The Malta Independent 3 December 2021, Friday

Creating shared value - not wasting it

Sunday, 13 June 2021, 08:28 Last update: about 7 months ago

Oliver Fenech

Since the launch of its Economic Vision 2020-2025, The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has a vision for "a smart, sustainable island". As part of this initiative, a number of environmental thematic committees were established, including one on Circular Economy in September 2020. I have been proud to act as its chair since, as on a national level, it draws on the nation's top expertise in waste management. As the recent report by the National Audit Office shows, however, waste management in Malta requires more than just ambitious public investment to succeed.

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The government's recent Waste Management Plan has been a key focus of attention for our committee, and we contributed to its public consultation. As it stands, the Waste Management Plan's €500 million covers a range of crucial objectives. Nonetheless, the National Audit Office warns that this massive investment "will not deliver its full potential unless it is complemented with the increased adoption of circular economy principles..." and that "the health and environmental risks of plastic can only be mitigated through a consorted effort by all stakeholders, including political, administrative, the industry and consumers, as well as an effort to reduce its production at the outset." Achieving circularity in waste management in Malta faces a number of barriers, not least economies of scale. It is often not truly appreciated that this is an expensive enterprise, with its true cost hidden.

The Malta Chamber recognises various paths, possibilities and solutions to resolving some of these problems, however, if there is an increased role for the private sector in close collaboration with government. The private sector is ready to work hand in hand with the government on innovative solutions, if given the opportunity. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) such as the Beverage Container Refund Scheme (BCRS) attest to this fact and the potential which awaits.

Bolstering Malta's waste management system with such a wider partnership can help to meet looming EU targets, particularly to limit our landfilling. Waste-to-Energy may alleviate pressure, but it will not lead to circularity. Potential solutions lie in, for example, treating organic waste in such a way that it is turned into compost rather than digestate, and is used to regenerate fields, with the private sector as the bridge.

At present, what has kept the private sector back is the fact that it is often not profitable to operate; and yet, this is often due to the fact that the role of government makes it unprofitable to try and compete in the market. Therefore, the Circular Economy Committee seeks an equilibrium and a partnership, whereby everybody wins, through the smart and sustainable re-engineering of the sector. If there is willingness, then everything else will fall into place, and The Malta Chamber stands ready to do its part.

 

Ing Oliver Fenech, Chairman of the Circular Economy Committee in The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, and General Manager of PT Matic Environmental Services Ltd

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