Green gaps in the Budget

The green gaps in the Budget speech cannot be patched up with the millions of euros spread in the pockets of both those in need as well as those who are well off.

Edward Scicluna’s Budget speech last Monday was far too long. Yet in its over 100 pages it missed addressing a number of environmental issues on which different government spokespersons pontificate throughout the rest of the year: confirming that they just pay lip-service to the issues.

The lack of good environmental governance has considerable economic and social impact as is evident to one and all.

While the Budget proposals strengthen the social safety net, it is to be underlined that quality of life is not measured solely in terms of financial metrics. Throwing euros at problems does not lead to any solutions.

The budget speech correctly emphasises the necessity of waste recycling. Unfortunately, the Minister for Finance did not explain how this effort should be integrated into a circular economy, even though the Environment Minister repeatedly boasts of how supposedly the move towards a circular economy is a priority for government. In the entire speech, the circular economy is not mentioned once. Nor does the Economic Survey dwell on the matter or even faintly refer to the matter.

This raises the suspicion that government has lost the plot and does not have any policy ideas on such an important aspect of the economy with its social, economic and environmental effects.

The Budget speech emphasises the energy generation potential from waste incineration which requires large volumes of waste in order to be viable. But the budget speech is silent on how this fits in with the stated commitment to actually reduce the volume of waste.

The government is trying to square the circle; on the one hand it wants to reduce waste but on the other hand it needs more and more waste to make its huge incinerator viable.
The Budget speech also gives the impression that it addresses important aspects which impact the quality of life when in fact offers only half-baked and token solutions.

Among them is the point on water policy. The speech mentions incentives to encourage repairs of existing wells but then it avoids altogether a real and focused effort to address the acute issue of dwellings built without water cisterns, with the consequence that water ends up in the public sewers or flooding our streets.

Developers are let of the hook even when roads are flooded and sewers are overflowing, not to mention the sheer waste of perfectly good water.

The same can be said of the supposed solutions to traffic congestion. The Budget speech refers to the financial incentives available to encourage the use of alternative modes of transport, but here again it ignores the roots of the problem. The government spending of millions of euros for the development of the road infrastructure will only increase traffic congestion, thereby squeezing users of alternative means of transport off the roads.

It is useless to incentivize the purchase of bicycles and pedelecs when there is no investment in adequate infrastructure to ensure that people can commute safely using these important alternative means of transport, which actually help to decrease congestion in our roads.

Over one year ago the Prime Minister had taken a leaf from Alternattiva Demokratika’s electoral manifesto and declared that the government will determine a cut-off date by which new cars will need to be electrically driven or possibly of a hybrid nature.

This declaration had heralded the issue of electrification of transport on our roads addressing two major issues: the quality of air and the contribution of transport emissions to climate change. This, once implemented, would be a substantial contribution to the decarbonisation of the Maltese economy. We are none the wiser on government plans after listening to or reading the budget speech.

Clearly financial parameters are not the only indicators of our quality of life. The green gaps in the budget speech need plugging at the soonest.

published in The Sunday Times of Malta : Sunday 28 October 2018

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Nirriċiklaw l-iskart organiku

Kulma narmu għandu użu: anke ż-żibel hu utli. Is-separazzjoni tal-iskart, illum, hi parti essenzjali mir-rutina tal-ħajja tagħna. Nisseparaw il-karta, il-ħġieg, il-metall u l-plastic. Dan huwa kollu materjal li jista’ jerġa’ jintuża’. Ifisser ukoll li jkun hemm bżonn ferm inqas enerġija biex ikun hemm produzzjoni ta’ iktar karta, ħġieġ, metalli u plastic mill-prodotti li nirriċiklaw. Dawn flok ma jintremew fil-miżbla jibqgħu jiċċirkulaw fl-ekonomija. Dab hu l-bażi tal-ekonomija ċirkulari. Hu l-futur.

Nirriċiklaw ukoll l-apparat elettriku u elettroniku. It-TV, il-fridge, ir-radju, il–komputer jew il-laptop. Flok ma jintremew, illum il-ġurnata jżarmawhom biċċa biċċa u l-partijiet kollha tagħhom jerġgħu jagħmlu użu minnhom. Uħud minn dan l-apparat ikollu materjali rari: hu iktar utli għal kulħadd li minflok dawn ma jintremew jiġu utilizzati mill-ġdid.

