Lessons from nature

We are accustomed to the functioning of the linear economy. We extract the resources from the earth, we make use of them and subsequently when they are beyond their useful life, we throw them away.

Nature works quite differently. We can learn a lot from nature. As a matter of fact, if we try to imitate nature, we can solve many of the problems which we face.

Biomimicry is a relatively new branch of study which seeks ways in which we can learn from nature. Discarding our throwaway attitudes is one such basic lesson.

Take a look at any tree. At the appropriate time, it sheds its leaves, which disintegrate in the soil below. Nature does not waste the leaves shed by the tree, as they are reused and reabsorbed through the roots of the same tree as nutrients.

This is how nature’s economy works. Mother nature functions on the basis of a cradle-to-cradle philosophy in contrast to our cradle-to-grave attitude. The natural economy is a circular one which does not throw anything away: it recycles everything. At the end of the useful life of any natural product this does not end in a landfill but it gives birth to another product, a new fruit. It is reintroduced into the natural cycle.

In their book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we make things William McDonough and Michael Braungart focus specifically on this matter. They identify specific industrial and commercial initiatives which seek to dematerialise the economy as a result of which we can end up doing much more with less use of resources. The same or better level of service is achieved but, in the process, there are substantially fewer material inputs: practical resource efficiency.

In addition to saving on material costs as well as energy used, the transition from a linear to a circular economy presents numerous potential benefits. In particular, it attracts additional investment and can create thousands of jobs that practically and realistically contribute to making the world a better place to live in.

This week the Minister for the Environment gave an update on a national action plan to intensify efforts to align Malta to circular economy principles. This is positive even though we have heard this a multitude of times over the years.

The Honourable Minister outlined government’s plans on plastic bottle return machines which will be available all over the islands to facilitate their recycling. As a result of this initiative plastic bottles will be returned at which point a deposit paid on their purchase will be refunded.

It would be pertinent to point out that way back in 2004, or thereabouts, a proposal essentially very similar to this had been submitted to the then PN led government as an alternative to the eco-contribution scheme.  In fact, Farsons had then proposed the setting up of a deposit refund scheme for packaging waste on the basis of the Danish model. It was however unfortunately shot down instead of being developed and adapted to the local circumstances. Government instead opted for an eco-tax as emphasised by another powerful lobby which had a much easier access to Prime Minister Gonzi and his entourage. This is all documented.

Seventeen years down the line we are back at the original point of departure. Seventeen years have in the meantime been wasted. It is in everybody’s interest that the proposed scheme functions successfully. The objective is to achieve an 85 per cent recycling of the packaging waste generated on these islands. I believe that it is achievable now just as it was seventeen years ago. It puts back some sense in Malta’s waste management policy! Hopefully it will not be sabotaged once more.

I look forward to the implementation date.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 23 May 2021

The basics of waste politics

Waste is what we throw away. It does however have value, which at times can be substantial.

We have lived most of our lives in a linear economy as a result of which, after we consume a product, at the end of its useful life, we throw it away as we have no further use for it.

The shift to a circular economy ought to change all that, such that after consumption we do not throw away what’s left from our “consumed product”.  In a circular economy, at the end of its useful life a product is used to create a new product. This is the objective of a sustainable waste management policy.

Incinerating waste is a declaration of failure of waste management policy. This policy has not failed overnight. Its failure is the accumulated result of mismanagement over the years as well as a reluctance of the authorities as well as the regulator to set up clear and practical objectives which drive the message home that each and every one of us needs to take control of the waste that we generate.

Consider for example the issue of organic waste. While undoubtedly progress has been achieved on the organic waste generated in our households, we still lag behind in controlling the organic waste generated by the tourism industry. The impacts of Covid-19 on the tourism industry is a unique, once in a lifetime opportunity, to bring the industry to its senses on the need to control its act. It is an opportunity which is being unfortunately being lost.

Recycling in Malta is in shambles. Malta is currently recycling around 12 per cent of Municipal Solid Waste when the Waste Framework Directive target for 2020 is fifty per cent which increases to 55 per cent in 2025. This is the extent of the failure of waste management policy in Malta.

It is a key principle of EU waste policy to move up the waste hierarchy ladder: disposal (including incineration) being the least desirable with waste prevention being the most desirable stage.

