Lil hinn mill-ġebla u l-kaċċa

 

Illum l-ambjent sar parti essenzjali mil-lingwaġġ politiku li jużaw il-partiti politiċi ta’ kuljum. Imma jekk dan hux kaz ta’ konvinzjoni jew konvenjenza, hu storja oħra.

L-ippjanar bl-addoċċ tal-użu tal-art tul is-snin flimkien mal-kaċċa irresponsabbli u insostenibbli kienu fuq quddiem fl-agenda ambjentali għal ftit taż-żmien mhux ħażin. Ġa ktibt b’mod estensiv dwar dan. Il-ħarsien tal-ambjent iżda, jfisser ħafna iktar minn hekk, avolja fiċ-ċirkustanzi partikolari ta’ pajjiżna kemm l-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art kif ukoll il-kaċċa ser jibqgħu fuq nett fl-aġenda ambjentali.

Żewġ oqsma li bla dubju ser ikunu fuq quddiem nett fl-aġenda ambjentali tal-pajjiż fix-xhur u s-snin li ġejjin huma l-kwalitá tal-arja u l-iskart li niġġeneraw.   Materji li ilna nitkellmu dwarhom is-snin bħala oqsma kruċjali li għandhom impatt fuq il-kwalitá tal-ħajja.

Il-kwalitá tal-arja f’pajjiżna hi effettwata prinċipalment mill-emmissjonijiet tal-karozzi. Teħtieġ li tkun indirizzata permezz  ta’ strateġija nazzjonali dwar it-trasport li tinkoraġixxi forom alternattivi ta’ aċċess sostenibbli bejn l-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna.

Il-metro li qed tiġi proposta ta’ min jikkunsidraha minkejja li s’issa għad ma hemmx dettalji biżżejjed dwar il-proposta nnifisha. Din il-proposta tal-metro, għandu jkun sottolinejat, tista’ tagħmel sens biss jekk tkun marbuta ma azzjoni simultanja li l-ewwel tnaqqas il-karozzi mit-toroq b’mod sostanzjali u li sussegwentement tassigura li fit-toroq tagħna jkun hemm biss karozzi li jaħdmu bl-elettriku.

Ma jagħmilx sens li tipproponi l-introduzzjoni ta’ metro u fl-istess ħin tibqa’ għaddej bi programm ta’ bini ta’ flyovers jew twessigħ ta’ toroq għax programm ta’ din ix-xorta filwaqt li jnaqqas il-konġestjoni tat-traffiku b’mod temporanju jżid il-kapaċitá tal-istess toroq li jieħdu iktar traffiku u dan minn innifsu jwassal għal iktar konġestjoni tat-traffiku.

L-użu ikbar tar-rota tradizzjonali kif ukoll tal-pedelecs ukoll jagħti kontribut sostanzjali għal iktar mobilitá u anke għal kwalitá tal-ħajja aħjar. Imma dan jeħtieġ investiment sostanzjali fl-infrastruttura. Dan jinkludi mhux biss toroq aħjar għal dawk li jużaw ir-rota imma ukoll faċilitajiet ta’ showers fil-post tax-xogħol flimkien ma postijiet addattati fejn titqiegħed ir-rota fiż-żoni riżervati għall-parkeġġ.

Il-mezzi differenti ta’ trasport pubbliku għandhom ikunu imħeġġa biex jagħmlu użu minn sorsi nodfa ta’ enerġija. Dan jista’ jsir billi, pereżempju l-karozzi tal-linja eżistenti jkunu konvertiti biex jaħdmu bil-metan.

L-iskart li niġġeneraw huwa wġiegħ ta’ ras ambjentali kbira li fl-aħħar qed jingħata iktar attenzjoni. Presentement qed ikun indirizzat l-iskart organiku ġġenerat mill-qasam domestiku. Jekk dan l-iskop jintlaħaq dan jista’ jagħti riżultati tajbin għax l-iskart organiku jammonta għal madwar nofs l-iskart li niġġeneraw mid-djar tagħna. Imma hemm ħtieġa urġenti ukoll li l-awtoritajiet tat-turiżmu jiffukaw ftit attenzjoni fuq l-iskart organiku li jiġġeneraw ir-restoranti u faċilitajiet simili għax dan il-qasam kien traskurat għal ftit taż-żmien mhux ħażin.