Nirriċikaw ukoll il-batteriji għax meta dawn jintremew fil-miżbliet, biż-żmien, iniġġsu kull m’hemm u jagħmlu ħsara kbira ambjentali.

Tlett snin ilu l-Wasteserve tat bidu għal proġett pilota li ffoka fuq is-separazzjoni tal-iskart organiku. Kien proġett limitat għal numru żgħir ta’ lokalitajiet imma bl-intenzjoni li jqiegħed il-pedamenti biex is-separazzjoni tal-iskart organiku tkun prattika li tinfirex mal-pajjiż kollu. Dan fil-fatt ser jibda jseħħ minn nhar l-Erbgħa 31 t’Ottubru.

Dan l-iskart organiku jammonta għal madwar 50% tal-iskart li sal-lum inpoġġu fil-borża s-sewda li tinġabar minn wara l-bibien ta’ djarna. L-iskart organiku ser jibda jinġabar għalih f’borza bajda. F’kull residenza qed jitqassmu boroż bojod u bins apposta u ġie spjegat lilhom x’għandhom jagħmlu biex ikun jista’ jinġabar l-iskart organiku li huma jiġġeneraw.

Fil-borza l-bajda tal-iskart organiku tista’ titfa’ l-fdailjiet tal-ikel, nej jew imsajjar, ħaxix, ħut u frott, qxur tal-frott u tal-ħaxix, ħobż, teabags u kafè midħun, qxur tal-bajd, paper napkins u karti maħmuġin, weraq u fjuri. Lista twila ħafna.

L-iskart organiku fil-borża l-bajda jinġabar minn wara l-bibien tad-djar tagħna u jittieħed fl-impjant ta’ Sant Antnin f’Marsaskala fejn wara li issir verifika li fil-fatt fil-borża hemm biss skart organiku jitqiegħed f’apparat imsejjaħ waste digester fejn dan l-iskart jiddikomponi u minnu jinġabar gass li iktar tard jinħaraq biex jipproduċi l-elettriku. Minbarra l-elettriku tkun ukoll prodotta sħana li permezz tagħha, fost oħrajn, ser jissaħħan is-swimming pool tal-Fondazzjoni Inspire f’Marsaskala liema swimming pool jintuża bħala parti mill-għajnuna terrapewtika lill-komunità b’diżabilità. Dak li jibqa’, imbagħad, jintuża bħala compost. Għax fil-fatt, mill-iskart organiku, ma jintrema xejn.

Għalhekk huwa importanti li nirriċiklaw. Għax dak li, sal-lum, kull wieħed minna jarmi għandu użu. Meta nirriċiklaw nevitaw jew innaqqsu ħafna ħsara ambjentali u nagħtu kontribut biex ilkoll ngħixu ħajja aħjar.

Ir-riżultati li nkisbu mill-proġett pilota dwar is-separazzjoni tal-iskart organiku li inbeda tlett snin ilu għad m’humiex magħrufa pubblikament. Dan jeħtieġ li jsir biex ikun possibli li jsir skrutinju pubbliku adegwat. Kulħadd japprezza l-preparazzjoni estensiva biex ikun assigurat li fl-aħħar t’Ottubru l-ġbir tal-parti organika tal-iskart li niġġeneraw jimxi sewwa. Imma hemm bżonn li jkun hemm iktar informazzjoni dwar dak li sar s’issa.

Ippubblikat f’Illum: il-Ħadd 7 t’Ottubru 2018

Recycling our organic waste

Everything we throw away has value: all our rubbish can be put to good use. Today, waste separation is an essential part of our daily chores – or it should be. We already separate paper, glass, metal and plastics from our waste. Instead of going to landfill, these resources are recirculated in the economy by being used again and again: as many times as is technically possible. This is a basic building block of the circular economy that is in the process of being established. It is the future.

We also recycle electric and electronic waste. Instead of being thrown away, televisions, refrigerators, radios, computers and laptops are disassembled with most parts being reused. The circular economy should ensure, over time, that more manufactured products are made of parts that are fully reusable. This will regenerate the constituent parts of these products when their useful life comes to an end. Most electronic goods contain rare metals that we need to preserve for future use and recycling ensures that what nature has provided is put to good use.