Incineration encourages the throwaway society. It does not encourage citizens to care about what they consume. It sends the message that others will shoulder the problems created by our consumption.

Where is the environmental benefit of incineration? A study commissioned by the international NGO Zero Waste Europe entitled The Potential Contribution of Waste Management to a Low Carbon Economy indicates that recycling of waste can save substantially much more energy that can be generated through the incineration of the same waste. The waste to energy proposal is thus another gimmick.

More effort needs to be invested in waste minimisation and in recycling of waste. The recycling industry has the potential of developing into a very robust pillar of the green economy, creating a number of green jobs. The government proposal in favour of incineration will be an insurmountable obstacle as a result of which this important element of the circular economy will not be allowed to develop.

Burning waste in an incinerator will further reduce the commitment of the few who are currently bothering to recycle. Instead of avoiding addressing the failure of implementing the waste management strategy, it would be more appropriate if the reasons for this failure are identified and acted upon.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 18 October 2020

It-tnaqqis tal-iskart iġġenerat, jipproteġi l-art agrikola

Ir-residenti ta’ Birżebbuġa jilmentaw dwar it-tniġġiż mill-ħsejjes iġġenerati mill-Port Ħieles. Ir-residenti tal-Furjana jilmentaw dwar l-impatti tal-cruise liners fuq il-kwalità tal-ħajja tagħhom, kemm minħabba t-tniġġiż tal-arja kif ukoll minħabba t-tniġġiż akustiku. Ir-residenti tal-Gudja, Ħal-Luqa, Ħal-Kirkop u tal-irħula tal-madwar huma effettwati mill-operat tal-uniku ajruport li għandna. L-impjant ta’ Sant Antnin għat-Trattament tal-iskart qatt ma tqies ġar eżemplari mir-residenti ta’ Wied il-Għajn.

Ħadd ma jixtieq miżbla wara biebu. Miżbla jew faċilità għall-immaniġjar tal-iskart wara l-bieb, tfisser iktar minn impatti negattivi jekk teħodlok ukoll l-għodda ewliena tal-għixien tiegħek inkella teqridlek darek. Dan hu l-każ tal–bdiewa u r-residenti tal-Magħtab.

Il-miżbla tal-Magħtab ilha topera mill-1977, meta l-miżbla f’Wied Fulija (Iż-Żurrieq) kienet qed toqrob li timtela.

Il-bdiewa tal-Magħtab ilhom jaqilgħu fuq rashom żmien. Wieħed mill-bdiewa li ltqajt miegħu l-ġimgħa l-oħra spjegali li lill-familja tiegħu, fl-1975 kienu ħadulhom 75 tomna raba’ li kienet tinħadem, ftit iktar minn 84,000 metru kwadru, biex jiffurmaw parti mill-miżbla li nħolqot dakinnhar. Illum ser jeħdulhom 25 tomna oħra biex ikabbru madwar 28,000 metru kwadru.

Kif nistgħu nevitaw li l-kumpless tal-iskart fil-Magħtab ikompli jikber billi jibla’ 254,144 metru kwadru ta’ art, primarjament raba’ li tinħadem, kif qed tipproponi l-Wasteserv?

X’ġustizzja hi li sezzjoni waħda tal-popolazzjoni tkun mistennija li ġġorr waħedha l-piż tal-impatti li lkoll kemm aħna nikkontribwixxu għalihom? Ma jkunx iktar ġust li l-piż jinqasam? Fejn ser niġbdu linja?

Jekk nillimita ruħi għall-materja presentment taħt il-lenti, dik tal-immaniġjar tal-iskart, neħtieġu ppjanar sew u dan fil-kuntest tal-għodda ta’ politika kurrenti li tikkonċerna l-iskart. Imma jeħtieġilna li nimxu mal-miri ta’ ħidma stabiliti, għax inkella ma naslu qatt.
It-tnaqqis tal-ħolqien tal-iskart, li dan jintagħżel (is-separazzjoni) u li jkun riċiklat huma tlett għodod bażiċi fil-ħidma li ssir biex l-iskart ikun immaniġjat. Jekk dan isir sewwa l-ammont ta’ skart li jispiċċa fil-miżbla għandu jonqos b’mod sostanzjali. B’riżultat ta’ hekk jkun hemm inqas ħtieġa ta’ art biex tkun kkonvertita f’miżbla. Dan hu l-iskop tal-leġislazzjoni ambjentali tal-Unjoni Ewropeja li suppost li ilna nsegwu sa minn meta fl-2004 isseħibna fl-Unjoni Ewropea.

