The Malta Independent 9 May 2021, Sunday

A quantum leap

Aaron Farrugia Sunday, 13 December 2020, 07:46 Last update: about 6 months ago

Earlier this week we rolled out an ambitious waste management plan with the aim of transforming our country into an EU top performer, for the first time ever, in waste management.

The truth is that Malta never performed well in this sector. There is a lot of work to be done, and this plan lays out a number of important measures that will be a game-changer. The idea is that, with adequate reforms, our country makes a quantum leap in this area.

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Not only is this ideal -- but at this point, it is necessary. The reality is that without heavily challenging the status quo, Malta would be in a precarious position in achieving its 2030 waste targets.

In our case, inaction is expensive. It could cost us more land which will have to be taken up for landfilling. The economical and environmental costs of inefficient waste management systems are simply ones we cannot afford.

Our waste management plan will work hand-in-hand with recent reforms in waste management, including state-of-the-art facilities in ECOHIVE.

But whilst the plan is underpinned by a solid commitment by Government - our commitment alone is not enough.

We need the entire country’s support, and for everyone to do their part. Waste management is not only everyone’s business, it is also everybody’s responsibility.

Our consumption and production patterns and choices shape the amount and type of waste generated.

We are the ones who determine our waste actions and hence the ones that can change the status quo.  If we want a better future, we need to turn over a new leaf.

And indeed, it can be a profitable business: reducing waste helps the environment but it also helps our pockets. Effective recycling generates business and employment and reduces the costs of waste management.

We are still in time to make things right - together. Not just to fulfill our EU obligations, but for ourselves, our families, and future generations.

But as we continue to lag behind our European peers, it is clear that we also need a societal change and a shift in our behaviour.

One of the main priorities in this Plan is waste prevention. With a programme of measures which include incentives to promote repair and reuse activities to increase the longevity of products, and harnessing the potential of IT solutions like online swap shops and food distribution apps, we aim to entice waste generators to minimise their waste arisings.

The time has come to recognise our responsibility to separate our waste at source.  This applies to households and commercial establishments alike. To this effect, we will make separation of waste mandatory and introduce the collection of an additional bag to collect paper separately. Furthermore we have also planned a reform in our waste collection system mainly by regionalising the system and move towards economies of scale and modernisation of our fleet.

Extended producer responsibility frameworks will be strengthened, responsibilising producers for the waste management of the products they place on the market.  Our aim is not to stifle competitiveness, but to make waste management a business opportunity. Waste conscious consumers will also trigger a demand for less packaging, compostable materials, reusable items and the like which can only be satisfied by producers who seize the moment of change.

Long-term change is brought about by collective effort, by working hand-in-hand with local government, industry and the commercial sector, civil society, the consumers and all communities.

Government is committed to incentivise sustainable behaviour from whichever sector of society wants to be an agent of positive change. The ball is squarely in our collective court.  We can act responsibly or face the consequence of inaction.  I am sure that there is an immense wave of goodwill that will realise that there is indeed a need for positive change, one which befits each and every one of us Maltese citizens and residents.  This Waste Management Plan is a call to action to turn over a new leaf and harness the power of change to our individual, mutual and collective benefit.

Aaron Farrugia is Minister for the Environment

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