Three years ago, Wasteserve launched a pilot project focusing on the separation of organic waste. Limited to a small number of localities, this pilot project sought to lay the foundations for a nation-wide exercise aimed at separating organic waste and this nation-wide exercise is due to be launched on Wednesday 31 October.

Organic waste accounts for approximately 50 per cent of the waste we dispose of every day in the black bag which is collected on a door-to-door basis all over the Maltese islands. Appropriate bins and white bags are now being distributed to all households, together with information on how the collection of organic waste will take place. In the white bag for organic waste we should place food left-overs, raw or cooked, as well as used teabags, used paper napkins and similar items.

Organic waste in the white bag will be collected from our doorsteps and will be taken to  the Sant Antnin Waste Treatment Plant at Marsaskala. Here, after being checked, it will be placed in a waste digester where it decomposes and produces methane gas which is utilised to produce electricity. Other important by-products produced from organic waste are heat and compost. I am informed that, during the pilot project, the heat produced was used to heat up the water in the swimming pool of the Inspire Foundation at Marsaskala which swimming pool is utilised for therapeutic swimming.

Our organic waste is, in fact, a very useful resource – and clearly shows why it is important to recycle. All our waste can be put to good use. When we recycle we avoid, or reduce, negative environmental impacts and contribute towards a better quality of life for everyone.

The results of the pilot project on organic waste, initiated three years ago, are not available for public scrutiny. We undoubtedly welcome the extensive preparations in hand to ensure that, come 31 October, the collection of the organic part of our waste proceeds as planned. However, more information is required regarding the actual results achieved so far.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 7 October 2018

L-Inċinerazzjoni: l-prezz akkumulat tal-inkompetenza

Il-Ministru Josè Herrera, f’isem il-Gvern, għadu kif ippubblika r-rapport intitolat Technical Report on the setting up of a Waste to Energy Facility in Malta. Qabel ma ntalab dan ir-rapport, il-Gvern kien diġá ħa d-deċiżjoni politika favur l-inċinerazzjoni. Fil-fatt, fid-daħla għar-rapport il-Ministru Herrera jgħid li din id-deċiżjoni kuraġġjuża (bold decision) ittieħdet mill-Gvern f’Lulju 2017.

Jiġifieri r-rapport ma jweġibx il-mistoqsija dwar jekk għandniex immorru għall-inċinerazzjoni: jiffoka dwar kif dan jista’ u għandu jsir.

Ma hemm l-ebda dubju li teżisti t-teknoloġija li tagħmilha possibli li l-impatti tal-inċinerazzjoni jkunu l-minimu possibli . Il-punt, imma, mhux dwar jekk l-inċinerazzjoni hiex possibli li ssir imma jekk hix l-għażla meħtieġa. Fl-opinjoni tiegħi mhix għażla addattata, imma l-alternattivi għaliha jeħtieġu ż-żmien biex ikunu żviluppati. Sfortunatament nafu li tul is-snin ma kien hemm l-ebda volontá politika biex dawn l-alternattivi jkunu żviluppati u jitħallew jaħdmu sewwa.

Il-Pjan għall-Immaniġjar tal-Iskart tal-gżejjer Maltin kien aġġornat fl-2014: dakinhar kien żviluppat pjan biex jitwettaq fuq medda ta’ sitt snin. Dan il-pjan tal-2014 jidentifika l-mod kif għandna nimmaniġjaw l-iskart li niġġeneraw. Fil-fatt jemfasizza li t-triq li għandna nimxu fiha hi dik li nieħdu ħsieb tar-riżorsi. Dan ifisser li l-pajjiż għandu jiffoka biex jirkupra r-riżorsi u mhux jiddistruġġihom biex jiġġenera l-enerġija minnhom. Għandna nżommu f’moħħna li l-enerġija meħtieġa biex dawn ir-riżorsi jinħadmu tiżboq bil-kbir l-enerġija ġġenerata meta dawn jinħarqu. Dan hu dokumentat fi studji li saru u jkunu aġġornati kontinwament.

Meta neżaminaw dan il-pjan li kien approvat mill-amministrazzjoni preżenti, imkien ma nsibu emfasi fuq l-inċinerazzjoni. Pjuttost li hemm emfasi fuq is-separazzjoni tal-iskart, r-riċiklaġġ u diversi miri dwar dan li jridu jintlaħqu. Flimkien ma dan hemm il-mira identifikata mill-Gvern li sas-sena 2050 l-ebda skart ma jintrema iktar fil-miżbliet. Is-sena 2050 hi s-sena ta’ skart żero.

