The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

TMID Editorial: Waste disposal - Rubbish and discipline

Saturday, 6 July 2019, 11:20 Last update: about 16 days ago

Over the past days two statements were issued about waste collection in Malta.

In the first, the Local Enforcement System Agency said that 49 people had been booked in St Paul’s Bay, Bugibba, Qawra, Sliema, St Julian’s and San Gwann in four days in the last week of June. The offences ranged from disposing of bulky refuse in an inappropriate way, disposing of domestic garbage not according to the schedule related to different kinds of waste, and illegalities related to the construction industry.

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A second statement was later issued by the Environment Resources Authority which said that from the start of the year until 26 June, ERA had caught 117 people either disposing of their domestic waste on the wrong days or else well before collection time. The statement said that the largest amount of perpetrators were in Qawra, Bugibba and Marsascala.

While acknowledging that, at least, something is being done by the responsible entities in terms of enforcement, these numbers are very low considering the number of abuses we encounter every day. This is especially so with regard to the ERA statement – there are 176 days between 1 January and 26 June, so the 117 people caught doing something wrong in the way they dispose of their waste is certainly too little: not even one person per day was caught red-handed, when abuse is so rampant. Just take a look at the amount of rubbish bags piling up in the corners of streets to get an idea of the shabbiness we live in every day.

There is no doubt that these entities need to do much more to be seen as taking matters really seriously. Of course, we are not advocating a police state and neither can we expect LESA and ERA officials to be stationed outside each and every house or block of apartments. But, given the numbers above, it is clear that not enough is being done. These entities responsible for maintaining order can and must do better.

There is another side to the story. This is because in spite of the efforts that have been made over the years to instil a sense of discipline, many – too many – of use simply ignore the rules. The maxim that what is beyond our doorstep is not ours is a mentality that has not changed over the years. Most of us maintain our homes spick and span, but when it comes to what is public very few take care.

Again, just take a look at the papers, packets and other discarded items that are seen flying around or accumulating at the sides of roads or on pavements – not to mention the thousands of cigarette butts – to get an idea.

We need to discipline ourselves better. We need to understand that what is public belongs to all of us. Nobody would enjoy a guest turning up in their home and dumping unwanted material in the sitting room. Likewise, nobody should be discarding waste in public areas because if belongs to all of us.

Fines for littering or disobeying rules pertaining to disposing of waste should continue to increase if this is the only way that people learn.

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