Karmenu Vella and the plastic tax

Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for the Environment, is enthusiastic about the possibility of a plastic tax being introduced throughout the EU. In his view, this tax – if properly designed – could be one of a number of tools for delivering environmental objectives as well as providing budgetary income. Planet Earth is drowning in plastic.

Vella made these comments in an interview published on Euractive last week on the subject of the EU’s new plastics strategy.

We have been there before and maybe it is time to consider the matter once more in Malta. Some 10 years ago in Malta we had an environmental tax which was known as an “eco-contribution”. It was a valid proposal, badly designed and arrogantly implemented. The lessons learnt from that exercise could, if properly analysed, lead to the development of effective policy tools addressing the generation of waste in the Maltese islands. Policies should be well thought out and not developed as a result of panic – as is clearly the case with the current government incineration proposal.

Ten years ago, the eco-contribution tried to address the generation of plastic waste including “single-use plastic”. This is one of the primary targets of the EU plastics strategy published on the 16 January.

Its title is very clear : A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. Plastic is ubiquitous: it is present in all aspects of our economy and our daily lives. The plastics we use must be such that they can be re-used rather than thrown away. It is an important resource which can be put to good use rather than thrown away or incinerated.

It is for this purpose that the newly-published plastics strategy lays the foundations for a new plastics economy where “the design and production of plastics and plastic products fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs and more sustainable materials are developed and promoted”.

A plastics economy would definitely not send “waste plastic” to the incinerator to be converted into energy. Even Malta’s latest version of the Waste Management Strategy, approved in 2014, emphasises that our approach to waste must be one based on the sustainable use of resources and, in line with the EU waste hierarchy, gives priority to recycling over incineration.

In fairness, it has to be said that our government’s advisors on incineration have already sounded the alarm. Apparently this has not, as yet, been understood – either by the government or by the Opposition. It would be pertinent to point out that the Special Assignment Report by Jaspers dated 23 February 2017 on a Waste to Energy (WtE) project in Malta specifically emphasises that “it would be difficult to justify a WtE facility that is not based on low waste growth and high recycling”.

Rather than talking about incineration, it is about time we discussed in detail the implementation of our Waste Management Strategy in order to identify why it has not to date succeeded in increasing Malta’s recycling rates. What initiatives need to be taken in order that the waste generated in Malta is minimised?

Malta’s waste management strategy, now complemented by the EU’s Plastic Strategy, is definitely a much better roadmap than the documentation encouraging incineration. And what about our commitments to encourage a “circular economy” : gone with the wind?

Karmenu Vella’s plastics tax is food for thought.

It is about time that Wasteserve is managed properly. As a first step, it should stick to its brief and seek to implement carefully the Waste Management Strategy, which establishes the year 2050 as the year when we should achieve a “Zero Waste Target”. This target will not be achieved through the use of incineration but through a policy encouraging waste minimisation as well as recycling.

This is not just a task for the Minister responsible for the Environment. The Minister responsible for the Development of the Economy also has a very important role to play in achieving a successful implementation of the Waste Management Strategy.

Unfortunately he is apparently completely absent.

Zero waste municipalities in Europe are continuously indicating that an 80 to 90 per cent recycling rate is achievable. The fact that Malta’s recycling rate is, at best, estimated at around 12 per cent, is a clear indication that there is room for substantial improvement – with or without Karmenu Vella’s plastics tax.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday 28 January 2018

 

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Is-sit tal-ITS f’Pembroke : l-art pubblika, profitti tal-privat

L-iżvilupp tas-sit preżentement okkupat mill-Istitut tal-Istudji Turistiċi f’Pembroke reġa’ fl-aħbarijiet. Is-settur pubbliku jipprovdi l-art filwaqt li l-Grupp dB jimpala l-euro, bil-miljuni.