Il-politika dwar it-tnaqqis tal-ħolqien tal-iskart tfisser tnaqqis ippjanat tal-iskart iġġenerat. Inizjattivi dwar amminsitrazzjoni elettronika huma passi posittivi f’din id-direzzjoni. L-amministrazzoni elettronika hi waħda bla karti, avolja xi kultant din twassal sempliċiment biex tnaqqas l-użu tal-karta minn uffiċċju u żżidu f’ieħor. Anke it-tnaqqis fl-iskart li joriġina mill-ippakkeġġjar ukoll jikkontribwixxi b’mod sostanzjali għall-iskart iġġenerat. Fi djarna hu possibli ukoll li nnaqqsu l-iskart li nipproduċu. F’dan il-kuntest kampanji ta’ informazzjoni u edukazzjoni għandhom rwol importanti.

Imma hemm kontradizzjoni fil-politika tal-Gvern f’dan ir-rigward. Id-deċiżjoni li jkollna inċineratur tirrikjedi ammont kontinwu ta’ skart biex jitma lill-inċineratur. Filwaqt li suppost li qed ninkoraġixxu t-tnaqqis tal-ġenerazzjoni tal-iskart, l-inċineratur jirrikjedi l-oppost: il-ġenerazzjoni kontinwa ta’ ammont sostanzjali ta’ skart. Mingħajru l-inċineratur ikollu jagħmel id-dieta.

Is-separazzjoni tal-iskart tinvolvi l-għażla ta’ tipi differenti ta’ skart. Dan jiffaċilita li l-iskart li jkun intagħżel ikun użat u mhux mormi. Is-separazzjoni tal-iskart organiku, per eżempju, jiffaċilita it-trattament ta’ dan l-iskart biex minnu jkun prodott kemm l-elettriku kif ukoll il-kompost. L-iskart organiku jammonta għal madwar 50% tal-iskart iġġenerat fid-djar. Imma fl-industrija tal-catering l-iskart organiku jammonta għal porzjon ferm ikbar mill-iskart iġġenerat f’dik l-industrija.

Skond il-Wastserv, 27,000 tunellata ta’ skart organiku inġabru mid-djar matul l-2019. Dan jista’ jiżdied għal 70,000 tunellata fis-sena jekk f’kull dar nagħmlu sforz ikbar biex l-iskart organiku jkun separat. Il-Wasteserv ma tipprovdix informazzjoni dwar l-iskart miġbur mill-istabilimenti tal-ikel. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan in-nuqqas ta’ informazzjoni l-Wasteserve qed tindika li ma tafx x’qed jiġri f’dan il-qasam. Lanqas ma hu ċar jekk l-iskart organiku mhux ipproċessat li dan l-aħħar deher imħallat ma skart ieħor f’ritratti u filmati dwar l-operat tal-miżbla tal-Magħtab hux inkluż fl-informazzjoni ippubblikata mill-Wasteserv.

Li niġbru l-iskart organiku b’mod separt u li nipproċessawh ma jfissirx biss li jkun hemm inqas skart li jmur fil-miżbla: ifisser tnaqqis mhux żgħir fil-gassijiet serra (greenhouse gases) attribwibbli lil Malta u allura tnaqqis tal-impatt Malti fuq it-tibdil fil-klima.

Ir-riċiklaġġ tal-iskart f’Malta għadu lura meta mqabbel ma dak mistenni minna. L-unika qasam li qabad huwa dak li jirrigwarda l-iskart tal-ippakkeġġjar. Iż-żieda meħtieġa fir-riċiklar ukoll tnaqqas l-iskart li jinġabar fil-miżbla u għaldaqstant meta naslu biex inżidu r-rata tar-riċiklar il-Wasteserv ikollha inqas ħtieġa li tuża’ art agrikola biex testendi l-miżbla tal-Magħtab.

