A new report published by the European Commission yesterday explains how top performing member states have recycling rates of up to 70% and bury virtually nothing, whilst other still landfill more than three quarters of their waste.
Malta has come a long way since people started separating recyclable waste, but the amount of waste generated is still high compared to that of other EU countries.
Numerous campaigns and educational initiatives aimed at raising awareness on the need to manage waste sustainably have been undertaken over the years. Concurrently, there was the development of essential infrastructure such as bring-in sites in every locality, five civic amenity sites for the disposal of bulky waste and the waste treatment plant at Sant’Antnin.
Furthermore, the ‘Recycle Tuesdays’ scheme was introduced in 2008 as a means of collecting recyclable household waste on a door-to-door basis.
A Wasteserv spokesperson recently told sister newspaper The Malta Independent on Sunday that prior to 2004 and EU accession, all waste in Malta was dumped in uncontrolled landfills. By 2010, the amount of municipal waste taken to local landfills had fallen by 14% and, according to statistics recently published by Eurostat, there was a corresponding increase in the amount of recyclable and compostable waste.
While the results achieved so far are definitely positive and promising, the famous motto “reduce, reuse and recycle” has remained just a catchphrase to some people, said the spokesperson.
The amount of waste generated per capita fell from 647 kilograms in 2009 to 591 kilograms the following year. Although positive, this is still 89 kilograms higher than the EU average of 502 kilograms per capita for the same year and reflects the need for a greater effort by the Maltese to minimise the amount of waste produced on a daily basis, be it at work, at home or at leisure.
How have the best performers turned waste from a problem into a resource? The European Commission’s report explains that it is by combining economic instruments. A mix of landfilling and incineration taxes and bans, producer responsibility schemes and pay-as-you-throw prove to be the most effective tools in shifting waste streams to more sustainable paths.
If the EU is to meet the objectives set out in the Resource Efficiency Roadmap – zero landfilling, maximising recycling and reuse, and limiting energy recovery to non recyclable waste – these economic instruments will need to be introduced more widely across all member states.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “Waste is too valuable to just throw away, and if you manage it right you can put that value back into the economy. Six member states – Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Sweden and The Netherlands – now combine virtually zero landfilling and high recycling rates. Not only do they exploit the value of the waste, they have created thriving industries and many jobs in the process.
“This report shows how they achieved it: by making prevention, reuse and recycling more economically attractive through a selection of economic instruments. We now have a common responsibility with the member states and local authorities to ensure that these instruments are effectively used and spread across the EU. This is one of the central goals of the Resource Efficiency Roadmap.”
Waste is too valuable to just throw away, and if you manage it right you can put that value back into the economy