Matul din il-ġimgħa l-media tkellmet dwar il-miljuni li qed jiġi miftieħem li jitħallsu għall-bejgħ eventwali ta’ sulari sħaħ fit-torrijiet tal-Grupp dB. Dawn m’humiex flejjes li ser jitħallsu għal xiri ta’ propjetà fuq il-pjanta, għax s’issa la hemm permessi u l-anqas għad m’hemm l-ebda pjanta ffinalizzata. L-awtoritajiet tal-ippjanar għadhom fl-istadji inizzjali fl-eżami tagħhom tal-proġett propost: l-Awtorità għall-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi (ERA) għadha kif bdiet il-proċess ta’ konsultazzjoni statutorja dwar l-Istudju tal-Impatt Ambjentali (EIA) li għandu għaddej sat-12 ta’ Frar. Minkejja li l-ERA għad tista’ tirrakkomanda tibdil, żgħir jew kbir, fil-proġett wara li tkun ikkunsidrat bir-reqqa l-EIA, qiesu li l-iżviluppaturi huma ċerti li mhu ser ikun hemm l-ebda konsiderazzjoni ta’ ippjanar jew ambjent li ser ixxekkel dak li bosta jqiesu li hu proġett żejjed u mhux meħtieġ.

Id-dokumenti ppreżentati għall-iskrutinju pubbliku huma sostanzjali u voluminużi. Imma possibilment fihom in-nieqes u għaldaqstant diġa ktibt lill-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi biex tirrimedja u tippubblika dak li ġie identifikat bħala nieqes s’issa.

Dokument ta’ interess li insibuh fuq is-sit elettroniku tal-ERA huwa l-Project Description Statement (PDS) li tħejja minn ditta (partnership) ta’ periti li ftit kienet magħrufa s’issa. Din id-ditta iġġib l-isem ta’ Landmark Architects u jirriżulta li titmexxa mill-ekx-Ministru tat-Trasport il-Perit Jesmond Mugliett.

Fil-paġna 5 ta’ dan id-dokument, il-Perit Mugliett jikteb hekk “Nhar it-2 ta’ Frar 2017, il-Gvern u s-soċjetà dB San Gorg Property Limited iffirmaw il-kuntratt għat-trasferiment tal-art li dwarha ħarġet sejħa pubblika għall-proposti. Kemm il-Gvern ta’ Malta kif ukoll is-soċjetà dB San Gorg Property Limited jaqblu li l-evalwazzjoni tal-proġett ta’ żvilupp m’għandhiex iddum iktar mill-perjodu minimu stabilit mill-leġislazzjoni tal-ippjanar. (On the 2nd of February 2017, the Government of Malta and dB San Gorg Property Limited signed the contract for the granting of the RFP site. Both the Government of Malta and dB San Gorg Property Ltd. agree that evaluation of the project development should not extend beyond the minimum time frames established by Planning Law.) Fil-fehma tiegħi dan ifisser li l-Gvern diġa rabat idejn l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar dwar kif din għandha topera f’dan il-kaz.

L-iżviluppatur donnu mhux inkwetat li l-Masterplan imfassal għal Paceville ġie skartat u beda l-proċess biex dan jitfassal mill-ġdid u dan wara l-konsultazzjoni pubblika mqanqla li kellna lejn tmiem l-2016. L-awtur tal-PDS fil-fatt jinfurmana li “L-Gvern ta’ Malta u s-soċjetà dB San Gorg Property Limited komplew bin-negozjati, u eventwalment qablu li ma kienx fl-interess tal-proġett, tal-industrija Maltija tat-Turiżmu u tal-ekonomija Maltija li joqgħdu jistennew li jkun konkluż dan il-Masterplan.” (The Government of Malta and dB San Gorg Property Limited continued with negotiations, eventually coming to an agreement that it was not in the interest of the project, the Maltese Tourism Industry and the Maltese economy to wait for the conclusion of this masterplan.)

Dan, fil-fehma tiegħi jimmina l-proċess ta’ konsultazzjoni pubblika. Għax liema huma r-regoli u policies tal-ippjanar li l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar ser isegwi fuq is-sit illum okkupat mill-Istitut tal-Istudji Turistiċi? Il-proposta diġa tidher ċar li tmur kontra dak li jipprovdi l-pjan lokali tal-2006 li hu applikabbli. Allura fuq liema kriterji ser tkun ivvalutata l-proposta ta’ żvilupp?

