Tilos, the self-sufficient, zero-waste island of Greece

Renewable energy and no landfills: this is how a pearl of the Aegean Sea has effectively embraced the circular economy at 360 degrees

zero waste: Tilos
Tilos and its inhabitants have enthusiastically embraced sustainable development, thanks to a mix of clean energy, circular economy and green tourism (Photo: iStock)

There is a small island in the Aegean Sea, halfway between Rhodes and Kos. It has just under 800 inhabitants spread over 64 square kilometres, but it has something absolutely unique: it is in fact the first island in the world not to send any waste to landfills and is self-sufficient in terms of energy.

Tilos (or Piscopi as she is known in Italy) has adopted the “no waste” mentality. Through accurate recycling, composting and a circular economy approach, the island has decided to handle each material responsibly, with the aim of maximizing recovery and reuse.

Tilos is demonstrating to the world that it is possible to achieve zero waste through thetechnological innovation, community engagement and adoption of sustainable practices. That's how.

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zero waste: renewable energy
Tilos covers most of its electricity needs through the production of renewable energy (Photo: Just Go Zero)

Goodbye landfills, back to door to door

Let's start from the beginning. The idea of ​​turning Tilos into a economics laboratory circular was born from a collaboration between the municipality and Just Go Zero, the first zero waste movement in Greece promoted by the environmental services company Polygreen

The Just Go Zero solution is based on the correct waste separation At the source. To achieve this, all households and businesses in Tilos have been provided with dedicated collection equipment. Separated waste is collected door to door according to a daily schedule communicated by the Municipality. Harvesting activities are intensified during the summer period to cope with the increase in visitors to the island.

I waste collected are taken to the 3K Circular Innovation Center, equipped with modern machinery and ad waste management solutions High technology. There, the waste is further sorted and sent for recycling or composting, and a small part is used for the production of alternative fuel for the cement industry.

The project is supported by a innovative digital platform which tracks the volume of the three main types of waste collected (recyclable waste, non-recyclable waste and organic waste) by each household. The platform provides residents and businesses with real-time information on the amount of recycled materials. This information represents an added incentive, encouraging all stakeholders to further improve recycling rates.

Just Go Zero Tilos also involves the use of special waste streams, such as used household appliances or small furniture. The latter are taken to the newly established Creative Upcycling Center to be repaired or used as material for artistic creation.

In the immediate future, this new center will host numerous artists, who will demonstrate concepts of upcycling and circularity with art creations and installations inspired by the character of the island.

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Zero waste: recycling
Thanks to the efforts of institutions and communities, the recycling rate in Tilos has already exceeded 85% (Photo: Just Go Zero)

Focus on green energy and sustainable tourism

La waste management that's not the only aspect that Tilos and Just Go Zero have focused on promoting it Sustainable Development. The island covers a large part of its electricity needs through the production of energy from local renewable energy systems, a 1 MW hybrid wind and battery photovoltaic station, made possible by the European funds Horizon 2020 and by the Eunice Energy group. Local transport is mainly by car and bicycle, but there are also frequent bus connections between the two main villages of Livadia and Megalo Chorio. 

Recently, the island has embraced the green electric mobility, introducing charging points for EV vehicles and proceeding with the gradual replacement of the municipality's conventional vehicles. 

The mayor Maria-Kamma Aliferi, said the project has already created new job opportunities related to renewable energy installation, ecotourism and sustainable agriculture and believes it has also brought an influx of environmentally conscious visitors to the island, boosting business local commercial.

"Tilos will become an example of applied green innovation and will achieve multiple benefits, such as a cleaner environment that improves the daily life of both residents and businesses and a reputation as a sustainable destination that attracts more environmentally conscious international visitors and tourists", he has declared.

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zero waste: circular economy
The waste is taken to the 3K Circular Innovation Center to be sorted correctly (Photo: Just Go Zero)

A model for the future and the strength of the community

Tilos' success would not have been possible without the active involvement of its community. The inhabitants of the island have embraced the new practices with enthusiasm, actively participating in recycling, composting and the adoption of renewable energies. This strong community bond has made it possible to overcome challenges and create a culture of sustainability rooted in the island.

The example of Tilos demonstrates that even the smallest companies can play a significant role in the fight against climate change andpollution. The island offers a vision of what the future could be: self-sufficient, environmentally responsible communities that thrive through renewable energy and circular waste management. A vision that is also in the heart of Solid Earth and its eco-friendly flooring made with 100 percent recyclable materials.

In a world where the sustainability has become a top priority, Tilos has earned its place as a beacon of hope and role model for other communities. With its commitment to a cleaner and more sustainable future, the Greek island reminds us that small actions can lead to big changes and that the path towards respectingtechnology and taking care of the planet is within everyone's reach.

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zero waste: landfill
The landfill, completely emptied, of the island (Photo: Just Go Zero)

Just Go Zero's commitment to make Tilos the first waste-free island in the world

zero waste: waste management
Thanks to excellent waste management and attention to the circular economy, Tilos has become the first "zero waste" island in the world (Photo: Just Go Zero)