The Malta Independent 21 September 2019, Saturday

Construction waste ‘crisis’: Situation is alarming - MDA president

Neil Camilleri & Rebekah Cilia Thursday, 5 September 2019, 08:53 Last update: about 16 days ago

The country is facing another construction waste “crisis” as many contractors are not finding places where to deposit their waste and quarry operators have hiked up their fees again, according to the President of the Malta Developers’ Association (MDA).

Six months ago, the construction industry almost ground to a halt as there was simply nowhere to deposit construction waste. A temporary solution was found when several disused quarries were given permits to receive construction waste.

Space is fast running out, however, while a number of quarries are not receiving material, Chetcuti told The Malta Independent, adding that the current situation is “alarming.”

Dumping fees charged by some quarry operators were suddenly upped just this week, in some cases by as much as double what they were charging up until a few days ago, Chetcuti said.

“The few quarries that are receiving waste have inflated their prices, despite the concession given by the government in a bid to keep their dumping fees down. We are back to square one.”

Some contractors were surprised to be told by quarry operators that the fees had suddenly risen from around €8 per tonne to around €16 per tonne, Chetcuti noted. Contractors, particularly those specialised in demolition and excavation, were already highly concerned about the lack of dumping space, but the increased fees were an extra headache.

This newspaper reached out to Chetcuti after it was informed that several quarries had been filled to their maximum capacity in just a few months, while others were still not receiving waste generated by the construction industry, namely limestone, bricks and concrete. Others are operating at reduced capacity.

Back in February of this year, the government had said that 32 quarries had been licensed to receive construction waste, but, according to reports, only a handful were doing so. According to Chetcuti, some quarries have access problems whilst others are still extracting limestone bricks, albeit in limited amounts.

According to the Environment and Resources Authority website, permits were issued to 35 quarries since February. There are currently 29 quarries with valid permits.

Chetcuti said the numbers on paper did not reflect the reality on the ground, adding that, just because certain quarries have a permit to receive inert waste does not necessarily mean that they are doing it.

He pointed out that limestone is barely used in construction today, meaning that no new quarries are being dug up. This meant that space, where to deposit construction waste, was always shrinking. “At one point, all space will run out,” he warned.

“These contractors – there are around 250 of them – have already suffered a lot when the industry ground to a halt, some months ago, before the new construction regulations came into force. They had to keep paying their employees’ salaries while all their work was stopped.”

Asked whether he had heard about any developments on a land reclamation policy document that was presented to cabinet earlier this year, Chetcuti said he had not.

“MDA has never been consulted about this document, which is worrying. Certain ministries consult you and keep you updated while others keep you in the dark.”

If a decision is to be taken on land reclamation, it has to be taken now, Chetcuti said. “Time is against us.”

The developers’ association had previously said that reclamation was one of the solutions to deal with the mounting volume of construction waste. “We believe that it is part of the solution. The other part is the recycling of construction material, but this is not happening.” Recycling was only taking place in small amounts, he said when an “aggressive” effort should be made.

While he does not envisage another construction boom like the one experienced over the past few years, the issue of construction waste will remain a problem unless a decision is taken.

“MDA had always insisted that the quarries were a temporary measure. The promised effort did not materialise. How many times are we going to say the same thing?”

 

Sector has to find its own solutions - ministry

A spokesperson for the Environment Ministry yesterday said that space is still available but many quarries were not functioning properly. The ministry also pointed out that, in a free market, the sector had to find its own solutions.

In a statement yesterday, the ministry said that the only quarry that was receiving construction waste from small contractors stopped doing so. Sources explained that many quarries have long-term agreements with the major contractors, but smaller companies are finding it increasingly harder to find a place where to deposit their waste.

The ministry said the decision taken by the quarry owners was affecting the entire sector. This was confirmed by the Environment and Resources Authority after if carried out inspections.

The ministry noted that, over the past few months it issued permits for 10 quarries to receive construction waste and introduced fiscal incentives to keep dumping fees down.

In view of this, the ministry said it will have to use the powers it has at law if the situation is not resolved within an appropriate timeframe. The construction sector has to carry out this task in the context of a free market, the ministry said.

 

 

 

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