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On to the next level

Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Waste Management in Malta today still lacks fundamental legislation. We have seen no improvement in decreasing household and commercial mixed waste going to landfills because there has never been the political will in the last 40 years to actually take the next step.

Authorities need to issue legal notices firstly in order to oblige all households and commercial entities of any nature to segregate waste at source: mixed waste, recyclables, and organic waste.

Secondly, legislation is needed so that glass does not finish in the mixed black bags and in addition, commercial and mostly catering establishments will be obliged to segregate glass and dispose of it through authorised packaging waste compliance schemes or through glass bins at bring-in sites.

Thirdly, legislation should also provide for ascertaining that there is a bring-in site for every 300 households in every local council with the authorities enforcing such legislation in every local council. While a local council remains autonomous, we cannot have situations where a council decides to have one bring-in site instead of 12 sites.

The end result of such a situation is having a daily dumping site.

Fourthly, catering establishments should have different coloured bags for their collection so that it is clearly identified. Whether it is collected by one contractor or various can be open to discussion, but catering establishments need to pay the cost of this service.

Today there are many of them who are using local council services free of charge, breaching regulations, but since we have no enforcement and in addition both residents and catering establishments use the same coloured bags, then this rampant abuse is carried on at those local councils where there is a catering/ commercial activity.

It is time for owners of catering establishments to realise that there is a difference between having a cafeteria or a restaurant in Valletta and one in Mqabba. If an entrepreneur chooses Valletta then having a restaurant in the capital city has an additional price tag.

We are all aware that eating in Valletta today comes at a price and the catering establishments need to have waste management as an integral part of the price.  The Valletta local council today landfills over 4,100 tons yearly. This has grown from just over 2,300 tons in 2012 while the population has decreased by just over 100 in the same period.

Valletta’s population of 6,309 has a landfill allocation of 131 tons per month (0.68kg per capita daily). It is now landfilling 338 tons per month.  I will not go into the merits of the cost of mixed-waste collection, collections from commercial centres and street sweeping in Valletta. Enough has been said and it is up to the authorities to take action in this regard.

It is time for Wasteserv and the Cleansing Directorate to hold firm to being operators of a last resort only. It is time for radical change

As for logistics, we need to create economies of scale for one and all. We need to go regional in respect to collections, either through the current five regions already established or at least through the 13 electoral districts. It is also a must to establish collection days for each material fraction on a national scale. There are currently too many local councils who have put in place different collection dates and times.

It is simply creating a chaotic situation and definitely not giving the desired results. Current mixed-waste collection alone costs just over €4.7 million.

Wasteserv today charges €23.60 per ton for landfilling. This is not sustainable. The landfilling fee has to include the cost of receipt of materials, treatment of such materials, landfilling costs, and in addition the final rehabilitation cost of the landfill at the end of its lifespan.

A few years back this was estimated at €60 per ton. If one had to estimate collection costs today including landfill costs at sustainability, the end result is a yearly cost across the board of €35 per capita. Managing waste is a priority issue and if the above legislation changes do not give the desired results then waste collection costs and landfilling costs of any nature, except recyclables, should carry a fee both at residential and commercial level.

A pay-as-you-throw system should be put in place entrenching ‘the polluter pays principle’.

It is time for the authorities to stand up and be counted. It is time for all those who are pro-environment to take action. It is time for the hospitality industry to foot the bill wherever they have an investment that has waste as an end result. It is time for local councils to sit down together away from partisan politics and being autonomous, to build a better environment for our residents everywhere.

It is time for major projects to make sure that they have waste-management plans on their agenda as in the past well-known developers entered into agreement with the government to provide funds amounting to €450,000 to build a civic amenity and six years down the line nothing was forthcoming.

Today this developer is only €450,000 richer on the environment’s back. It is time for waste carriers to improve their infrastructure, as Malta needs smaller vehicles, (in some places electrically operated) more frequent collections and of course with that comes better payments for the service.

It is time for the Ministry of the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change to once again set in motion the defunct Waste Management Stakeholders Group set up by former minister Leo Brincat in 2013 and which died away after two meetings. It is time for Wasteserv and the Cleansing Directorate to hold firm to being operators of a last resort only. It is time for radical change.

We need to continue to educate at our schools. Beyond, enforcement is the next step through employment of street environment officers. Malta is a small island State and we can only be the best if we are able to drive the vision to get there. Managing waste and cleaning up this country should be a priority matter across the board. Taking the above decisions now is cardinal to improving drastically on where we stand today.

We have the ability. All we need is the will to make sure that tomorrow’s generation really is a genuine priority to all of us. We need to walk the talk. There is no better time than starting right now.

Joe Attard is CEO of Green mt/WEEE Malta.

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