‘We see businesses as a major partner in this endeavour ’ – Aaron Farrugia

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 December, 2020 at 12:37 pm by Andre Camilleri

This week the Government launched a comprehensive long term Waste Management Plan, for the next 10 years. The plan will be issued for public consultation in the coming days. Dayna Camilleri Clarke spoke with the Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning, Aaron Farrugia to get a clearer picture of how Malta is handling the situation, and what it means for the business community.

What does the Waste Management plan mean for businesses?

Our Waste Management Plan 2021-2030 embodies the Government’s strong commitment towards a quantum leap in the country’s waste sector through a behavioural shift in favour of waste reduction and enhanced recycling providing cost savings and creating business opportunities.

As Government, we see businesses as a major partner in this endeavour to make Malta a veritable EU performer.  This vision underpins the suite of measures delineated within the plan itself, which are aimed at different actors within society, amongst which the business sector.

The plan will be issued for public consultation this week, and everyone will have the opportunity to make submissions for the Government to consider.

Commercial waste presents a remarkable opportunity noting how most of it is not separated at source. The plan puts forward measures specifically on this waste stream, to introduce waste separation within commercial establishments, such as the initially free collection of separate organic waste from touristic areas during weekends. It also aims at making waste separation mandatory and consequently incentivises the prevention of waste. Hence commercial establishments are invited to start assessing their operations and identify opportunities on how unnecessary waste generated can be minimised, and how unavoidable waste can be separated.

That apart, the plan also provides clarity on how the waste sector will be taken forward. This in itself should give the business sector confidence in investing together with Government in achieving the same goal, that of lowering our landfilling rate and our waste generation per capita, whilst increasing our recycling performance.

Is it only relevant for big businesses or large-scale operations?

The measures apply to the business sector in its entirety. As much as we sought to bring forward waste separation within households, we aim at doing the same with the commercial sector. Our objective is to reduce waste generation per capita, lower volumes of mixed waste (black bags) and increase the recycling rate.

Are there any incentives in the pipeline for businesses who follow good practice?

As a matter of principle following good practise should be seen as a corporate social responsibility. The initial free collection of separated organic waste from touristic areas during weekends is aimed to facilitate the adoption of good practices that can bring about cost savings. Furthermore, an eco-certification system shall be extended beyond hotels to commercial establishments to encourage them to go the extra mile. There will also be disincentives to discourage the mixing of waste in a single bag, as we aim at lowering the volumes of the black bag. Such disincentives are aligned with the polluter pays principle, since those who seek to persist in polluting should be held accountable for their actions.

Do you envisage any fees being incurred for businesses such as payments for disposal?

Social partners, including the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Chamber of Commerce, support our ambitious waste management plan. It shows that the industry requires comfort and clarity on the way forward. This is what we are giving them through this plan.

Disposal of waste never comes free since it entails expenses that must be rectified for, either through the central tax system or more appropriately through producer responsibility. It should be evident, however, that where wisdom prevails unnecessary waste is avoided, and recycling is given priority. 

Should businesses follow this recommended route in their establishments, then minimal expenses will be incurred. The introduction of a service charge on specific waste bags to implement the “Pay-as-you-throw” system will be explored. The cost of the different bags would be intended to cover the collection and treatment costs of each waste stream. Rates for residual (black bag) and organic waste will be differentiated to incentivise the minimisation of waste and the separation of waste generated, consequently having a realistic chance to meet Malta’s waste management targets.

Or fines? For example, those violating Extended Producer Responsibility?

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is already enshrined in our regulations specifically on packaging and packaging waste, waste electrical and electronic equipment, end-of-life vehicles and batteries. Violation of such existing regulations are already subject to fines as listed in the respective regulations. The Waste Management Plan seeks to strengthen the EPR framework further and to consider the application of the EPR principle on new waste streams following the appropriate assessments. The new waste streams to be considered include non-packaging paper, waste oils, tyres and textiles.

As with any other regulatory provision, should one not adhere to conditions stipulated in legal frameworks, sanctions would apply.

Can you explain the circular economy concept?

A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. In simpler terms, the concept of a circular economy is to reduce wastage by designing products and improving systems to increase the lifespan/longevity of products. Once products are discarded, materials are separated for recycling. This reduces the pressure on raw materials, as a resource is generated from waste.

When it comes to educational campaigns and monitoring and compliance, “green champions” do you intend to target workplaces?

Yes, workplaces will be targeted in awareness-raising campaigns as we want to drive this societal change in an inclusive manner and without disregarding the business sector. Green champions will be spokespersons for waste prevention and waste separation in different spheres, not only will we target schools, but also the catering business, for example, or the service industry.

- Advertisement -