The Malta Independent 7 May 2021, Friday

Is sustainability a joke?

Thursday, 15 April 2021, 07:20 Last update: about 22 days ago

Isaac Sam Camilleri

 

 

Who is the future of our country?

Are we teaching them to be sustainable?

Junior College, a post-secondary school, under the University of Malta’s guidance this year decided to cover the school's common area chairs and benches with plastic to prevent students from sitting on them, as a measure to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Paper wristbands were also introduced to monitor students entering the campus.

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When I saw this, an email was sent to the Junior College administration to meet a representative, they accepted and we met on the 9th of December 2020. The discussion began over the wristbands, where it was stated that these emerged from a directive by the UOM, and they had no control over them. But they were in control of the plastic covers. This was a short-term solution for the 2020-2021 year. No alternatives to plastic were considered as the representative said that there was not enough time.

Communication with the UOM’s rector’s office began over a telephone call, in which the representative from the office explained that it was not possible to remove the wristbands as these were purchased in bulk and needed to be used. The representative also promised that when they finish, alternatives will be considered. The office also said that they will be trying to work with the JC administration to reduce single-use plastic.

When the students entered after the Christmas holidays, the plastic was damaged and the administration decided to re-lay the plastic instead of seeking alternatives.   

Another communication to the JC administration was sent with questions about the current waste pilot project, safety regulations which the school has to follow, what type of plastic is being used, if the environmental committee was consulted, if they know how much plastic is being used and if, with this action, it is helping the government in changing the plastic mentality.

The representative refused to answer my questions, instead they answered by saying that we already met to discuss this issue and that the college over the years undertook plenty of measures in favor of the environment and that the school was obliged to take these measures.

Another communication with the UOM rector’s office was sent but the representative explained that the rector will not be giving a statement as the JC representative already gave me one.

On the 28th of October 2020, the government issued legislation regarding restrictions about placing on the market single-use plastic products. The legislation was initiated by the Ministry for the Environment, Climate Change, and Planning along with the Environment and Resources Authority. The legislation aims to create a cultural shift away from single-use plastic by showing the public the potential benefits of moving away from such products.

Dr. Aaron Farrugia, the Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning, sent me a statement saying that in his opinion plastic is not inherently bad, as it is lightweight, which reduces transportation energy and is durable, which hence reduces material usage. Public health is important for the government and plastic played a crucial role in the fight against Covid-19. “The unfortunate thing, is when the use of plastic becomes indiscriminate in the context of an irresponsible attitude towards consumption and subsequent disposal,” that’s why the government is working on projects to maximize recycling and for materials which cannot be recycled to be used in a different matter.

Single-use-plastic bans on certain products are being prepared after a public consultation last year. Efforts towards raising awareness about plastic pollution and its impact are happening all over the country and he is impressed by the efforts of volunteers and citizens. His final message was “I am positive that together, we can work towards a cleaner environment and climate-resistant future.”

Oxo-degradable plastic is plastic that is made of petroleum-based polymers that contains additives that accelerate their degradation when exposed to heat or light. When this plastic degrades, it creates microplastics that are dangerous to the environment and if they end up in the sea, they will be eaten by the fish we eat. This type of plastic, as of January 2021, has its placing on the market prohibited. Is the plastic being used in Junior College oxo-degradable?

This year the Junior College Student Council started a new venture when it comes to litter, as they partnered with Nature Trust in their litter less programme to reduce waste in our school. Why is the school working against the council by generating unnecessary waste?

The Environmental And Resources Authority states that businesses and private entities are working to help in creating the necessary shift. Is the school helping with this cultural shift by placing plastic everywhere?

The Maltese government is focusing on reducing single-use plastic and the school is placing plastic everywhere. Is this a contradicting message?

There were many alternatives to plastic. Some of the alternatives were: removing extra chairs and storing them for the future, using material which later can be re-used, for example wooden strips, a stamp on the hand instead of wristbands, to mention a few. Why weren’t these considered?

In order for a cultural shift to occur, we all need to join hands including; the private sector, education institutions and the government, for the reduction of single use plastic. If we do nothing about this issue, we would have failed the future generations with our actions.

Isaac Sam Camilleri is a seventeen-year-old Junior College student who is currently studying in the sectors of Pure maths and Physics. He has participated in the Young Reporters for the Environment programme by Nature Trust. He has also worked on various articles and projects which include the "We eat responsibly Campaign", "EU milk and Vegetable scheme" and on an article to promote cycling in the community.
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