L-għajnuna li nistgħu nagħtu lill-bdiewa tal-Magħtab biex ikunu jistgħu jibqgħu jaħdmu ir-raba’ tista’ timmaterjalizza biss jekk inkunu kapaċi innaqqsu bil-kbir l-iskart li nibgħatu fil-miżbla. Għandna niftakru li l-istrateġija kurrenti għall-immaniġjar tal-iskart fil-gżejjer Maltin għandha l-mira ta’ skart zero sas-sena 2050. Għadna lura biex naslu!

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 1 ta’ Marzu 2020

Reducing waste generation protects agricultural land

Birżebbuġa residents complain about the noise generated by the Freeport. Floriana residents complain about the impact of cruise liners on their lives through depleted air quality, as well as acoustic pollution. The residents of Gudja, Luqa, Kirkop and other villages in the area are affected by the operations of our only airport. The Sant’ Antnin Waste Treatment Plant has never been considered a good neighbour by the residents of Marsaskala.

Understandably, no one wants a landfill on his doorstep. In addition to bad neighbourliness, matters are even worse if the projected landfill (or a waste management facility) takes over your means of making a living. This is the case that the Magħtab residents and farmers are emphasising.

The Magħtab landfill has been in operation since 1977, when use of the landfill at Wied Fulija (Iż-Żurrieq) was being scaled down.

The Magħtab farmers have been at the receiving end for quite some time. One particular farmer, whom I met last week, told me – way back in 1975 – his family was dispossessed of 75 tumoli (over 84,000 square metres) of agricultural land that was taken over for the then proposed landfill. Today, another 25 tumoli (around 28,000 square metres) of agricultural land worked by the same family will also be taken up.

The point at issue is whether the proposed take-over of 254,144 square metres of additional land, mostly agricultural, to be absorbed into the Magħtab landfill complex, can be avoided, in whole or in part.

Futhermore, is it fair – or even ethical – for one section of the population to be expected to bear the brunt of impacts to which each one of us contributes? Should the burden not be spread, thereby ensuring that all communities shoulder part of it?

Where do we draw the line?

Limiting myself to the current issues of waste management, the problems to be faced have to be first resolved on the drawing board, on the basis of the policy options available. Subsequently, we need to ensure that the established targets are scrupulously observed in practice.

Waste minimisation, waste separation and waste recycling are three basic waste-management tools which should be used properly. Adequate use of such tools would reduce substantially the amount of waste going to landfill. As a result, if properly utilised, these policy tools would lead to a substantially reduced demand for land to be used as a landfill. This is the objective of the EU acquis which we ought to have followed since 2004 on EU accession.

A policy of waste minimisation involves a planned reduction of waste generation and initiatives relating to electronic government are a positive step in this direction. Paperless administrative processes reduce paper waste, for example, although sometimes they just shift the generation of the waste from one user to another. Reducing packaging waste also contributes substantially to waste minimisation. Even in our homes we can ensure that we minimise the waste that we generate: educational campaigns play a much important role in this respect.

There is, however, a contradiction in government policy in this regard: the decision to develop an incinerator requires a steady flow of waste to feed it. While we should be encouraging waste minimisation, the incinerator would require the opposite, waste maximisation – otherwise it would have to go on a diet.

Waste separation at source involves identifying and separating different streams of waste. This facilitates dealing appropriately with such waste. The separation of organic waste, for example, makes it possible to treat such waste in an appropriate digestor, thereby producing electricity and compost. Organic waste accounts for approximately 50 per cent of domestic waste. It does, however, account for a much larger portion of the waste generated by the catering industry.

Having a separate collection of organic waste has, according to Wastserv, resulted in a substantial amount of organic waste being collected from domestic households: 27,000 tonnes during 2019. This has the potential to grow to around 70,000 tonnes annually, if every household makes an effort in the separate disposal of organic waste. Wasteserv, however, does not provide data regarding organic waste collected from catering establishments, thereby indicating that this is not of any significance. Nor is it clear whether the unprocessed organic waste seen mixed with other general waste at the Magħtab landfill is included in Wasteserv’s published statistics on collected organic waste.

