, people approved the idea and it took less than two months for nearly 100 volunteers, who operate the Green Corners in Corfu, to summon up around 5000 to 7000 “recycling clients”, local inhabitants who wanted to play a role in saving Corfu and its environment.
Green Corners are doing well with the collection of recyclables and within their first year of operation, they managed to collect 1000 tons of recyclables, not to mention another 500 tons of glass, which had left Corfu for a Recycling facility in Thessaloniki. Of the 2,9 tons of recyclables the municipality collected had collected, much were of a worse quality than that of the Green Corners and therefore were worth a lot less financially.


        In Corfu, articles in the local media explained that due to the extent of the Green Corner’s volunteers’ efforts, there was a consensus made that they should no longer be called volunteers as, lately, they more resembled “martyrs of Recycling.” It was their incessant willingness to help and change people’s behaviour, which had driven the Kalafationes Recycling Initiative (Green Corner) to launch an online survey that proved the scope of this new trend and the ability of people to follow a new habit in recycling when they realise the need. The survey proved the majority of Corfu’s inhabitants are ready to sort at the source and had led members of those Green Corners to form a new NGO, Waste Watch Corfu (WWC).


        WWC is an organisation that scientifically can support and drive all necessary changes in the local society, and it is already a reality. On October 19th 2019, it organised its first International Evening Conference, and presented all contemporary views and solutions for the local waste management problem, as submitted by famous knowledgeable speakers in the waste management domain. Today in Corfu there is hope, although it still remains unknown when the local authorities will cease treating WWC as a new threat and start acting in favour of solving the problem.

    
About Professor Dimitrios Soukeras:

 

Professor Dimitrios Soukeras is "a Complexity Interpreter" specialised in analysing systemic accidents and finding ways to prevent them from happening. As well as being the CEO of Organisational Diagnosis Ltd and first Chairman of the Board of Waste Watch Corfu, he is also a volunteer in Recycling at Kalafationes Recycling Initiative, holds a MBA from the University of Leicester, is an adjunct professor at San Jose State University where he teaches Accident Investigation and analysis to Postgraduate Aerospace Engineers, does life and business coaching, and is an ex-military officer and helicopter pilot.       


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