Xi żmien ilu konna infurmati li l-ebda żvilupp fl-inħawi m’hu ser jitħalla jibda sakemm ikun konkluż Masterplan ġdid għal Paceville. Dakinnhar kien emfasizzat li l-proposti dwar is-sit tal-ITS f’Pembroke seta jkun evalwat biss wara l-approvazzjoni tal-Masterplan ġdid għal Paceville.

Din hi wegħda li kienet skartata kompletament!

Kien ukoll ġie mwiegħed li l-Masterplan il-ġdid ma kienx ser ikun imniġġes minn kunflitti ta’ interess. Tgħid din il-wegħda ser tkun injorata ukoll?

 

ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd : 21 ta’ Jannar 2018

Ix-xogħol ta’ kostruzzjoni nhar ta’ ĦADD

Dal-għodu waqt li bosta għadhom reqdin, jew forsi bdew jaħsbu biex iqumu diġa cempluli minn Ħal-Balzan jilmentaw li xi kuntrattur qiegħed għaddej b’xogħol ta’ kostruzzjoni.

Tajjeb li tkunu tafu li dan hu illegali għax bil-liġi, nhar ta’ Ħadd u fil-festi pubbliċi ma jista’ jsir l-ebda xogħol ta’ kostruzzjoni. Dan skond ir-Regolamenti tal-2007 dwar l-Immaniġġar Ambjentali ta’ siti ta’ Kostruzzjoni . (Skeda III – Estratt fir-ritratt)

Pembroke ITS site : public land – private profits

 

The redevelopment of the site currently occupied by the Institute for Tourism Studies (ITS) in Pembroke is again in the news: the public sector is providing the land while the dB Group will rake in the profits – amounting to millions of euro.

During the week various media outlets focused on the millions being forked out for the eventual purchase of entire floors in the dB Group towers. These are not the price for purchase of property still on plan, because no permits have yet been issued, nor have the plans as yet been finalised. The examination of the proposed development by the planning authorities is still in its initial stages: the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) has just kicked off the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) statutory consultation period, which is scheduled to run until 12 February. Notwithstanding the fact that the ERA may recommend changes to the planned project as a result of its consideration of the EIA, it seems that the developers are sure that there will be no planning or environmental issues which can put the breaks to what most people consider an ill-advised project.

The documents presented for public scrutiny are voluminous, but possibly incomplete, and I have already written to ERA to complete the missing information gaps, at least those identified to date.

A basic document of interest, available on the ERA website, is the Project Description Statement (PDS) – the work of an as yet unknown partnership of architects going by the name of “Landmark Architects”. It transpires that this partnership is headed by former Transport Minister Jesmond Mugliett, who writes on page 5 of the PDS : “On the 2nd of February 2017, the Government of Malta and dB San Gorg Property Limited signed the contract for the granting of the RFP site. Both the Government of Malta and dB San Gorg Property Ltd. agree that evaluation of the project development should not extend beyond the minimum time frames established by Planning Law.” To my mind this signifies that the government has already tied the Planning Authority’s hands as to how it should operate in this case.

The developer is not (apparently) worried that the Paceville Master Plan was sent back to the drawing board after the agitated public consultation late in 2016. The author of the PDS, in fact, informs us that “The Government of Malta and dB San Gorg Property Limited continued with negotiations, eventually coming to an agreement that it was not in the interest of the project, the Maltese Tourism Industry and the Maltese economy to wait for the conclusion of this masterplan.”

Does this not undermine the whole consultation process? What planning rules and/or policies will the Planning Authority follow at the former ITS site? On what criteria will the development proposal be evaluated – it already clearly goes beyond what is permitted in the applicable 2006 local plan.

Some time ago, we were informed that no new developments in the area would be given the go-ahead until such time as a new draft Paceville Master Plan was launched. It was then emphasised that the proposals for the Pembroke ITS site can only be properly assessed when the Paceville Master Plan is in place.

This pledge has been blatantly ignored by the development proposal.

It was also pledged that the new proposed Master Plan will not be tainted by conflicts of interest as was the original one. Will this pledge also be ignored?

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 21 January 2018

F’Pembroke, il-proġett ta’ Silvio Debono : konsultazzjoni ta’ bil-fors?