Il-mistoqsija waħidha tiġi: x’mar ħażin bejn l-2014 (meta tfassal il-pjan u ġew identifikati l-miri) u l-2017 meta ittieħdet id-deċiżjoni favur l-inċinerazzjoni? It-tweġiba ċara hi li l-Wasteserve ma kienitx kapaċi tilħaq il-miri u bħala riżultat ta’ dan marret għas-soluzzjoni l-faċli: l-inċinerazzjoni. X’utilitá hemm li nippubblikaw dawn l-istrateġiji jekk ma l-ewwel diffikultá inwarrbuhom u narmuhom?

Id-“deċiżjoni kuraġġuża” li jirreferi għaliha l-Ministru Herrera, l-inċinerazzjoni, hi riżultat ta’ ippjanar imgerfex, ippjanar mil-lum għal-ghada. Hu ovvju li l-ispażju għall-miżbliet huwa limitat. Imma s-soluzzjonijiet prattiċi u realistiċi, imfassla b’mod ċar fil-Pjan għall-Immaniġjar tal-Iskart ġew injorati tul is-snin. L-għażla reali, la kienet u l-anqas ma hi, bejn iktar miżbliet u l-inċinerazzjoni, imma dwar kemm aħna kapaċi nilħqu l-miri tagħna stess dwar ir-riċiklaġġ u t-tnaqqis tal-iskart. Meta l-pjan dwar l-immaniġjar tal-iskart kien imfassal kien meqjus bħala l-għodda addattata biex nimmaniġjaw ir-riżorsi. Dan kollu in konsistenza mal-politika tal-Unjoni Ewropea dwar l-iskart, ir-riżorsi, l-ekonomija ċirkulari u dokumenti politiċi oħra tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea.

Mir-rapport tekniku li ppubblika l-Ministru Josè Herrera hu ċar li flimkien mal-inċinerazzjoni ser ikun hemm bżonn ukoll ta’ “kampanja aggressiva biex ikunu indirizzati l-miri ta’ riċiklaġġ stabiliti fid-Direttivi diversi tal-UE kif ukoll fil-Pjan għall-Imanigġjar tal-iskart tal-Gżejjer Maltin.” Din hi konferma bil-miktub li l-inċinerazzjoni hi l-prezz li rridu nħallsu għall-inkompetenza akkumulata fl-immaniġjar tal-iskart fil-gżejjer tagħna.

Imma minn dak li smajna fil-Parlament matul il-ġimgħa li għaddiet jidher li tul is-snin, il-Ministeru tal-Ambjent iktar kien interessat fl-impiegi ġġenerati mill-Wasteserve milli li jkunu onorati l-miri tar-riċiklaġġ. L-emails li ġemmgħet il-Wasteserve qieshom jindikaw li dan hu l-iktar importanti fost il-ħidmiet tagħha!

Ovvjament dejjem hemm l-inċinerazzjoni biex taħraq il-problemi akkumulati tal-iskart. Għax dik hi s-soluzzjoni l-faċli.

 

Ippubblikat f’Illum : Il-Ħadd 11 ta’ Marzu 2018

 

Incineration: the accumulated cost of incompetence

Minister Josè Herrera, on behalf of the government, has recently published the Technical Report on the setting up of a Waste to Energy facility in Malta. Prior to the commissioning of the report, the government had already taken the political decision that it should go for incineration.

In fact, Minister Herrera states in the introduction to the report that the “bold decision” was taken by government in July 2017.

As a consequence, the published report addresses the “how” and not the “if” question on incineration.

There is no doubt that the technology exists to ensure that the direct impacts of the incineration of waste are reduced to a minimum. The point at issue is, however, not on its possibility but on whether it is the desired option – and in my opinion it is not.  However, unfortunately the alternatives to incineration take time to be developed and there has been no political will over the years to implement the realistic identified alternatives.

