The Malta Independent 17 December 2018, Monday

New waste regulations see significant reduction in black bag collection, increase in recycling

Kevin Schembri Orland Tuesday, 27 November 2018, 10:26 Last update: about 19 days ago

November 2018 saw a drastic decrease in black back usage when compared to November 2017, Wasteserv statistics seen by The Malta Independent show, while the number of green and grey recycling bags also rose when comparing the same periods.

Government recently launched new legislation pushing forward waste separation in a bid to increase recycling throughout the Maltese islands, while also introducing the organic bag. The organic (white) bag is used for organic waste which can then be turned into compost and other kinds of soil nourishment products.

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The Wasteserv statistics obtained by this newsroom compare the period between November 1 and  November 25 2017, to the same period in November 2018. While the new waste collection measures are experiencing issues, more people are separating waste now than before, the statistics show.

9,594 tonnes of black bags were collected in the 2017 period. This amount is higher than the same period in 2018, where 6,903 tonnes of black bag waste was collected, thus meaning that around 28% less black bags were collected.

This was more than likely due to the recent waste collection legislation changes, where government has initiated a major push in terms of waste separation.

In terms of the recycling green/grey bag, the November 2017 period saw 1,254 tonnes collected, while in the same period in 2018, 1,827 tonnes was collected – effectively a 573 tonne increase.

Many in the recycling sector believe that the introduction of organic bag collection, and increased waste separation measures would lead to increased green/grey bag recycling, and hope that as time goes on people will start to automatically separate their waste.

In terms of the organic (white) bag, during the November 2017 period 204 tonnes were collected. This was due to the pilot project already being in operation at that stage. During the same period in 2018, when the full organic bag collection scheme was in operation across the Maltese islands, 1,706 tonnes of organic waste bags were collected.

An environment Ministry official told this newsroom that, when comparing the November 2017 and November 2018 data, organic bag and the green/grey recycling bag collection increased from 13% of the total waste collected in 2017 to 34% in 2018.

It is currently still unclear what kind of final effect this will have on Malta’s 2020 recycling targets, but early indications show that more people are separating waste, which is a positive trend.

Recently the 2018 State of the Environment Report issued by the Environment and Resources Authority read that the point where Malta stands today, from a waste management perspective, is a far cry from where it should be in order to reach its 2020 targets.

The 2018 State of the Environment Report provides an overview of the quality of the environment we are living in.

Government is currently working on a number of schemes to further reduce the amount of garbage sent to landfill. One such plan is the waste-to-energy plant, however this proposal has been controversial. Others include the bottle refund scheme.

On 24 September 2018 the European Commission published the latest review of how well EU waste rules are applied in Europe, presenting challenges and ways forward. The report gives an overview of progress and implementation challenges for several waste streams, including municipal waste, construction and demolition waste, hazardous waste, waste electrical and electronic equipment and packaging waste. It suggests areas for improvement for each of them.

For municipal waste, 14 Member States have been identified as at risk of missing the 2020 target of 50% preparation for re-use / recycling. Malta was one of these countries. “In 2016, the municipal waste recycling rate (including composting) reported by Malta to Eurostat was 7 %, while the landfill rate was 83 %.” It is pertinent to note that this report was issued prior to the implementation of the new regulations regarding waste separation, and thus it still remains to be seen how the new waste collection statistics will affect reaching the final 2020 target.

The Malta Independent recently interviewed Marc Muscat, CEO of the new Resources, Recovery and Recycling Agency. He had highlighted a number of incentives and projects Malta is undertaking to improve Malta’s waste situation, including the plans for a waste-to-energy plant, and the bottle refund scheme. The Agency is currently looking into new ways and schemes to improve recycling and reuse. He had highlighted that even business models could result in a reduction in waste. As an example, he mentioned the music industry. “There was a time when people used to buy compact discs. Today, many people use Spotify. With one change in the business model the packaging waste disappeared, because now there is a digital system and there are different things that can be applied to that concept.”

This falls also falls in line with the ERA’s State of the Environment report 2018, which reads that waste prevention is the highest stage of the waste hierarchy and is therefore the most environmentally friendly option as the absence of waste implies that no resources have been spent and no material needs to be managed.

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