 

Nhar it-12 ta’ Jannar 2018 l-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi fetħet il-proċess ta’ konsultazzjoni pubblika dwar l-impatti ambjentali tal-proġett f’Pembroke fuq is-sit magħruf bħala tal-ITS. Fi ftit kliem il-proġett kontroversjali ta’ Silvio Debono tas-Seabank Group tal-Mellieħa.

Niftakru fil-kontroversja ta’ madwar sena ilu fejn kien sar magħruf li t-team legali ta’ Silvio Debono kien immexxi minn Mario de Marco, sal-2013 Ministru għall-Ambjent.

Il-perjodu ta’ konsultazzjoni ambjentali ser jibqa’ sejjer sat-12 ta’ Frar 2018, imma oqgħodu attenti u ngħidilkom għaliex.

Fost il-kwantità kbira ta’ rapporti li wieħed isib aċċess għalihom hemm il-Project Description Statement dwar il-proġett propost, datat April 2017 u miktub mid-ditta Landmark Architects – ditta ta’ periti immexxija mill-ex-Ministru Jesmond Mugliett.

Fil-paġna 5 ta’ dan ir-rapport insibu dawn il-kliem:

“On the 2nd of February 2017, the Government of Malta and dB San Gorg Property Limited signed the contract for the granting of the RFP site. Both the Government of Malta and dB San Gorg Property Ltd. agree that evaluation of the project development should not extend beyond the minimum time frames established by Planning Law.”

Dan, fil-fehma tiegħi ifisser ħaġa waħda: li l-proċess li jista’ jwassal għall-ħruġ tal-permess tal-iżvilupp m’għandux jittawwal. Il-minimu huwa biżżejjed, ftehmu l-Gvern u Silvio Debono.

Għalina li nsegwu u li nippruvaw nagħtu kontribut, sakemm iħalluna dan kollu jfisser pressjoni żejda.

Jekk hemm min jista’ jagħti daqqa t’id jagħmel differenza kbira. Għax jekk ser nibqgħu kulħadd jaħdem għal rasu, jiġru bina. Dan hu każ ieħor fejn il-konsultazzjoni hi finta, taparsi u ta’ bilfors.

Jum 92 : lil hinn mill-bukketti tal-fjuri

 

Tlett xhur ilu nqatlet Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Wara li għaddew 92 ġurnata, inġabru, u bdew għaddejjin proċeduri kriminali dawk akkużati li qatluha, iżda min bagħthom għadu jiġri mas-saqajn.

Ħadd ma jaf x’qed jagħmlu bħalissa l-Pulizija, għax il-pulizija mhux ser toqgħod ixxandar mal-erbat irjieħ dak li tkun qed tagħmel. Tagħmel sewwa jekk għada qed tinvestiga fis-skiet u bla daqq tat-trombi. Kulħadd jifhem li investigazzjoni serja tieħu ż-żmien u ma hemm l-ebda garanzija li din tista’ tasal għall-konklużjoni li lkoll bla dubju nixtiequ.

Diġa tħabbru ħafna dettalji dwar il-każ, fosthom li kien ilu jiġi ppjanat ta’ l-inqas xahrejn, kif ukoll l-iżbalji li saru u li kienu strumentali biex il-Pulizija Maltija, mgħejjuna minn investigaturi barranin, waslu għall-ewwel konklużjonijiet.

Iktar ma jgħaddi żmien iktar jikbru d-diffikultajiet biex il-kaz jissolva kompletament. Mhux biss għadu mhux magħruf min ordna l-qtil, imma l-anqas għadu m’hu magħruf il-motiv wara l-qtil, l-għaliex il-qtil ġie kkummissjonat.

Illum jitqegħdu bosta bukketti ta’ fjuri li jiżdiedu mal-bosta kliem ta’ tifħir li ntqal u għadu qed jingħad. Ħafna minna illum jieqfu ftit mumenti u jagħmlu riflessjonijiet dwar l-għaliex pajjiżna wasal sa hawn.

It-tweġiba inevitabbli tinstab fi frażi waħda: l-egħruq fondi tal-intolleranza.

Fl-Air Malta hemm bżonn il-kalma

 

Il-kliem iebes dwar dak li għaddej bħalissa fl-Air Malta m’huwiex jonqos. Bħalissa għaddej eżerċizzju biex jikkonvinċu l-opinjoni pubblika dwar min hu l-iżjed b’saħħtu.

