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Trash to Treasure: How One Greek Island Is Recycling Refugees' Life Vests

© AP Photo / Santi PalaciosA man walks across piles of life jackets used by refugees and migrants to cross the Aegean sea from the Turkish coast.
A man walks across piles of life jackets used by refugees and migrants to cross the Aegean sea from the Turkish coast. - Sputnik International
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With fears the migration crisis may cause widespread environmental damage along many of Europe's migrant routes, authorities from one Greek island have told Sputnik how they are literally turning one man's trash into another man's treasure by recycling life vests dumped along the island's shores.

The island of Chios, one of the main stops for refugees and migrants traveling from Turkey to Greece, has been at the forefront of the migration crisis with more than 180,000 people estimated to have passed through the island over the past year.

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While initial concerns surrounded the island's resources and its ability to house new arrivals, fears increasingly turned towards Chios' environment, with huge amounts of life vests dumped along the island's pristine coastline.

Sokrates Syriodis, Chios councilor and President of the island's waste management authority, estimated that there was "roughly 4,000 or 5,000 tons" of extra waste left behind on the island as a result of the migration crisis.

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As locals struggled to deal with the increase in waste, authorities in Chios devised a plan to try and make use of the life vests behind left behind, by recycling the material to make other useful products.

Instead of disposing of the life vests in the same manner that the island does with other forms of rubbish, authorities looked to utilize the leftover materials and reuse them.

"We have a lot of life vests left behind. We're taking these life vests and transporting them to a waste field," Syriodis said.

"But we don't bury them, we keep them there in order to see what will happen."

While initially struggling to attract support from businesses over the idea, Syriodis said the island was working with Greek NGO Odyssea to help with their recycling efforts.

"They [Odyssea] are taking the life vests away to a process center in Athens and they are taking this material and transforming it into useful products," he said, with the material to be used for items such as furniture and clothing.

Along with avoiding an "ecological bomb" on the island, Syriodis told Sputnik the plan was also set to boost the Greek economy.

"These products are hopefully going to be sold all around the world."

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