Last Updated on Thursday, 30 March, 2023 at 6:02 pm by Andre Camilleri
The government aims to reach the point when only 10% of waste ends up in landfills by the year 2035, as opposed to the 90% that is currently ending up there today, Minister for Environment, Energy and Enterprise Miriam Dalli said in a press briefing on Thursday.
This is a significant challenge that needs to be addressed, Dalli said. “For instance, we started with a system of ‘gate fees’ at the beginning of the year, that incentivises the separation of waste at commercial sources.”
“We aim to introduce mandatory separation of waste for private homes,” she continued, “as this was merely a voluntary act previously.”
We also have new waste management plants at ECOHIVE that are being designed in such a way as to enable us to reach our ambitious targets, Dalli said.
“On top of these plans, we will continue to raise awareness of these issues with educational campaigns such Separate Right, Sort It Out, and Save Our Blue, to name a few examples,” Dalli said.
Present at the press conference aside from the Environment Minister were Circular Economy Malta CEO Jason Vella, Environment and Resources Authority CEO Kevin Mercieca and Permanent Secretary Joseph Caruana, and Chief Officer of Circular Economy at WasteServ Daniel Tabone, who all shared technical information on the various waste programs planned for the coming months and years.
Environment and Resources Authority – Kevin Mercieca
“ERA works with various agencies to address waste management issues to provide the government with a long term view of solutions,” said Mercieca.
The criticism that we face is that it’s easy to have a strategy, but we need to move to concrete actions; but we’re starting to see results, he continued.
For instance, a new statistic that has yet to be published officially shows that the amount of material in construction work that was recycled in 2021, was larger than that which was dumped in landfills, which is encouraging, said Mercieca.
“There has also been an increase in the amount of recycling plants that have received permits for construction,” he added.
“We also took action on the legislative front regarding the reduction of single use plastics. Indeed, Malta was one of the first countries to stop the importation, manufacture, and sale of single-use plastics,” said Mercieca.
“We have also introduced a system of fines for people putting out bins on the wrong day,” Mercieca said, “but the first 6 months are the transitory period where people found lacking will be given warnings rather than fines, or where we’re attaching stickers to bins placed on the curb on the wrong day.”
ERA waste management enforcement efforts have been doubled too, which means a doubling of the amount of contraventions detected, Mercieca said.
“In 2022, more than 5,000 inspections had been carried out, which translates to 15 teams carrying out their duties at any given point in time across Malta, and a rough total of 700 individuals caught skirting the law,” said Mercieca. “The tourist areas are the worst affected.”
For ERA, this was a year of concrete actions and work that has occurred is leaving a positive mark but more so I’d say that these foundations are, in the future, going to give us a multiplier effect, Mercieca concluded.
WasteServ – Daniel Tabone
Tabone said that “WasteServ aims to move towards a circular economy.”
In fact, in 2022, WasteServ exported close to 20,000 tons of high-quality, recyclable material to other recycling facilities which were converted into new products, Tabone said.
“This figure can be broken down into 8,000 tons of glass, 120 tons of cartons of milk, and 5,000 tons of cardboard,” said Tabone.
With the new waste schedule launched at the beginning of 2023, we saw a 20% increase in the amount of separated organic matter being processed, meaning that we processed enough material to turn this into biogas and power 500 houses; we’re hoping to make this 600 homes by next year, Tabone explained.
“The previously mentioned ‘gate fees’ have yielded positive results since people pay more for their waste to be processed unless they separate it out.
“Whereas people before paid 20 euros per ton to dump their unseparated waste in a landfill, this fee will be gradually increasing by 20 euros yearly, up to 120 euros. For example, instead of paying 40 euros per ton for unseparated waste, separated waste now costs 50 cents per ton,” Tabone said.
“This fiscal incentive has generated a lot of interest from the industry, as we’ve received over 500 requests on how to separate waste,” said Tabone.
“There has been an increase of 115% in the amount of the separated cardboard received, an 85% increase in separated wood, and 10 tons of separated mattresses,” he said.
When asked whether this incentive resulted in an increase in the amount of illegal dumping, Mercieca stated that “while this has been a concern of ours, this isn’t something which we’ve seen a great increase in.”
Tabone then spoke about infrastructure projects, “speaking about the recently unveiled automated processing plant that is able to process 40,000 tons of green and gray bag refuse per year. Sant Antnin, Marsascala is no longer where this refuse will be produced but in Maghtab. This is an investment of 400 million euros.”
“There is also work being undertaken on a new automated processing plant with a capacity to process 20,000 tons of glass per year.”
In the coming weeks, we will be opening a multi-material plant in Hal-Far, with an investment of roughly 22 million euros, which will process tyres, wood, and mattresses, as well as electronic objects.
“All these projects are partially funded by EU funds,” said Tabone.
“Ecohive will be the largest investment that has ever been made in the country, worth over 500 million euros. We are at an advanced stage of acquiring the plant and we are in the process of choosing the 5 consortiums that will be responsible for the running of the plant,” Tabone explained.
“Another project of Ecohive is the organic processing plant that will take organic waste and make compost and energy,” he said.
“A skip management facility has just been granted planning permission, which will treat 50,000 tons of bulky refuse which we receive annually. This facility will be built between the two landfills in Ghallis and Maghtab, so we will keep a brown site and won’t be taking virgin land,” Tabone said.
“In the last few months, we opened re-use centres where people can either place objects that are re-usable or pick up others discarded items to further encourage the idea of re-using items. So far, 6500 objects were reused in the last year,” said Tabone.
“Lastly, as part of our education campaign, we’ve went round to various schools and distributed over 41,000 comics so that kids can learn about waste management,” he concluded.
Circular Economy Malta – Jason Vella
Vella said that “2022 was characterized by the introduction of several campaigns that aim to transform Malta’s economy into a circular one.”
Vella mentioned the BCRS scheme, a nation-wide scheme run by the not-for-profit licensed operator, BCRS Malta Ltd, launched on the 14 November 2022, aimed at reducing the use and amount of plastic bottles.
“According to preliminary information that we have, the machines process around 3 million containers a week, and have thus far collected over 47 million plastic bottles,” said Vella.
When asked for whether there were any difficulties experienced in the first few months of implementation of this new scheme, Vella stated that “the culture shift in getting people to want to recycle has been challenging.”
“We will see further, larger machines added to the ‘fleet’ in the coming months that will be able to take in much larger plastic refuse, rather than having to input plastic bottles one by one,” said Vella.
“These new machines, of which there will be 10 by the coming summer, will complement the existing machines dotted around the island,” said Vella.
“In fact, there is already one set up in Hal Far.”