Il-Gvern qed jgħid li lest li jibqa’ għaddej. Ftiehem mal-parti l-kbira tal-Unions u jistenna li jiftiehem ukoll mal-Union tal-piloti. Id-dettalji tal-ftehim kollettiv propost ma nafhomx, u safejn naf jiena m’humiex pubbliċi. L-unika ħaġa magħrufa s’issa hi dak li qal il-Prim Ministru dalgħodu li hemm proposti żidiet sostanzjali li imma huma marbuta ma tibdiliet fil-prattiċi tax-xogħol. Fuq quddiem hemm l-insistenza tal-Gvern u tal-Management tal-Air Malta li hemm ħtieġa ta’ żieda fis-siegħat tat-titjir.

Il-Gvern irid jipprova jasal. Għalhekk beda mill-Unions li kien iktar faċli li jasal magħhom u ikkonkluda ftehim ma kull waħda minnhom matul dawn il-ġimgħat. Il-Union tal-piloti l-ALPA min-naħa l-oħra żammet iebes minħabba l-posizzjoni strateġika tagħha fil-kumpanija u tittama li ssarraf din is-saħħa strateġika f’vantaġġi ikbar għall-membri tagħha. Xejn ħażin f’dan, sakemm nagħrfu li hemm limitu dettat mir-raġuni u l-etika li m’għandux jinqabeż.

Kull ftehim jinvolvi give and take. Tirbaħ xi affarijiet u ċċedi oħrajn. Nappella għaldaqstant għas-sens komun tal-partijiet li jippruvaw isibu soluzzjoni.

Apparti l-kwistjoni tal-ftehim kollettiv bħalissa jidher li qed tikber b’mod sproporzjonat tilwima oħra, separata, dwar il-mod kif ġie ittrattat wieħed mill-piloti minn uffiċjal għoli tal-kumpanija Air Malta. Dwar dan, jidher li l-piloti vvutaw biex jagħtu l-awtorità lill-Union ħalli  jibdew azzjonijiet industrijali.

Hemm bżonn daqsxejn tal-kalma. L-iżbalji jeħtieġ li jiġu msewwija imma ejja f’ġieħ is-sewwa ma nesagerawx.

Il-pajjiż għandu bżonn lill-Air Malta għax din tista’ tagħti kontribut siewi lill-ekonomija. Biex dan iseħħ hem bżonn li kulħadd jaġixxi b’mod responsabbli.

Li nikkalmaw ftit ikun pass tajjeb!

Thank-you Ryan; thank-you, Clayton.

I was present for both public sessions of the Planning Authority Board’s meetings to discuss the planning application for a petrol station at Salini Road Magħtab.

The first meeting, on 7 December, was attended by eight members of the Board. At the meeting on the 11 January, however, an additional five members made an effort and were present. These additional five members voted in favour of the application, but they had not followed the detailed public discussion held on 7 January, as is their duty.

At the first meeting, two of the Board members publicly indicated their intention to vote against the application but, at the second meeting, both changed their mind and decided to vote in favour. However, no public explanation was forthcoming as to what caused them to change sides.

The Planning Authority Board includes two Members of Parliament: Ryan Callus (PN) and Clayton Bartolo (PL). Both of them consider it to be desirable to have more petrol stations and both voted in favour of the Magħtab Petrol Station. Ryan Callus was clearly observed raising his hand very reluctantly to vote in favour of the development application: apparently he wanted those present to note that he was not sure of what he was doing.

More worrying was Clayton Bartolo’s behaviour. He had already publicly indicated his opposition to giving the permission for the petrol station on 7 December. However, last Thursday he switched sides and voted in favour. Obviously, he had every right to vote in whichever way he chooses, but he owes the public an explanation for his change of heart. No such explanation was forthcoming.

Of the 14 members of the Planning Authority Board, 13 are regular members and the additional member is an ad hoc member representing the Local Council of the locality involved – in this case Naxxar. Eight members of the Board were present for both meetings. Five turned up only for the second meeting. The 14th member of the Board, although present for both meetings, left the room as soon as the subject of the petrol station came up for discussion on both occasions! Clearly he did not want to participate in this latest planning farce.