The Waste Management Plan for the Maltese Islands was updated in 2014 and a six year roadmap was then plotted. This 2014 roadmap identified the preferred waste management options. The sub-title of this Waste Management Plan was “A Resource Management Approach”, which signifies that Malta’s waste management options should be focused on recovering resources from waste and not on destroying them to recover energy. It should be borne in mind that the energy required to manufacture the resources gobbled up by an incinerator is substantially more than that released when they are burned.

Going through this plan, approved by the current administration, one does not find any particular emphasis on incineration. Instead, there is an emphasis on waste separation, recycling and the identification of the related targets, to the extent that the year 2050 was identified by the government as a target by which to achieve zero waste to landfill.

The question to ask is: what went wrong between 2014 (when the targets were identified) and 2017 when the decision to go for incineration was taken? The clear, unequivocal answer is that Wasteserve was not capable of implementing its targets, and, as a result went for the easy solution: incineration. What is the use of publishing strategies of this sort if, when the first difficulties are encountered, they are dumped?

The “bold decision” referred to by Minister Herrera – the adoption of the incineration option – is the result of  management-by-crisis in the waste sector. Obviously, there is little available space for more landfills. However, the only practical and realistic options detailed in the Waste Management Plan were not followed adequately over the years.

The real choice was never between landfill or incineration but on whether we are capable of meeting our own recycling and waste reduction targets. When the waste management plan was drawn up it was viewed as a tool to achieve resource management. This is in line with various EU policies on waste, resource management, circular economy, and various other policy documents issued by the EU Commission.

It is clear from perusing the Technical Report published by Minister Josè Herrera that the incineration options being adopted must be “carried out in parallel with an aggressive campaign to address the targets for recycling, established in various EU Directives and the Waste Management Plan for the Maltese islands.” This is a written confirmation that the incineration option is the cost of an accumulated incompetence in the management of waste in our islands.

From what we have heard in Parliament during the past week it seems that, over the years, the Environment Ministry has been more interested in the employment posts generated by Wasteserve than in honouring recycling targets. The accumulated emails at Wasteserve seem to indicate that this is part of its mission statement!

Of course there is always incineration to burn our accumulated waste problems! It is an easy way out.

Published in the Malta Independent on Sunday : 11 March 2018

Our waste has good value

organic waste

 

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

bring-in site

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

L-ekonomija l-ħadra

green new deal

Qed nirreferi għal dik il-ħidma ekonomika li titfassal jew titwettaq b’mod li tagħti każ tal-impatti ambjentali. Il-karatteristiċi ewlenin li jiddistingwu attivita’ meqjusa bħala li tappartjeni lill-ekonomija l-ħadra minn attivita oħra huma: tnaqqis fl-emmissjonijiet, tnaqqis fit-tniġġis, effiċjenza fl-użu tal-enerġija w ir-riżorsi, li tkun evitata t-telfa tal-bodiversita’ u l-ħarsien tas-servizzi li kontinwament tagħtina (b’xejn) l-ekosistema.

L-ekonomija l-ħadra taħdem flimkien man-natura, mhux kontra tagħha. Allura tfittex li tnaqqas l-impatti ambjentali tal-ħidma ekonomika f’kull qasam. Hi u tagħmel hekk toħloq ix-xogħol.

Toħloq ix-xogħol fil-ġenerazzjoni ta’ enerġija nadifa u alternattiva kif ukoll fil-ħidma biex tiżdied l-effiċjenza fl-użu tal-enerġija.

Ix-xogħol jinħoloq ukoll fil-proċess li jrid iwassalna sal-punt li ma niġġenerawx iktar skart. Dan ifisser li mhux biss irridu narmu inqas imma bħala pajjiż hu meħtieġ li nkunu kapaċi nirriċiklaw iktar dak li ma jkollniex iktar użu għalih. Ir-rimi tal-iskart hu rimi ta’ riżorsi prezzjużi li fil-parti l-kbira tal-każi nistgħu nsibu użu ieħor għalhom.

L-ekonomija l-ħadra toħloq ix-xogħol ukoll fil-qasam tat-trasport pubbliku. Nafu li trasport pubbliku effiċjenti (meta xi darba jkollna) jnaqqas b’mod sostanzjali t-tniġġis tal-arja fl-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna. Jnaqqas ukoll l-istorbju iġġenerat minn traffiku kontinwu. Dan iseħħ billi (meta jkun effiċjenti) t-trasport pubbliku jħajjar iktar persuni minna biex nagħmlu użu minnu flok ma nagħmlu użu mill-karozzi privati tagħna. Fuq perjodu ta’ żmien trasport pubbliku effiċjenti jista’ jikkonvinċina li wara kollox nistgħu ngħaddu mingħajr karozza privat. Ta’ l-inqas nitħajjru nnaqsu l-karozzi fil-familji. Dan nistgħu nagħmluh meta nkunu konvinti li jkun jaqbel li nagħmlu dan.

