The Malta Independent 21 September 2019, Saturday

Construction waste crisis: Dumping fees have doubled overnight – contractor

Neil Camilleri Wednesday, 11 September 2019, 08:33 Last update: about 10 days ago

Dumping fees at the only two quarries receiving construction waste from the industry has practically doubled overnight, a concerned contractor has told The Malta Independent.

The fees have shot up from around €8 per tonne to €15 per tonne, in what the contractor described as a ‘cartel.’

There are currently two quarries receiving construction waste from all contractors, one in Siggiewi and the other in Lapsi.

Last week, only the Lapsi quarry was operating and it stopped receiving waste for a couple of days, sending the entire construction industry into frenzy. Environment Minister Jose Herrera urged the industry to find a solution to its own problem, but warned that the government could requisition a number of quarries if a solution was not found.

There are over 30 quarries with an ERA permit to receive construction waste but only two are accepting waste from the industry in general. Several quarries are owned by the big construction companies and only accept waste from their own projects. Others have permitting issues or are still producing material.

The contractor who spoke to this newspaper yesterday said his trucks were stopped at the gate of the Lapsi quarry last week. The site has since resumed operations but the price has shot up.

He explained that one truck can carry up to 40 tonnes of construction waste, meaning that contractors can be asked to pay up to €600 per trip. The contractor, who is currently excavating the basement levels of a small development, said the work produces three truckloads of waste every day.

He said that the number of operational quarries was being purposely kept low so that prices remain high. He also asked what the Environment Ministry was waiting for before stepping in and taking action.

Last week, the President of the Malta Developers Association, Sandro Chetcuti, told this newsroom that the situation was “alarming,” warning that the industry was facing another “crisis.” Six months ago, the sector had faced the same challenge and the government had issued several environmental permits to quarries to start receiving construction waste. But while there are 29 valid permits, the situation on the ground is different to the one on paper, Chetcuti said.

The MDA boss said dumping fees had shot up despite the government’s efforts to keep prices down through tax credits for quarry operators.

Chetcuti said the industry had already been rocked by the recent moratorium on construction works, which was eventually lifted after new regulations came into force. The lack of space for construction waste, he said, was an extra headache for contractors and developers.

He said the MDA had not heard anything or been consulted on the draft policy on land reclamation, which was presented to cabinet in May. A recent FOI request by this newspaper revealed that, more than four months after being delivered to cabinet, the policy is still in draft form.

Chetcuti said land reclamation is not the only solution to the construction waste crisis – recycling of construction waste is another option. But only a small fraction of the construction waste produced in Malta is being recycled, he said.

Speaking to this newspaper, the CEO of the Resource, Recovery and Recycling Agency (RRRA), Marc Muscat, said a large percentage of construction waste can be recycled and used in projects like road works. He said the industry has to acknowledge that this is an issue it created, but said the government would be willing to sit down with them and help find a solution.

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