The Malta Independent 16 December 2019, Monday

Wasteserv defends use of temporary Iklin WEEE storage site

Friday, 1 November 2019, 09:31 Last update: about 2 months ago

Wasteserv Malta has defended the use of a site in Iklin to temporarily store electronic goods, after the issue was flagged in Parliament by a PN MP.

Last week, Jason Azzopardi said tons of white goods are being stored in an illegal facility run by state agency Wasteserv, in blatant breach of environmental and planning laws. He said the amount of goods being stored at the site is much higher than what is allowed in the permit.

In a statement, the national waste management agency said the collection, management and disposal of WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) is regulated by Waste Management (Electrical And Electronic Equipment) Regulations, which outlines that importers of Electrical And Electronic Equipment are legally responsible to ensure that they export for recycling at least 50% of the WEEE they put on the market as part of the Extended Producer Responsibility principle.

 Given that it is not economically viable for each importer to export his share of WEEE, two schemes (WEEE Malta and WEEE Recycle), regulated by the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) were set up to export for recycle on the behalf of the importers. There were several occasions whereby the schemes, on behalf of the importers were unable to export WEEE as stipulated in the regulations. 

Currently local councils offer the free bulky waste collection which is then transferred to the Civic Amenity Sites operated by WasteServ. Over and above this, Bulky waste including WEEE may also be disposed of, at the CA Sites directly by  domestic user. Wasteserv’s operations at the CA site is to organise the separation of this waste and request the scheme to cart away all the WEEE that is accumulated on a daily basis. However since WEEE schemes do not collect EEE waste equipment on a regular basis such material end up accumulating at the CA sites until the sites reach saturation. In order for Wasteserv to continue providing such service it has to resort to moving the WEEE to other locations. 

Wasteserv has been experiencing these issues particularly from the times of the inception of such schemes and in fact other temporary storage sites have always been used. Most recently such temporary site was the one adjacent to the Hal Far CA site which today is being transformed into a Multi Material Recovery Facility. 

It is pertinent to highlight that although Wasteserv has to resort in storing the WEEE (being the operator of last resort), it is still the responsibility of the schemes to export their share of WEEE. As schemes did not export the WEEE being stored at Wasteserv, in such circumstance and proactively it exported huge amounts of WEEE at a substantial cost.

Noting that the schemes were experiencing many issues, Wasteserv planned a facility in Hal Far which would enable it accept enough levels of WEEE to make collective export more economically viable. To this end, the company applied for EU funding and the MMRF project in Hal Far was approved.

Once the application was approved and the tender for the facility issued, the contractor had a tight time frame by which they needed to start the project. Wasteserv was then faced with another major challenge that of clearing the WEEE stored in Hal Far to make way for the project. The EU funding would have been placed at a considerable risk if the site was not cleared in time. Consequently, Wasteserv researched whether there were any warehouses large enough to take up the WEEE (around 4000m2 were required). It transpired that there were no feasible options except the yard in Iklin and due to tight timeframes  a direct order was issued in line with procurement regulations. 

Wasteserv exported a total of 516.9 tons between January and September 2019.  Moreover there are currently 525.4 tons of WEEE stored at the Iklin storage facility. The ERA permit specifies that storage of hazardous waste may not exceed 49 tons at any given time.  

The material which is being stored at the Iklin site is not deemed to be highly flammable as it is very difficult for the material to self-ignite. Furthermore, the material is being stored at a sufficient distance from the batching plant. This means that it is unlikely that a fire at one end can affect the other.

Wasteserv said it has submitted an application to Planning Authority and also applied for an IPPC for a warehouse within the Iklin facility.  This is being done until the Multi Material Recovery Facility in Hal Far is operational.  The recently launched infrastructural project with an investment of €21.8M will be ready within two years. This facility will process different types of materials apart from WEEE.

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