Din tkun sitwazzjoni li minnha jirbaħ kulħadd. Jirbaħ il-pajjiż kollu għax ikollna kwalita’ ta’ arja aħjar. Nirbħu aħna lkoll mhux biss għax ninqdew aħjar imma ukoll għax innaqqsu l-ispejjes biex ikollna l-karozzi privati.

Tirbaħ ukoll l-ekonomija tal-pajjiż għax bil-ħidma tal-ekonomija l–ħadra jkunu ġġenerati l-impiegi. Impiegi b’differenza. Impiegi ħodor (green jobs) li permezz tagħhom jinħoloq il-ġid mingħajr ma issir ħsara ambjentali.

ippubblikata fuq iNews it-Tnejn 16 ta’ Diċembru 2013

Towards a Circular Economy

circular economy

In a recent interview EU Environment Commissioner Januz Potočnik stated that the European Union is en route to the circular economy. A step which he described as being essential in ensuring the EU’s competitiveness.

The circular economy, in contrast to the linear economy is one which respects nature and seeks to utilise the earth’s resources in a sustainable manner.

The linear economy is based on a take-make-waste model, extracting raw materials from the earth and dumping the resulting waste after use.  This is a cradle to grave path for raw materials. The EU’s waste management strategy in conjunction with its Roadmap to a Resources Efficient Europe seeks to decouple the generation of waste from economic growth thus nudging the EU towards a new path: one of green growth.

This is also the basic philosophy of the Waste Management Strategy proposed by the Environment Ministry in Malta and currently subject to public consultation.

Malta’s proposed Waste Management Strategy advocates a policy of waste minimisation, that is, we must make an effort to avoid use of resources whenever possible. In addition it then advocates recycling the waste which is generated. This is done by tackling different waste streams in a manner most appropriate to the materials used in that specific stream. 2050 is the Malta target for achieving a Zero Waste society. An achievable target only if we get down to business immediately.

Waste separation is  an essential prerequisite in order to ensure that effective recycling takes place.   As a result of recycling, the waste from a specific product or process feeds a separate process. This is the manner in which nature functions. Have you ever noted how a tree sheds its leaves? How these leaves slowly decompose and nourish the soil, micro-organisms, insects and plants and actually feed the surrounding eco-system?

We have a lot to learn from nature. Biomimicry, imitating nature, is in fact a branch of study which seeks to apply nature’s lessons to solve many modern day problems. Discarding our throwaway attitudes is one such basic lesson.

Modern manufacturing is characterised by a cradle to grave design. It is the result of a society accustomed to throw away products once their useful life ends.

Applying nature’s lessons hence signifies manufacturing products whose life cycle is no longer one which leads from the cradle (production) to their grave (disposal). Instead of being discarded at the end of its useful life a product gives birth to something else through recycling. Just like nature does when dealing with the tree’s leaves. The cradle to grave cycle needs to be transformed into a cradle to cradle cycle.

This obviously has an impact on the manner in which products are designed.  In their  book  Cradle to Cradle, remaking the way we make things, American Architect William McDonough and German Chemist Michael Braungart explain that life cycle thinking, instead of filtering out the undesirable substances and toxins in a product at the end of the manufacturing process filter them out at the beginning, that is on the drawing board.

A waste management strategy which is based on a resource management approach is linked to these long term aims. It is a long process but one which is finally rewarding.

By separating our waste we facilitate its recycling. When recycling takes place we reduce the take-up of the earth’s resources and consequently avoid using the energy required to extract more resources from the earth.

All this shifts the focus from economic growth linked to activities which harm our surroundings to economic activity which enhances them. This leads to the creation of  green jobs.  It shifts our thinking to one which links prosperity with environment protection.

Resource efficiency is at the core of Europe’s 2020 strategy. It does not only mean doing more with less, that is, being eco-efficient. It requires also being eco-effective, that is ensuring that the consideration of long term impacts features in all our decisions. That means designing the present with the future in mind.

