Re-thinking Waste

Food waste is an area where action is required and one which affects society as a whole. The Agency will monitor food waste reduction targets set by the European Union and will implement any necessary measures and promote action that facilitate the achievement of said targets. This will be coupled with a campaign on food waste, which will seek to raise awareness on the problem and put forward ideas how reduction can be achieved. Besides raising general awareness, the Agency will also launch educational campaigns targeting certain sectors of society with a particular focus on children and the youth population.

In order to address the problem of increasing food and organic waste, it could also be considered to introduce a number of schemes and incentives specifically targeting retail outlets that dissuade the generation of preventable and unnecessary waste, often single use. This would be coupled by the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices that would enable the farming sector to transform waste into a valuable resource.

The production and use of plastics, especially single use plastics, is another area that deserves immediate action in order to curb the amount of waste generated each year, which is proving to having a significant and real impact on the environment and climate change. Besides the introduction of the beverages containers refund scheme, the Agency will monitor this economic sector to ensure that already set targets for the reduction of plastic waste are met. It will primarily promote the purchase and use of less single use plastic products by consumers, and furthermore to advocate the reduction of plastic packing to producers. The use of media campaigns and awareness programmes will be inevitable; however, it could also make economic sense to introduce incentives that would encourage the use of less plastics, especially where this is avoidable. The possibility of implementing similar return schemes on other products with significant market impacts is definitely an option that will be pursued, based on the experience gained from the beverage containers scheme.

It is a well-known fact that one of the largest contributors to waste in Malta is the construction industry. Being one of the main economic sectors and an employer of a significant share of the working population, makes this area very sensitive and one that must be addressed with caution. Having said that, the Agency will embark on the promotion of the re-use of materials within the industry in order to reduce the amount of waste disposed of in landfills and quarries. It will then develop tools that will encourage this re-use of materials, as well as the use of more sustainable materials and practices for the construction of new buildings. The aim is that through directed and effective policies and measures, Malta would be able to reduce its material footprint. This will apply to both the construction sector and the domestic material consumption segment.

The same applies for the manufacturing sector; the Agency will support and facilitate changes in the production methods that design waste out and that require less energy inputs. This will be coupled by the promotion of the use of different and more sustainable inputs, which might also be sourced as waste from other sectors of the economy. The introduction of targeted initiatives and incentives will enable producers to address waste generation at the production stage rather then having to deal with waste following the end of the product’s lifecycle.

The collaborative or sharing economy is an economic model which has garnered much popularity in recent years and one that is also increasing its presence in Malta. The European Commission refers to this economic system as business models where activities are facilitated by collaborative platforms that create an open marketplace for the temporary usage of goods or services often provided by private individuals. The main proponents of this system are mainly present in the accommodation sector and the transport sector. However, there is the opportunity to explore new areas, such as the retail and textiles sectors, that would contribute positively to a reduction in waste created. The Agency will continue to study these business models and develop adequate policies and incentives that encourage, regulate and monitor the sharing economy. Combined with this approach, the concept of leasing of appliances and certain consumer goods will be further explored and considered as an innovative solution in addressing waste issues, possibly aided with specific schemes and incentives.

The development of a Waste to Energy project is listed as a major project in Malta’s Operational Programme 1 Fostering a competitive and sustainable economy to meet our challenges for the European Social and Investment Funds (ESIF) programming period 2014-2020. As already referenced, the WtE capacity is expected to cater for 40% of waste currently being landfilled. In addition to its contribution to managing waste in Malta, a Waste to Energy facility provides the opportunity for generation of low carbon and renewable electricity in Malta. This facility will partially address the issue of organic waste and biomass, diverting such waste away from landfills and into energy production. The Agency’s role is to study and identify waste that will be diverted away from the WtE plant and which should be earmarked for recycling and transformation into secondary resources. For the medium and long-term, the Agency will also consider studying new and innovative options on how to address biomass, such as commissioning studies on the possibility of a biorefinery that would also be able to produce value-added chemicals.

Collection of Waste

Recommendations by the European Commission’s Early Warning Report have been made to regionalise the waste collection. This should be considered for all collected waste streams to be brought under the responsibility of Local Councils, and fiscal incentives could be considered in order to increase the drive to separate at source. This can be done by treating separately the collection costs and disposal costs. The former costs may be better managed through infrastructural improvements, whilst the latter can be studied to incentivise source separation. This could address another recommendation from the EWR, that of having Local Councils become more accountable for recycling targets.

The door-to-door collection infrastructure is divided into; domestic paid by Local Councils and commercial paid by commercial users. There is a lack of enforcement in the latter and quite a number of commercial users do not generate enough waste to justify the costs associated. A recommendation by MSDEC and Local Councils was to introduce a charging mechanism through Local Councils. This would reduce free riders and can be more enforceable. It is imperative that the design and infrastructure of waste collection should be conducive to recycling practices and encourage source separation of waste.

The revision of the Packing and Packing Waste Directive has increased the targets on recycling, while the revision of the Waste Framework Directive puts more impetus on recycling rather than recovery. In the current scenario recovery considerably outweighs recycling, therefore the European Commission has increased its push towards better quality recycling. In order to achieve this, it is crucial to have adequate waste separation and collection in order to divert waste from mere recovery into secondary materials which can be re-introduced into the economic cycle.