Il-qasam tal-iskart jista’ jiġġenera ħafna impiegi ambjentali (green jobs) f’industrija tar-riċiklaġġ li għad tista’ tikber għax għandha potenzjal kbir. Din hi problema li kibret magħna tul is-snin minħabba traskuraġni: nistgħu bi ftit attenzjoni nittrasformawha f’opportunitá li mhux biss tissarraf fi kwalitá tal-ħajja aħjar imma ukoll f’ġid ekonomiku.

ippubblikat fl-Illum  – 28 ta’ Mejju 2017

Green and clean :  beyond land use planning and hunting

It is obvious to everyone that the environment is nowadays an integral part of the political lexicon of all the political parties in Malta. Whether this is out of conviction or out of convenience is,  however, another story altogether. Irrespective of the objective, it is still however positive to observe this development.

Reckless land use planning over the years, as well as irresponsible and unsustainable hunting, have been at the forefront of the environmental agenda for quite some time and I have already written extensively on these topics. Caring for the environment signifies much more than this, even though both land use planning and hunting will, of necessity remain at the top of Malta’s environmental agenda.

However, competing for attention and resources, the quality of the air we breath – as well as the waste we generate – are two specific areas which will undoubtedly be on the environmental action agenda in the months and years ahead. These are areas which the environmental lobby has been emphasising for years on end as being crucial in determining a better quality of life for all.

Air quality has to be tackled head on through the formulation of a transport strategy that seeks to encourage alternative forms of sustainable access between our towns and villages. This will most probably be a combination of various means and actions.

The proposed metro is an option worth considering, even though details are currently not available. The metro will only be feasible if it is linked with focused action on reducing the number of cars from the road and ensuring that all remaining cars on the road, after a reasonable transition, are electric cars. It is useless promoting a metro and simultaneously retaining a substantial programme of road-widening and/or construction of flyovers. Improving the road network will only ease traffic congestion temporarily but it will simultaneously increase the capacity for more traffic leading in turn to more traffic congestion.

Encouraging the use of bicycles and pedelecs will contribute substantially to improved mobility and a better quality of life, including ever-improving air quality. Substantial investment in the bicycle infrastructure  is however required. This must include the provision of more bicycle friendly roads and shower facilities at places of work as an essential pre-requisite, together with more bicycle parking areas.

Different forms of public transport using clean energy should also be encouraged – for example, converting existing public buses to the use of methane as their primary fuel.

Waste management is another environmental headache, and which has, of late, been receiving more attention. An effort is currently under way to address the organic fraction of the household waste generated. If properly managed this could lead to substantial results as organic waste accounts for around 50 per cent of all the household waste generated. The tourism authorities must, however, seek to focus on the organic waste generated by bars and restaurants as MTA has neglected this matter for far to long.

Proper waste management can result in the generation of green jobs in the recycling industry – which is still in its infancy but holds a lot of potential.  It is an opportunity to transform a problem caused by neglect over the years  into an opportunity which will be both green and clean.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 28 May 2017

L-iskart għandu valur

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Bħalissa diversi jitkellmu dwar ekonomija ċirkulari, imma bosta m’għandhomx idea din x’inhi.

L-ekonomija tagħna hi xi minn daqqiet deskritta bħala ekonomija lineari (jiġifieri linja dritta) u dan billi nieħdu l-materja prima mill-art, nipproduċu l-prodotti li neħtieġu u wara li nużawhom, narmuhom. F’kuntrast ma’ dan, l-ekonomija ċirkulari tfittex li flok ma jintrema dak li nkunu użajna, minnu niġġeneraw xi ħaġa oħra. B’dan il-mod, dak li nkunu ħadna mill-art, wara li jintuża, flok ma jintrema, iservi biex jiġġenera prodotti oħra.

Dan huwa proċess li ġie deskritt bħala ‘mill-benniena għall-benniena’ u jikkuntrasta mal-mod kif naħdmu llum fejn dak li nipproduċu jwassal ‘mill-benniena sal-qabar’, meta prodotti jintremew għax ma jibqgħux ta’ użu. Li dak li nużaw, ma narmuhx meta ma jibqgħalniex użu għalih jagħmel ħafna sens ambjentali. Imma jagħmel ukoll ħafna sens ekonomiku.