This is the third new petrol station to be approved by the Planning Authority in a short period of time: approval for the Magħtab petrol station came immediately after the approval of those at Marsaskala and Burmarrad in the past weeks.

Do we need so many petrol stations?

Last September, the Prime Minister announced that government would shortly carry out a consultation exercise to determine the cut-off date beyond which all new cars purchased would have to be electric or similar vehicles. This signified one thing: that soon we will start the count-down leading to no more petrol and/or diesel cars on our roads. Bearing this policy declaration by the Prime Minister leads to one inevitable question: what do we need new petrol stations for? Each new petrol station gobbles up approximately 3,000 square metres of land.

A big thank-you to Ryan and Clayton.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 14 January 2018

Tal-mistħija Onorevoli

 

Il-Bord tal-Awtorita tal-Ippjanar ftit tal-ħin ilu approva permess ta’ żvilupp għal pompa tal-petrol fil-Magħtab. Din hi l-istess applikazzjoni li xahar ilu kienu ikkonkludew li kellhom jirrifjutaw. Imma skond ir-regoli ma setgħux jieħdu deċiżjoni finali dakinnhar u aġġornaw għal-lum.

Illum l-applikazzjoni ġiet approvata. Attendew għal-laqgħa tal-Bord diversi membri li l-aħħar darba ma kienux hemm kif ukoll kien hemm min bidel l-opinjoni tiegħu. Kien hemm min l-aħħar darba ivvota kontra l-pompa tal-petrol imma illum ivvota favur!

Fost dawk li bidlu l-fehma tagħhom kien hemm il-Membru Parlamentari Laburista Clayton Bartolo li nhar is-7 ta’ Diċembru 2017 ivvota kontra l-pompa tal-petrol imma illum bidel fehmtu u ivvota favur.

Kien hemm ukoll il-Membru Parlamentari Nazzjonalista Ryan Callus li l-aħħar darba ma kienx preżenti imma illum ġie u vvota favur il-pompa tal-petrol huwa ukoll. Għaliex bidlu l-fehma tagħhom jiena ma nafx. Probabbilment li kkonvinċew ruħhom li “kellhom żball”!

Tajjeb li tiftakruha din: ir-rappreżentant tal-Partit Nazzjonalista Ryan Callus kif ukoll ir-rappreżentat tal-Partit Laburista fuq il-Bord tal-Awtorita tal-Ippjanar ivvutaw favur pompa tal-petrol oħra.

Tinsewx tgħidulhom grazzi lill-Onorevoli.

Il-korruzzjoni fil-futbol: sintomu ta’ pajjiż marid

Smajna fl-aħbarijiet bid-deċiżjoni tal-Bord tad-Dixxiplina tal-UEFA li tissospendi sitt żgħażagħ Maltin, tnejn minnhom għal għomorhom, wara investigazzjoni dwar il-logħba futbol bejn Malta u l-Montenegro ta’ taħt il-21 sena ta’ nhar it-23 ta’ Marzu 2016.

Is-Segretarju Ġenerali tal-MFA Dr Angelo Chetcuti ġustament qal li din id-deċiżjoni hi daqqa ta’ ħarta għall-futbol Malti.

Imma tajjeb li nirriflettu ftit.

Dawn iż-żgħażagħ huma prodott tal-istess pajjiż. Il-pajjiż ta’ Pilatus, il-pajjiż ta’ Egrant, il-pajjiż tal-iskandlu tal-Premier, tal-invoices foloz, tal-iskandlu taż-żejt, tat-tixħim tal-kontijiet tal-iskejjel, tal-Vitals, tal-amnestiji waħda wara l-oħra dwar l-evażjoni tat-taxxa ……….. u ta’ tant affarijiet oħra.

F’dan il-pajjiż mhux biss qiesu ma ġara xejn talli min hu maħmuġ xejn ma jistħi jikkampanja kontra l-korruzzjoni u favur il-governanza tajba!

Hawn xi ħadd li jista’ jiskanta li issa għandna anke żgħażagħ taħt il-21 sena imċappsin?
Il-korruzzjoni fil-futbol hi sintomu ieħor li pajjiżna marid, u marid sew!