The Malta Independent 20 October 2019, Sunday

Construction waste crisis: Nine quarries being surveyed in ‘first step’ towards requisitioning

Neil Camilleri Sunday, 29 September 2019, 08:30 Last update: about 20 days ago

The government has already started surveying nine quarries that are located on state-owned land in what has been described by sources as the “first step” to solve the ongoing construction waste crisis.

A few weeks ago, the construction sector was plunged into a new crisis as many operators in the sector were not finding space where to place inert waste generated by Malta’s thousands of excavation and construction sites.

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Back in February of this year, the government had intervened when a similar situation had developed, and dozens of quarries were issued with environmental permits allowing them to receive construction waste.

It had also reached an agreement on the price that operators can charge per tonne of material deposited at the quarries - €8.

However, there are only two quarries that are currently receiving material, one of them on a very limited basis. Furthermore, prices have recently shot up to €15 per tonne.

The Malta Independent on Sunday reported last week that, out of 37 quarries with such permits, almost half were refusing to receive construction waste in breach of their permit conditions.

All permits include a clause that states that the owners cannot refuse any trucks coming in with inert material. However, many quarries are either simply refusing to open their gates to the flood of rubble-laden trucks or are being used exclusively for projects being carried out by their owners.

Quarries are only allowed to refuse construction waste if they are still active – meaning that stone is still being extracted from the site.

The Environment Ministry said last week that all legal considerations are being taken into account, even with respect to the conditions outlined in the permits.

The Malta Developers Association recently called on the government to find a solution to this impasse, but Environment Minister Jose Herrera has repeatedly said that this is a problem that was created by the industry and, therefore, it is the industry that has to find a solution.

He has repeatedly warned that quarries on government land could be requisitioned.

The minister later said that the authorities could take over some quarries, or at least parts of them, in order to create more space for construction waste. The operators would be compensated at the agreed price of €8 per tonne. If the operators disagree, they can go before the courts, he had said.

During a meeting with the MDA last week, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat also warned that, if the private sector does not sort out something with the quarry owners, then the government itself will take the necessary steps allowed by law to regulate the situation.

Now, industry sources said that the government has already started surveying nine quarries and is awaiting the completion of the respective reports. The focus is on government-owned quarries, this newspaper is informed.

Sources said this is the first step towards requisition of a number of quarries, or at least parts of them.

The latest crisis has led the MDA to call on the government to take a decision on land reclamation which, it says, is one solution to the problem. MDA President Sandro Chectuti had told this newsroom, however, that another part of the solution is to step up recycling of construction waste. His sentiments were echoed by Marc Muscat, the CEO of the Resource, Recovery and Recycling Agency (RRRA), who said that the material could be used, for example, in road construction projects.

The Prime Minister has also floated the idea of dumping construction waste at sea, in an area off Tigne` Point. The Environment Minister, however, said he was hopeful that the situation will not come to that.

Sadly, the lack of space has led to a number of cases of illegal dumping in the countryside. One case that received particular media attention was the illegal dumping that took place recently at Wied Msellijiet in Mgarr. The material was later cleared in an operation carried out by Ambjent Malta and the MDA.

 

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