Readjusting our everyday practices

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 August, 2023 at 12:41 pm by Andre Camilleri

Last week I wrote an article to share a few ideas on how we can readjust our economic model. Technically, what we need is fresh policies to change specific behaviours. The crux of the argument revolves around gaining marginal efficiencies and using scarce resources effectively and efficiently. Essentially, we need to be creative on how to attain efficiency and perhaps use digitalisation as a long-term means to tackle a few economic challenges.

Indeed, I suggested to start looking into new healthcare initiatives in the private sector for third country nationals to reduce pressure on government’s healthcare, as well as expanding our operations in highly urbanised areas to restrain unnecessary trash practices. Let us all agree that the eastern coast of Malta is highly urbanised due to temporary and permanent residents living and visiting the Maltese islands. Recently, we have been reading in the media about uncollected trash bags in areas like Sliema and St Paul’s Bay. Some observers stated that the increase in the temporary population this summer, created a littering problem due to a corresponding increase in trash bags. Obviously, there is a positive correlation between the increase in the permanent and temporary residents and waste generation.

However, I believe that there are long-lasting creative ways to tackle such problems. We are not the first country that hosts highly urbanised areas. In my preceding article I even suggested to use barcoded trash bags, which can be collected from the local council and which would register everything under the name of the respective tenants. In 2023, I still cannot understand how data is collected, filtered and administered across different departments. Certainly, we must have a centralised system that feeds each and every department and sector. For instance, I saw comments stating that we cannot tackle the problem because we have third country nationals living in certain blocks and which are not easily identifiable. Frankly, it is a bit irrational because as far as I am informed, the contracts of rented apartments must be registered with the Housing Authority. Third country nationals and even EU citizens, all have, or at least I hope, a registered address which can make them easily identifiable.

However, I am not sure if the same practice applies to the condominium data. As far as I am concerned, a block of apartments is regulated by the Condominium Act, which in turn appoints an administrator. In some EU states the condominium contracts are publicly registered. Therefore, those responsible enter into an agreement to pay the administrators a fee for the upkeep of the communal areas. Personally, I think that those responsible in administering the communal parts of a block of apartments, can perhaps be appointed as the overseers of the tenants’ practices. Maybe we can explore the idea of expanding the condominium market.

Two days ago, I was chatting with a genuine person who told me that a barcode of the contact details of the administrator of the block can be affixed to the main door of the block of apartments. If, for instance, the trash practices and regulations are not followed, trash collectors can scan the barcode and contact the administrator directly. This already happens in some EU member states. Surely, it induces responsible behaviour and practices on the tenants or owners of apartments. Simultaneously, local authorities would be able to gather additional information on the trash practices within the area and propose better policies. Frankly, I still think that using a combined system of barcoded trash bags attached to the responsible tenant, as well as a barcode affixed on the main door to contact the administrator, would do a better job to minimise the trash problem. However, this must be a long-term plan, especially if we are to keep on increasing tourist numbers.

The idea can be further expanded to the point of allowing the tenants to collect pre-paid barcoded trash bags from the administrators as part of their annual fee. This is why I am saying that we can expand the condominium market. Additionally, security cameras must be installed within the perimeter of the areas that are falling victim of excessive littering. Unless we do something creatively, and look into long-term solutions, we are not going to solve our problems. Even if we shift the responsibility on the cleansing department, in the long run it might prove inefficient. In my genuine opinion, the cleansing department must focus on roads’ tidiness rather than trash collection. Personally, I still think that we must encourage private household and commercial outlets to adhere to the regulations. Abroad, those who do not adhere to the trash collection timetable receive a hefty fine. Surely, we need a concerted effort to solve the problem by having everyone involved, including private citizens. And if need be, it would also be a good idea that in highly urbanised zones, the black trash bag is collected frequently, especially during the summer months. However, such information can only be made visible through data collection.

We have an environmental and social responsibility towards our citizens because we cannot afford a situation of diminishing marginal utility vis-a-vis economic growth. Lately, everything that goes a little different than the ordinary is being blamed on economic growth. Clearly, it is not. It is our practices that we must change. Additionally, I think that the Condominium Act would need to be eventually revised, to also include environmentally-friendly practices in communal areas. I already read something about this practice being implemented abroad. Indeed, the Maltese government can implement it as part of its vision to transit to a greener economy.

In the past years, we built a sizeable stock of apartments, and we are still building, so it would be a good idea to reflect it in our regulations. Hence, it stands to reason that the communal parts of the same block of apartments must become more sustainable and transit to greener practices. Certainly, we can expand the condominium market by having additional operators in this sector to create additional jobs in the service industry.

Additionally, I think that the EU’s vision of eco-labelling apartments would be a game-changer. In the future those apartments that do not hold a green eco-label as part of sustainable tourism, would not be able to advertise them on popular platforms. As much as the hospitality industry, especially hotels, are required to become more sustainable, holiday apartments would eventually be required to follow suit. Surely, retrofitting the current stock of apartments to transit to greener practices, would be regarded as an indirect change in policy within the rental accommodation sector imposed by the EU as part of the green transition. Time will tell!

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