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Recycling and waste management; how families can help contribute towards a greener Malta

Kevin Schembri Orland Monday, 24 August 2015, 11:07 Last update: about 10 years ago

Recycling plays a large role in the conservation of the environment, and in Malta, the introduction of schemes over the years has begun to show result.

The Environment Ministry explained that reducing waste would have a direct impact on energy conservation, as less resources would be needed for the transport and treatment of waste. The ministry also recommends improving insulation and making homes energy efficient. 

According to the latest National Statistic Office releases, In 2013, the contribution of waste input into the Sant' Antnin Waste Treatment Plant, managed by Wasteserv, went up by 6.3% over 2012, to 70,368 tonnes. This mainly resulted from an increase of 7.6% in waste generated from municipal sources and the green/grey bag scheme, which accounted for 95.5% of the total waste input into the Plant. In 2013, all the waste collected through the green/grey bag scheme increased by 4,418 tonnes to 11,764 tonnes

Waste reducing measures at home

The Environment Ministry recommends better separating food at home, correct storage and a better understanding of the difference between 'best before' and expiry dates. Other things families can do at home include reducing packaging waste by purchasing large family packs rather that individual portions, avoid buying items with double packaging and adopting a 'reuse' mentality wherever possible. This 'reuse' mentality can help "from simple day-to-day practices, such as writing shopping lists on used envelopes, to more creative projects such as turning wooden objects into furniture and home décor".

"Most families are already recycling waste, so now it is a matter of improving what we are already doing and ensure that as many families as possible are aware that throwing waste into a black bag they are also wasting space and resources we do not have. We should all think responsibly about reducing, reusing and recycling our waste". The ministry explained that greener living will be addressed in green economy strategy.

The government will soon be launching a National Waste Education Campaign, as well as the third  type of recycling bag (for organic waste) at national level in 2016. The Ministry mentioned that, in line with the 2015 budget, a request for proposals will be issued regarding the disposal of plastic bottles and aluminium cans. Through this, the ministry said, it has the potential to minimise the use of the black bag, subject to public cooperation.  "Some 'black bag' waste is inevitable and the long-term vision is to reduce the black bag waste to a minimum which ideally will result in fewer weekly collections".

The volume of green/grey recycling bags from households increased by 9.4% to 11,729 tonnes in 2013, which is the highest amount collected through this scheme since its inception in 2008.

Government plans to pass out spent battery collection operations to the private sector "as we have done with recyclable packaging waste and with the Waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

In the case of WEEE Legal notices were published, one amends the Eco-Contribution Act to remove the contribution on electrical and electronic waste, and another one amending regulations on the management of such waste.

Environment Minister Leo Brincat, during the announcement of the WEEE scheme, explained that the only companies which can benefit from the eco-contribution removal are those who enter into an authorised waste management scheme or those who self-regulate, who would have to formally bind themselves to do so and to be subject to verifications. Companies have up to the end of August to inform MEPA of their decision.

In 2013, source-segregated recyclable materials totalled 19,735 tonnes. Bring-In sites were introduced to Malta by in 2002, and according to WasteServ, "enable the public to deposit clean, source-segregated recyclable materials. This was one of the first steps taken towards more sustainable waste management in Malta".

Waste collected in 2013 from bring-in sites increased by 17.3% as a result of increases in all materials, mainly glass (+15.9%).

Civic Amenity sites are facilities where the public can bring and discard various types of bulky household waste, domestic hazardous waste as well as recyclable materials. These sites cater for the disposal of furniture, mattresses, carpets, white goods, electronics etc.  The waste collected at these sites is either exported overseas for treatment, treated locally, re-used for other purposes or recycled.

The NSO states that waste collected from Civic Amenity Sites increased by 17.5% in 2013, mainly as a result of higher amounts of construction and demolition waste (+37.8 %), bulky waste (+11.3%) and wood waste (+8.5%).


As for Maghtab, the minister explained that prior to EU accession, the landfill was rehabilitated with proper gas extraction systems throughout, and landscaping (among other interventions) took place on the area overlooking the coast. He said that the operational landfill is necessary unless "the inevitable portion of black bag waste is exported".

The European Commission

According to the European Commission, 16 tonnes of material is used per person per year, of which six tonnes becomes waste. "Although waste management continues to improve in the EU, the European economy currently still loses a significant amount of potential secondary raw materials such as metals, wood, glass, paper and plastic".

In 2010, total waste production in the EU amounted to 2.5 billion tonnes. "From this total, only a limited (albeit increasing) share, 36%, was recycled with the rest landfilled or burned (of which 600 million tonnes could have been recycled or reused)".

In terms of household waste, the Commission states that each person currently produces, on average, half a tonne, with only 40% being reused or recycled.

Bio-degradable waste is also a threat to the environment, due to the production of methane from decomposing waste in landfills. It accounted for around 3% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-15 in 1995. Member states are obliged to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste they landfill to 35% of 1995 levels by 2016 (2020 in the case of certain countries).

According to the European Commission, "the most significant benefits of proper bio-waste management - besides avoided emissions of greenhouse gases - would be the production of good quality compost and bio-gas that contribute to enhanced soil quality and resource efficiency, as well as a higher level of energy self-sufficiency. In practice, however, Member States are often inclined not to opt for composting or bio-gas production, and instead choose the seemingly easiest and cheapest option such as incineration or landfilling and disregarding the actual environmental benefits and costs".

The European Commission states that improved waste management helps reduce health and environmental problems, reduce greenhouse gas emissions (by cutting landfill emissions and by recycling materials which would otherwise be processed and extracted), while also helping to avoid negative impacts at local level such as landscape deterioration due to landfilling, local water and air pollution, as well as littering.


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