Businesses register with councils for waste collection scheme
A recent poll run by The Times revealed that 90 per cent of respondents associated environment protection primarily with waste separation. Encouraging people to separate their waste has been an uphill struggle for the authorities, but all the lessons learnt since the original test scheme in Swieqi some years back, have now been included into the bigger scheme of things.
Malta's waste separation at source scheme kicks off softly mid-April when members of households may collect special grey bags for metal, paper, cartons and plastic from local councils in preparation for the first collection on April 15.
Collection of household separated waste will be collected on Mondays in Gozo and Tuesdays in Malta from mid-April. The waste will be separated again mechanically at the Sant'Antnin plant in Marsascala. Glass for recycling will continue to be deposited at bring-in sites as usual.
All other refuse will also be collected normally throughout the week.
For businesses which generate significantly greater amounts of packaging waste, the scheme will prove more complex but, three years in the making, authorities are confident of it working well.
Legal Notice 277 issued in 2006 obliged businesses, or producers/importers of packaging waste to join a packaging waste recovery scheme. After three years of intense discussion and tweaking of plans between industry, the Local Councils Association, and the Government, The Federation of Industry, the Chamber of Commerce, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, and the Chamber of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (GRTU) teamed up to establish a national scheme.
Privately owned schemes, based on the criteria of this set-up, will be offering services to the local councils and businesses. In November last year, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the constituted bodies. The document binds them to set up a scheme, which may eventually finance the door-to-door collection.
This set-up will be subsidised by the Government to the tune of €250,000 for a period of three months; 90 trips for household packaging waste will be made every week in all localities, at a cost of over €180 a trip.
As from the beginning of July, the funds allocated by the Government to local councils will cover the mixed waste collection, while the fees paid by producers to a scheme should cover the cost of this packaging waste collection.
In business areas like Birkirkara, Mosta and Paola, the arrangement will be to have waste separated collections from retail outlets on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. In commercially active areas like Paceville, Sliema, St Julian's, Bugibba, Marsascala and Valletta, collections could be made more frequently depending on demand. Businesses are to register with their local council and specify under which scheme the packaging they generate will be assigned.
Hoteliers and some sectors of industry have their own separated waste collection and are expected to continue to relieve local councils of this burden. From July 1, they will, however, be asked to separate organic waste, glass and packaging waste, with each delivered to a separate facility. Hotels, bars and restaurants that produce receipts to prove they are buying packaged products from a producer or importer which is registered with a waste recovery scheme will benefit from savings in the waste collection set-up.
The plan for collection for separated waste was conceived three years ago when eco contribution was introduced. After July, fees paid by businesses to a privately owned scheme for waste collection will exempt them from eco contribution and those monies will help finance the scheme. Eco contribution raises close to €14 million (Lm6 million) a year.
"The set-up will obviously need fine tuning," director (Environment) Chris Ciantar says, "but all sides were heard in a bid to safeguard all interests and to serve all the stakeholders as well as possible. The trial period will help clear up teething problems."
Tender documents for waste collection have been drafted and a call for tenders will be made soon. Conditions are expected to be stringent and in line with European standards.
Dr Ciantar explained that with an improved collection set-up, collectors will be able to sign longer term contracts, giving them added incentive to invest in modern vehicles.
Meanwhile personnel from Industrial Projects and Services Ltd have been trained as enforcement officers and will be detailed to make sure that the conditions of the set-up, like the condition of the collection trucks, are being observed.
Ideally, Dr Ciantar says, given the new nature of waste collection, local councils would appoint a waste manager with whom the enforcement officers would collaborate. The conditions laid down in tender documents commit all the players heavily legally, and authorities hope the waste collection scheme will curb abuse. An education campaign to help households and businesses better understand how the scheme works gets off the ground in the next few days.