The Malta Independent 24 April 2019, Wednesday

Who is ready to do what it takes?

Camilla Appelgren Tuesday, 4 December 2018, 07:56 Last update: about 6 months ago

Emergency cleanup on a Saturday by the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change was indeed something that caught my eye when reading the news last weekend.

It is good to see that action is taken when litter is washed ashore, a big well done for that. However, I am not very impressed by their approach to solve the actual core issue.

“We need to face reality and adopt a more circular economy approach while changing our mentality and norms,” Herrera said in the interviews. He also added that after seeing the state of Ghajn Tuffieha it is now more concerning that this will have a severe impact on the environment.

May I remind Herrera that in the waiting area of his ministry, I was offered a plastic single use cup to pour water in from the dispenser. Underneath the dispenser there was a bin with a black bin liner, indicating that it would then end up at the landfill. And even if it would go for recycling, the single use items are often not possible to actually recycle and goes for RDF (refuse derived fuel) and will be burnt. This means that the plastic is taken out of the loop and is not part of a circular economy whatsoever.

Let us also not forget, that the persons working in this field have to be good role models and walk the walk and not only talk. If there is one building that should be plastic free and with several environmental actions in place, it should be the ministry and the minister himself. This is what I miss in Malta and the world. Very few are actually doing themselves what they ask the people to do. Why is it so?

There was a big outcry on social media about the microplastics washed up at Ghajn Tuffieha and I got the impression that people actually aren’t aware that this has happened for years. Every month Gaia Foundation organises a clean up on that same beach and we pick up kilo after kilo of microplastics and this is shared on social media. There are also articles from a decade ago about this issue as well and research done, did the ministry miss this? Why is it suddenly a top priority when we have fought mountains before for anyone to take action?

When the cleanup was over last Saturday, what changes can we expect with immediate effect? Is the ministry willing to do what it takes? Several NGOs have time after time put forward that it’s important to reduce waste and look beyond recycling which at the moment seems to be as far as the plans go at the moment. You see, the microplastic we saw at Ghajn Tuffieha is partly the result of recycling.

We need people at the top management of our country doing what it takes to save our sea and land. We need someone that stands up for sustainability which should be at core of every decision taken, these words have been said by our Prime Minister as well not long time ago.

Yes, we can sit back and clap our hands when politicians put out the fires, but shouldn’t we instead demand that they make sure the fires won’t happen again? Why do we let them, who work for us and not vice versa, get away with greenwashing?

My words may be harsh, but for years I have followed this development and I can clearly see that sustainability is not at core of decisions, not from any angle. It has a very low priority and instead monetary profit in all its forms has a very high one. What we commons need to understand is that this kind of profit is not something we benefit from, only the few does.

I started cleanups nearly a decade ago in Malta but seeing that cleanups won’t solve the issue, I adapted my work to instead spread awareness of the core issue - lack of reducing, while at the same time put the fires out by cleaning up. We commons can create change in mentality, but it will take time which we really don’t have. The few can speed up this process, but it seems like they don’t want to. If the people at the top think that emergency cleanups done by opportunists followed by wise statements will solve this, I am afraid to say that we are doomed.

Malta being a small nation, could be the role model of Europe and reach very high targets but instead we are hiding behind the small size of our nation to do less than others. Where are the firm, passionate and knowledgeable leaders that are willing to set high goals to make Malta into winners?


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