II-pjan ta’ Malta għall-immaniġjar tal-iskart jipponta f’din id-direzzjoni u fil-fatt jistabilixxi l-mira li sal-2050 ma niġġenerawx iktar skart: mira żero skart. Din il-mira trid tintlaħaq 33 sena oħra li għalkemm jidhru ftit ’il bogħod, fil-fatt jista’ jkun li m’hemmx biżżejjed żmien biex nibdlu l-mod kif naħsbu. Hemm ħafna xogħol x’isir.

Idealment l-ewwel miżura li għandna nieħdu dwar l-iskart hi li nippruvaw innaqqsu l-iskart li niġġeneraw. Dan kieku jkun ħafna aħjar milli nippruvaw naraw x’ser nagħmlu bih! F’xi każi, dan jista’ jsir b’faċilità. Per eżempju nistgħu nnaqqsu l-iskart organiku li narmu billi nippjanaw aħjar dwar dak li nieklu fi djarna. Nistgħu nnaqqsu wkoll ir-rimi tal-pakketti u l-laned li fihom ikun l-ikel billi nixtru u nieklu iktar ikel frisk, li ġeneralment ikun ikel li nipproduċu fil-pajjiż.

Ovvjament, ħafna minna m’għandniex il-ħin biex naħsbu dwar in-numru kbir ta’ deċiżjonijiet żgħar li nieħdu kuljum u li bħala riżultat tagħhom niġġeneraw ħafna skart. Il-konvenjenza tal-ikel fil-pakketti jew ta’ ikel ipproċessat li nixtru fil-laned kbar u żgħar, ħafna drabi tkun it-triq faċli, għax kulħadd għandu x’jagħmel u ħadd m’għandu ħin żejjed! Dan iwassal għal konsegwenza mhux biss ta’ skart li stajna nevitaw imma wkoll li nispiċċaw nieklu ikel li hu inqas sustanzjuż.

Bħalissa f’diversi lokalitajiet f’Malta u Għawdex għaddej proġett pilota dwar l-iskart organiku. Ilu ftit li beda, u għalkemm ma ħarġitx informazzjoni uffiċjali dwaru hu magħruf li kellu reazzjoni mħallta. Imma bil-mod il-mod qed ikollu suċċess.

Jekk il-ġbir tal-iskart organiku jsir sewwa, l-iskart li jispiċċa fil-borża s-sewda jista’ jonqos bin-nofs. Hemm ukoll il-vantaġġ li meta l-iskart organiku ma jibqax jintefa’ fil-miżbla, u minflok ikun iproċessat fl-impjant tal-iskart, il-gassijiet li jirriżutaw minnu meta jiddikomponi jservu biex nipproduċu l-elettriku minflok ma jikkontribwixxu għal gassijiet serra li huma l-kawża tat-tibdil fil-klima. Dan ċertament huwa għal vantaġġ ta’ kulħadd.

Hi politika tajba dik li biha nistgħu naslu biex innaqqsu ħamsin fil-mija tal-iskart fil-borża s-sewda. Imma biex naslu, hemm ħtieġa ta’ investiment sostanzjali fl-edukazzjoni ambjentali fil-lokalitajiet tagħna. Il-Wasteserv, li ultimament hi responsabbli għall-immaniġjar tal-iskart fil-gżejjer Maltin, diġà ħadet bosta inizjattivi. Imma hemm ħafna iktar x’isir. Qatt iżda ma tista’ tgħid li sar biżżejjed.

Għandna bżonn nifhmu li l-iskart jikkonsisti f’riżorsi li użajna. Dawn ukoll għandhom valur u l-ekonomija ċirkulari tipprova ssarraf dan il-valur. Għalhekk il-mira ta’ skart żero biex ma nibqgħux nipproduċu skart imma dak li ma jibqagħlux użu għalina xorta għandu valur.

ippubbblikat f’Illum, 29 ta’ Jannar 2017

Towards a zero waste target

 

The linear model of our economy follows a take-make-use-waste path as a result of which we extract resources from the earth which we use and subsequently throw away. In contrast to this cradle-to-grave trajectory, the circular economy seeks cyclical sustainability.

