Following the European Commission’s Action Plan, a number of themes will be considered, within the local context when developing a strategy for the circular economy. The main themes identified are divided into two sub-categories; the biological ecosystem and the technological ecosystem.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation summarises the two cycles or ecosystems as follows, consumption happens only in biological cycles, where food and biologically-based materials (such as wood) are designed to feed back into the system through processes like composting and anaerobic digestion. These cycles regenerate living systems, such as soil, which provide renewable resources for the economy. Technical cycles recover and restore products, components, and materials through strategies like reuse, repair, remanufacture or (in the last resort) recycling.

Moving from the current linear economic model to a circular economy will require efforts beyond recycling efforts at end-of -life stage. It includes among others:

  • The elimination of the use of toxic substances that limit subsequent treatment processes;
  • Strategies that improve the reuse, remanufacturing, repair and recycling of products through, for example, an adapted product design;
  • Strategies to stimulate new consumption patterns, for example in the way people buy, use and “dispose” goods. Examples include sharing by consumers as well as businesses.

The formation of recycling clusters or communities for both types of ecosystems entails significant benefits leading to increased and improved recycling in Malta. It is anticipated that more value-added will be achieved when recycling entities are housed geographically close together and enable the development of a well-functioning recycling ecosystem that is considerably more efficient. The Agency recognises the importance of identifying suitable designated areas where such clusters or communities can be hosted. Locating the physical space that could be transformed into a recycling park or similar areas would be done in collaboration with all the relevant Government entities and would be specifically designed to meet the needs of the recycling community.


Food and Organic Waste

Addressing food and organic waste is a big part of the circular economy. This consists of food that could still be eaten or repurposed and hence the importance to reduce the volumes of food that end up as waste as well as food scraps and vegetable peelings. It is estimated that over 45% of the black bag contents fall into this category. Wasteserv has recently rolled out a separate organic waste collection system from domestic sources, which for the first year is forecasted to collect 27,000 tonnes of waste with the potential further significant increases in the future. Although this is estimated to be the largest source of organic waste, there are other sources that need to be separated at source along the supply chain where food is grown, processed, transported and retailed. Within the context of the circular economy this waste can be transformed into a valuable resource at different levels within the waste hierarchy; a transformation that should not only be limited to energy recovery.


Biomass consists predominantly of plant material and animal wastes. This is another resource that is currently viewed as a nuisance and is often cause of environmental and infrastructural problems as not all this waste stream is captured at the landfill. Sources of biomass are both land-based coming from animal husbandry, abattoirs, agriculture and park waste and marine-based coming mainly from fisheries and aquaculture. They are an essential material in the circular economy. Biomass besides having an energy recovery potential similar to organic waste has considerably higher nutrient recovery potential; can be a source of animal feed, organic fertilizer and even pharmaceuticals; potentially proper handling of this waste stream can lead to new opportunities further up the waste hierarchy.

Sewage Sludge

Sewage sludge is the residual by-product of sewage treatment of industrial and municipal wastewater. This material may also be an important contributor towards the circular economy and the treatment of sewage sludge may produce syngas and biochar, as well as being incinerated in specific plants. Properly treated sewage sludge may also be used in agriculture, as a soil supplement. The European Commission has been actively working on the Fertiliser Directive to unlock this potential.

The total estimated volumes of these three fractions alone represent nearly 40% of the target diversion from the current landfill practices. Organic and biomass waste when landfilled has a higher impact on climate change than plastic and, hence the importance of adequate treatment.


Consumer goods with special focus on packaging and single use plastics

Malta already promotes the separation of packaging and single use materials through the collection of dry recyclables. This process, whilst being a major step to source separate, does not maximise on the recycling for re-use opportunities. A major development is Government’s commitment to introduce the beverage container refund scheme where not only has the objective to capture 90% of the containers placed on the market but also to provide a high-quality recyclable material that can be re-used as a result of capturing the waste at an early stage. This new approach can be studied and expanded to other waste streams. Plastic recycling for re-use technology is evolving at a very fast rate. Its success depends on the quality of the recycled plastic. Furthermore, the consumer goods industry entails a significant amount of single use plastics which, where financially viable, alternatives should be made available through the introduction of regulations aimed at reducing this practice. In this context, the Environment Resources Authority has published a Plastic Strategy, where it provides its direction on single use plastic in line with the European Commission direction.

White Goods

The development of the circular economy package by the European Commission seeks to extend the product life cycle which would include the ability to repair and the recyclability of household appliances. This approach counters the concept of programmed obsolescence. Within the concept of the circular economy are also the sharing principles where, otherwise discarded assets, can have increased usage. These principles, coupled with opportunities in re-manufacturing, would lead to a reduction in the generation of WEEE. On the other hand, once a white good is discarded there are opportunities to recover secondary components or raw materials. The concept of repairability is very relevant within the Maltese context given the domestic market structure, where reliability on imported raw materials and finished goods is high. The evolution of this sector may be monitored through various indicators, such as the number of enterprises and employees carrying out activities linked to repairs and upgrading of products


As consumerism grows with economic prosperity, manufacturing is on the rise. Whilst waste from this industry is not covered under MSW obligations the importance of the circular economy within manufacturing must not be underestimated. Not only will the circular economy lead to reduced waste generation which will end up in the only landfill on the Island, but it will also lead to reduced demands on raw materials which will make manufacturing more attractive. The adoption of ISO 14000 standards should be encouraged within the manufacturing industry, in order for organisations to minimise the negative affects their production process might have on the environment.

Construction Sector

Construction and demolition waste is the largest single waste stream generated in Malta, outweighing all other waste streams combined. Currently, the common practice is to use this waste to recover disused quarries and thus offering the opportunity to develop a new ecology. However, indications are that this will not suffice in the medium to long-term, and therefore other practices need to be further studied and developed. Over the years there have been a number of initiatives aimed at developing new products from construction and demolition waste, however their economic feasibility has often proved to be a major hurdle. In order to drive the construction sector more towards the circular economy, actions that lead to the creation and sustainability of secondary markets would need to increase demand. This would both increase interest in innovation and increase financial sustainability.


The growth in tourism, one of the main pillars of the Maltese economy, calls for more effective waste management measures across the board within the sector. The management of solid waste in a tourism dominated island is particularly problematic due to changing consumption patterns, transient population, and seasonal variations in solid waste quantity and composition. With over 16 million bed nights per annum the impact on the carrying capacity on the waste infrastructure may be significant. Whilst the waste composition from the hospitality industry is similar to MSW, its impact is still significant enough to necessitate specific attention. Together with stakeholders, specific waste management strategies will need to be reviewed to make them more sustainable and reduce the burden on national infrastructure.