Tilos is a tiny but beautiful Greek island that lets tourists rediscover the Greece of times past, it says. It has 19 beaches, 12 mountains with gushing natural springs, seven medieval castles, a Byzantine monastery, 200 churches, and hundreds of birds and flora species.
But it is also indisputably 21st century in how its 745 residents live. It has achieved a green revolution beyond comparison, says Tilos mayor Maria Kamma.
Not only has it become self-sufficient in energy, but it has just become the world’s first zero waste island.
In 2021, Tilos began working with Polygreen, a Piraeus-based network of companies promoting a circular economy, to implement a waste management program called Just Go Zero.
Residents learned the basic principles of waste sorting and circularity. Households and businesses were given QR-code-marked special bags to separate their trash, allowing citizens to monitor their contribution to the zero waste initiative on a mobile application. Now 90% of the island’s waste is recovered and/or composted.
Inhabitants went from each producing 770 kg of municipal solid waste per year before Just Go Zero Tilos project, to 440 kg – a reduction of 43%. Of this, only 54 kg is considered residual waste.
The landfill was closed last year as part of the project, and the Circular Innovation Center was established on the former landfill site. The facility includes a composting section and 15 sorting mechanisms. Waste that cannot be recycled is transformed into alternative fuel for cement production.
Zero Waste Europe, whose mission is to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in European towns and cities, awarded Tilos 4 out of 5 stars in the Zero Waste Cities Certification.
Not only is Tilos a pioneer in zero waste, but it is energy self-sufficient.
Under the Horizon 2020 program, Tilos created Greece’s first hybrid power station, which produces energy from its own wind farm and solar power generators. By producing its own power from renewable energy sources, the island has significantly reduced its own carbon footprint, while simultaneously reducing costs for local residents.
All the unused energy that is stored in the batteries can be used for other kinds of initiatives and projects, such as introducing electric vehicles and charging stations throughout the city.
It also solved energy problems for the tourism industry and is a model for the rest of the Mediterranean, says Dimitris Karavellas, WWF General Manager in Greece.
Tilos – the first energy efficient island in Greece. The Mayor.eu, Jan. 6, 2020
Tilos has the highest rate of recycling in the world, officials claim. The Mayor.eu, May 11, 2022
This Greek island is the first in the world with zero waste. The Mayor.eu, Jul. 28, 2023
Tilos in Aegean Sea is world’s first zero waste island. Balkan Green Energy News, Jul. 18, 2023
How the tiny Greek island of Tilos is throwing out the concept of waste. Reuters, Aug. 9, 2023
Photo credits: Municipality of Tilos. Cover photo – Kostas Skrekas on Facebook