In a circular economy, the management of waste is paramount.  It seeks to retain the resources used in our products in the economic loop as it is considered that they can be re-used to form other products. William McDonough and Michael Braungart describe this as a cradle-to-cradle process in their seminal book Cradle to Cradle. Remaking the way we make things. This is in contrast to the throw-away society which follows a cradle-to-grave path.

This is not only makes environmental sense, it also makes economic sense. Malta’s Waste Management Plan for the period 2014-2020 tentatively points in this direction by establishing a zero waste target that is to be achieved by 2050. Thirty-three years may seem to be too far away but, in reality, it may be just enough to change our mindset. A lot of hard work is involved but, at the end of the day, it will also be rewarding.

It involves the application of what is known as the waste hierarchy to different waste streams. Waste minimisation or prevention is always the preferred option. Ideally we should aim to prevent the generation of waste and in a number of cases this can easily be done. For example, we can prevent the generation of a substantial portion of organic waste by giving more thought to the food intake in our homes. We can also reduce the amount of food packaging by opting for more fresh food which is generally local.

Obviously, most of us have very little time to think about the consequences of our large number of small decisions which end up generating a lot of waste. Convenience generally wins the day, as we often opt for packaged and processed food. As a result, we not only generate avoidable waste but also end up eating less healthy food.

A pilot project related to organic waste is currently under way in 8 localities in Malta and Gozo. It has been going on for some time and although information as to the manner in which the localities involved have reacted is not publicly available, it is known through the grapevine that this has been varied but is improving.

Collecting the organic waste part of domestic waste, if carried out successfully, may well reduce the amount going to landfill by around 50 percent. There is also an added benefit: when the organic part of our waste is processed in a waste recycling plant, the resulting gases are used to produce electricity instead of adding to greenhouse gas emissions. This is surely a win-win situation.

Reducing 50 percent of our waste through the responsible management of just one part of it is very good policy. However, this requires much more investment in environmental education in our localities. Wasteserve, being ultimately responsible for waste management in the Maltese Islands, has taken a lot of initiatives in this respect, but much more needs to be done.  It is never enough.

Waste is a collection of discarded resources and realising the value that we throw away is, in reality, what the circular economy is all about – hence the target of a zero waste society.

published in The Independent on Sunday : 29 January 2017

Nisseparaw l-iskart organiku

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L-iskart li narmu hu fil-parti l-kbira tiegħu utli. Għalhekk aħna dejjem imħeġġa biex nirriċiklaw dak li s-soltu narmu. Dak li nirriċiklaw jibqa’ jdur fl-ekonomija u ma jinħeliex. Għalhekk nirriċiklaw u nerġgħu nużaw il-karta, l-ħġieġ, il-metalli u l-plastic. Kollha għad għandhom użu, anke meta għalina ma jkunx għadhom utli.

Nhar il-Ġimgħa 30 t’Ottubru, l-WasteServe, flimkien mal-ħames kunsilli lokali tal-Mdina, Ħal-Għaxaq, Ta’ Xbiex, Bormla u Birkirkara ser jagħtu bidu għall-ġbir separat tal-iskart organiku. Dan ser ikun proġett pilota fuq numru ta’ ġimgħat li permezz tiegħu l-iskart organiku ser jinġabar f’dawn il-lokalitajiet darbtejn fil-ġimgħa (it-Tnejn w il-Ġimgħa). Wara, l-ġbir tal-iskart organiku jibda jsir fil-lokalitajiet kollha.

Il-parti organika tal-iskart li narmu jammonta għal ftit iktar min-nofs tal-iskart li llum inqegħdu fil-borża s-sewda. Din tidher li hi l-iktar stima korretta u tirriżulta minn stħarriġ li għamel l-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Istatistika fl-2012. Studju addizzjonali li sar f’Settembru li għadda mill-WasteServe fil-lokalitajiet li ser jipparteċipaw fil-proġett pilota jindika li l-ammont ta’ skart organiku li niġġeneraw fil-lokalitajiet tagħna jvarja anke skond il-lokalità. Dan jista’ jkun rifless ta’ stil ta’ ħajja u/jew livell ta’ għixien (ftit) differenti fil-lokalitajiet tagħna, liema differenza tinkixef anke minn eżami tal-iskart li niġġeneraw.