A waste management policy based on resource efficiency is an essential tool in this respect. This is just one example. Plenty of other examples can be found in appropriate policies to manage our water resources, our land use, our heritage.

All this leads back to the circular economy which is not just a green way of organising our economy.  It is a different way of life. A way of life which is not antagonistic to our surroundings but one which is in harmony with them.

This is what sustainable development is all about. It seeks to redimension the manner we think.. Having just one Earth we must realise that we cannot have another try if we succeed in ruining the present one.  There is no Plan B.

The circular economy is an adequate tool which can set us back on track.

published in The Times, Saturday November 2, 2013

Waste Management politics

scrapyard

“We encourage waste separation in localities. However we recognise that this is not enough. As a country we still lag behind and have failed to reach targets on packaging waste as well as waste generated by electrical and electronic equipment.

It is essential to address the operation of scrapyards. These process waste which is subject to at least three Directives of the EU, namely the WEEE Directive, the End of Life Vehicles Directive and the Batteries Directive. The manner in which scrapyards have been permitted to operate signifies a total disregard of the principles and safeguards listed in the said Directives. The fact that after more than eight years of EU membership we are still discussing these issues signifies the low level of preparedness to shoulder environmental responsibilities resulting from EU adhesion.” (AD’s Electoral Manifesto, pages 89-90, March 2013)

The existence of operational scrapyards is an affront to Malta’s environmental obligations.

In scrapyards one finds discarded vehicles and other objects made primarily of metal  beyond their useful life. There are a number of operational scrapyards in various areas in Malta.  A major one was closed by MEPA some years back in Birżebbuġa. This is now in the process of reopening as an up to standard End of Life Vehicle facility based in Ħal-Far. The relative planning and environmental applications have been processed by MEPA and Malta Enterprise and the facility should be operational in the not too distant future.  There are other scrapyards (large and small) in various parts of the island. 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. Employment created in this type of activity is an important source of green jobs.

Vehicles and equipment beyond its useful life cannot be disposed of haphazardly. Three specific EU Directives,  namely the End of Life Vehicle Directive (ELV), the Batteries Directive and the Waste from Electric and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) establish  the responsibilities of EU member states to regulate in detail these specific waste streams.  The objective is to recover metals and other materials which would otherwise go to waste. Their recovery should however be carried out in an environmental friendly manner.

Each and every part of a vehicle or a piece of equipment should be dismantled with particular care being given to the collection of fluids and gases. No such care is afforded in scrapyards.

Similarly it is to be pointed out that the electric and electronic waste directive (WEEE) is not being properly implemented in Malta. This is due to the fact that there is a conflict between the responsibilities spelt out in the Directive and the eco-contribution charged in Malta on electric, electronic and white goods.

The WEEE Directive spells out and applies the responsibility of producers for disposing of the electric and electornic waste generated by their products. It does so to encourage producers to put on the market products which are easily recoverable and which can be recycled without much difficulty and expense. The recovery from consumers of electric/electronic products and white goods beyond their useful life can be carried out an at expense which in terms of the WEEE Directive is to be added to the purchase price. But the situation in Malta is such that the cost of processing the waste generated by electric/electronic products and white goods is already quantified as an eco-contribution. This was fairplay when there was no WEEE Directve in operation. But now producers would have to pay twice for the same service. They pay an eco-contribution on placing the product on the market and then they must pay once more to honour their WEEE committments.

In view of the above the WEEE Directive has not yet been properly implemented in Malta.

It is about time that we get our house in order. The politics of waste is a very important matter which has not yet been given sufficient thought.  Except that is for the siting of waste management faciltiies, which seems to be the only waste issue which has interested the public in recent years.

The Issues Paper published recently by Minister Leo Brincat makes scant reference to the above. Maybe this is because it is a preliminary document preceeeding the actual Waste Management Plan for 2014-20.

A structured discussion on waste policy will certainly be of help. Having a multitiude of public consultation exercises by the different Ministries launched during the summer period is not  good practice. It is an old trick played by those who want to  nominally honour their obligations to consult.  Hopefully when the actual draft Waste Management  Plan 2014-20 is available for consultation we will have ample time to discuss.

published in The Times of Malta, Saturday August 31, 2013