The Malta Independent 17 October 2019, Thursday

Contractors wanting the government to be responsible for their waste 'a fallacy' – Herrera

Albert Galea Tuesday, 17 September 2019, 09:46 Last update: about 30 days ago

The notion that the government should be responsible for the waste generated by construction contractors has been described by Environment Minister Jose Herrera as a complete non-starter and a fallacy.

Asked by The Malta Independent whether there have been updates with regards to the situation about the dumping of construction waste at quarries, Herrera revealed his annoyance at the expectation of contractors and of Malta Developer’s Association President Sandro Chetcuti that the government should be responsible for providing an area for them to dispose of their waste.

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“The responsibility for the disposal of any waste is of the operator. There exists the producer- pays principle – in Malta that concept is finally coming in – in manufacturing and industry or through the bottle refund scheme for instance – but there are those who say, ironically, that contractors are not responsible for what they generate – this is a fallacy. They are responsible”, Herrera said.

He said that legislation will soon be implemented to make sure that this principle is adhered to, while more emphasis will also be given to the option of recycling construction waste.

The environment minister however had a parting shot at MDA President Sandro Chetcuti, who has said that the government should take the “necessary decisions” to make sure that the industry is not stifled, saying that it cannot be that a contractor or a president of an association representing them says that they are not responsible for the waste that they generate.  “That is a fallacy; a non-starter”, he said.

Explaining the situation, Herrera said that having quarries for the disposal of construction waste is a very lucrative business, and noted that since Malta is a free market economy, there is a limit to what he can do when it comes to the prices of the service.

He said that he had made efforts to introduce fiscal incentives to retain certain prices however, despite guarantees from Chetcuti himself, the prices had continued to increase regardless.

The solution now, Herrera said, is to use the ministry’s powers and to carry out a survey across Malta and Gozo to ascertain the quarry situation on the island.  This survey will endeavour to find out what quarries there are, how big they are, which are accepting construction waste and which are not, and also which quarries are owned by the government and are leased to third parties but are not being used.

He said that if needed, he will have to requisition those quarries which belong to the government and utilise that volume, something which he hopes will balance the price of the dumping out.

The renewed focus on quarries and construction comes after Sandro Chetcuti spoke of the dire need for the government to take decisions to improve the situation, or risk the stagnation of the industry.  At the same time, The Malta Independent revealed that dumping at a cliff-edge quarry at Għar Lapsi had been so extensive that the construction waste creeping ever closer to the cliffs.

In spite of this, the Environment and Resources Authority said that the quarry is in-line with its environmental permit conditions. The Lapsi quarry is flanked by the Haġar Qim and Mnajdra temples on one side and the picturesque Għar Lapsi on the other.

The quarry is the only one currently receiving construction waste, even though there are a total of 29 quarries permitted to do so, and in recent days the operators of this quarry doubled the price for disposal of each tonne of waste – much to the concern of those working within the industry, and in breach of an agreement signed by the MDA and the Government through which the price would have remained stable at €8 per tonne.

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