Sar eżerċizzju ta’ informazzjoni bieb bieb li bih r-residenti fil-ħames lokalitajiet diġa ġew infurmati x’għandhom jagħmlu. Ingħatawlhom boroż bojod u kontenituri bojod tal-plastic li minnhom tgħaddi l-arja biex iqegħdu l-boroz fihom u l-iskart ma jrejjaħx.

L-iskart organiku huwa prinċipalment fdal tal-ikel kif ukoll skart tal-ġonna. Jista’ jinkludi ukoll karti u kartun.

Meta l-iskart organiku jinġabar minn wara l-bieb tagħna, dan jittieħed fl-impjant ta’ Sant Antnin f’Wied il-Għajn fejn issir verifika li fil-borza hemm biss dak li suppost. Wara, l-iskart organiku jitqiegħed f’apparat imsejjaħ waste digester  fejn jiddikomponi u jipproduċi il-gass metanu (methane) li l-ewwel jinġabar u eventwalment jinħaraq biex jipproduċi l-elettriku.

Mill-proċess kollu tirriżulta ukoll kwantità ta’ sħana li ser tintuża biex jissaħħan l-ilma tas-swimming pool terrapewtiku li għanda l-Fondazzjoni Inspire li qiegħed  ftit il-bogħod. Li jibqa’, jintuża bħala kompost.

Dan il-proġett pilota biex jinġabar separatament l-iskart organiku għandu l-potenzjal li jnaqqas b’mod sostanzjali l-iskart li jispiċċa fil-miżbliet tagħna. L-iskart fil-borza s-sewda jista’ jonqos saħansitra bin-nofs. Il-gass li minnu jiġi prodott l-elettriku jonqos mill-emissjonijiet serra tal-pajjiż u b’hekk ukoll b’dan il-proġett inkunu qed nagħtu s-sehem tagħna biex jonqsu l-impatti li qed jagħtu kontribut għat-tibdil fil-klima.

Għalhekk hu neċessarju li nisseparaw l-iskart. Għax innaqqsu l-impatti ambjentali u fl-istess ħin inkunu qed nagħtu l-kontribut żgħir tagħna biex titjieb il-kwalità tal-ħajja ta’ kulħadd.

ippubblikat fuq iNews it-Tnejn 26 t’Ottubru 2015

Our waste has good value

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Our waste can be put to good use, which is why we are encouraged to separate and recycle what we would otherwise throw away. Our waste contains plenty of useful resources which can be recovered and re-circulated in our economy and we separate paper, glass, metals and plastic, all of which can be reused.

We also recycle electric and electronic equipment such as televisions, radios, refrigerators,  PCs and laptops. Instead of being thrown away, disintegrating into a chemical soup in a landfill, this equipment will be dismantled into its component parts, most of which can be reused. Most  electronic equipment  nowadays makes use of some rare metal and it is in everybody’s interest that such resources are recycled.

Next Friday, 30 October, state waste management operator WasteServe, in conjunction with the five local councils of Mdina, Ħal-Għaxaq, Ta’ Xbiex, Bormla and Birkirkara will commence the separate collection of organic waste in Malta. This pilot project will run for a number of weeks during which separated organic waste will be collected twice weekly (on Mondays and Fridays) after which it will be extended to the rest of our localities.

The organic fraction of our waste may be as high as 52 per cent of the waste discarded by each household in the black garbage bags. This, apparently, is the most accurate estimate to date resulting from a National Statistics Office study carried out in 2012 entitled Household Waste Composition Survey. A more recent waste characterisation exercise, carried out by WasteServe itself in the localities participating in the pilot project, indicates that the size of the organic waste percentage varies in the different localities. This may be the result of different lifestyles, as a result of which we tend to have different patterns of behaviour that are even evident in our waste.

WasteServe has already organised a door-to-door information exercise explaining their role to residents of the five localities, who have also been supplied with white bags in which they are to collect organic waste, as well as suitably aerated bins in which to place these bags.

Organic waste, sometimes referred to as “green waste”, is organic material such as food and garden waste. It can also include animal and plant-based material and degradable carbon such as paper and cardboard.

The organic waste collected from our doorsteps will be delivered to the Sant Antnin Waste Treatment Plant at Marsascala where it is verified that the white bags contain only organic waste. It is then placed in a waste digester where, as a result of its decomposing in the absence of oxygen, it will produce the gas methane, which is collected and used to produce electricity.

In addition, the heat produced will be used to heat the therapeutic swimming pool at the neighbouring Inspire Foundation, a considerable help to the foundation’s clients. The remainder is then used as compost.

The organic waste pilot project thus has the potential to substantially reduce the  waste that currently ends up at the Magħtab landfill. In addition, when the methane resulting from its decomposition is used to produce electricity, we will also be reducing the emission of a greenhouse gas which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This will be an additional step in reducing Malta’s contribution to climate change.

These are the practical reasons why it is imperative that we recycle. We reduce our negative environmental impact and, as a result, create the conditions for a better quality of life for everyone.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday 25 October 2015

Managing our waste

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Malta’s waste management strategy establishes the attainment of a zero waste target by the year 2050. An ambitious target, but also an achievable one.  How will we get there in thirty five years time?

The waste management strategy was updated in January 2014 through the publication of a waste management plan aptly subtitled ‘A resource management approach’. It has a seven-year lifespan (2014-2020).

Waste is considered a resource which should be utilised instead of being thrown away.  For this to be achieved, we need to change gear and shift from a linear to a circular economy.

In the linear economy, we consume (or use) a product and at the end of its useful life we throw it away. On the other hand, the circular economy functions such that a product (or its constituent parts), at the end of its useful life, remains in existence by being utilised to create another product.

In line with the EU waste hierarchy, Malta’s waste management strategy rightly places waste prevention as a first step.

Waste prevention, or waste minimisation, signifies the reduction of generated waste to a minimum.  Life cycle thinking is key to reducing waste throughout the useful life of a product. This is done when a product is still being designed. Applying eco-design weeds out the unnecessary constituent elements of a product. In addition, these constituent elements are also examined, such that it is ensured that none of them impede the eventual recycling at the end of the product’s useful life.

We can also minimise waste by ensuring that we purchase and use only that which is required in appropriate quantities. We can do this, for example, by using products in large sizes instead of similar multiple products in small sizes, as a result sending less packaging to waste.

The next level of the waste hierarchy is the recycling of products at the end of their useful life. We already recycle glass, metal, paper and plastics but we need to substantially improve our recycling performance as a nation. We need to acknowledge that we had a very late start in recycling. The first attempts at recycling were carried out in the mid-1990s under the watch of then Parliamentary Secretary Stanley Zammit. Unfortunately, Dr Zammit received very little support in his endeavours. 2013 statistics indicate that in Malta only six per cent of domestic waste is recycled, with another five per cent being composted. This 11 per cent of Malta’s domestic waste, which does not go to landfill, is in striking contrast to that for Germany (65%), Slovenia (61%), Austria (59%), Belgium (55%) and many other countries.

Statistics for 2014 and 2015 may eventually show a slight improvement, but we still have quite a long way to go.

Wasteserv will shortly be commencing a pilot project to collect organic waste separately from domestic households. Organic waste can be converted into energy. It can also be used to produce compost. In addition, if the collection of organic waste is carried out successfully from all households, it may reduce the contents of the black garbage bag by as much as 50%, signifying a substantial reduction of domestic waste going to landfill. (If catering establishments were to take similar initiatives, the achievable results would be much more significant.)

A proper implementation of rules regulating the waste arising from electric and electronic equipment should hopefully be in place in the coming weeks when responsibility for this waste stream is definitely transferred to the private sector in terms of the extended producer responsibility specified in the EU’s WEEE Directive (WEEE meaning waste from electric and electronic equipment).

It is also essential to address the operation of scrap yards, which are an affront to Malta’s environmental obligations. They are mostly an eyesore, generally a blot on the landscape, as well as being the cause of negative environmental impacts.

Recycling scrap metal (and other materials) is an important economic activity which ensures that resources originally extracted from the earth are kept in use and not discarded as waste. Recycling activity, if properly managed, is an important economic activity which is environmentally friendly.

Managing properly the waste which we generate reduces our environmental impacts and improves our quality of life. In addition, the employment opportunities created are an important source of green jobs.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 20 September 2015