The separate collection of organic waste not only contributes to a substantial reduction in the amount of waste going to landfill: it also contributes to a reduction in released greenhouse gases, thereby reducing Malta’s contribution to climate change.

Waste recycling in Malta is still far behind what is expected. Malta’s recycling rates are still very low, except in the area of packaging waste. Adequate recycling would substantially reduce the amount of waste going to landfills, as a result reducing the uptake by Wasteserv of agricultural land for use for this purpose.

We can only help our farmers keep their agricultural land if we reduce – and eventually eliminate – waste going to landfills. We should remember that the current Waste Management Strategy for the Maltese Islands has targeted the attainment of a zero-waste objective by 2050.

Our performance to date is not encouraging.

Published in the Independent on Sunday : 1 March 2020

Il-Wasteserve: fil-Magħtab qed topera bla permess

Diversi bdiewa fil-Magħtab ġew mitluba biex jikkuntattjaw il-Wasteserve sa tmiem dan ix-xahar biex ikun iffaċilitat aċċess għall-art li qed jaħdmu u dan bl-iskop li din tkun eżaminata, “bil-ħsieb li possibilment tiġi akkwistata għal skop pubbliku”. L-avviż legali numru 1261 li kien ippubblikat fil-Gazzetta tal-Gvern tas-17 ta’ Diċembru 2019 jgħid li hemm tmien biċċiet art fil-Magħtab li qed ikunu ikkunsidrati. Din l-art għandha qies totali ta’ 254,144 metru kwadru, jiġifieri ftit iktar minn 226 tomna. Il-parti l-kbira minn din l-art għadha qed tinħadem minn bdiewa minkejja ċ-ċirkustanzi diffiċli li nħolqu kemm ilhom joperaw il-miżbliet fil-Magħtab sa mill-1975.

Xi ħtieġa għandha l-Wasteserve għal din l-art? Hemm tlett materji ewlenin dwar l-iskart li huma pendenti.

Il-miżbliet tal-Magħtab dalwaqt jimtlew. Bla dubju din is-sitwazzjoni wasalna għaliha qabel ma kien antiċipat minħabba li qed jintrema wisq skart. Ir-riċiklar għadu f’livell insinifikanti. Il-ġbir tal-iskart organiku b’mod separat għadu fil-bidu. Hemm ħtieġa urġenti biex in-nies tagħraf iktar il-ħtieġa li tnaqqas kemm l-iskart kif ukoll l-ammont tiegħu li qed jintrema fil-miżbliet.

Il-Gvern, probabbilment li qed iħejji biex jimplimenta l-wegħda elettorali dwar l-egħluq tal-impjant ta’ Sant Antnin li jittratta l-iskart. Din hi l-wegħda numru 27 fil-Manifest Elettorali tal-Partit Laburista fl-Elezzjoni Ġenerali tal-2017. Probabbilment li dan ukoll jispiċċa fil-kumpless tal-iskart tal-Magħtab li l-Wasteserve tirreferi għalih bħala iċ-Ċentru Ambjentali tal-Magħtab.

It-tielet pendenza hi dwar l-inċineratur li hu ppjanat li jibda jopera sa mhux iktar tard mill-2025.

Il-Wasteserve teħtieġ l-art għal dan kollu li ser iwassal biex il-Magħtab ikun ikkonvertit permanentement fiċ-ċentru tal-iskart fil-gżejjer Maltin.

Il-Wasteserve, fuq is-sit elettroniku tagħha tiddeskrivi l-kumpless tal-Magħtab bħala ta’ daqs komparabbli mal-Belt Valletta, li hi mifruxa fuq 600,000 metru kwadru.

Iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa, Aaron Farrugia, Ministru għall-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar, li hu politikament responsabbli għall-Wasteserve, spjega, waqt intervista mxandra fl-aħbarijiet, li l-estensjoni ippjanata għall-miżbla tal-Magħtab teħtieġ 145,000 metru kwadru ta’ art filwaqt li l-inċineratur propost u “faċilitajiet oħra” jirrikjedu 105,000 metru kwadru addizzjonali. Il-facilitajiet oħra hi referenza għall-wegħda elettorali tal-Partit Laburista biex jingħalaq l-impjant ta’ Sant Antnin għat-trattament tal-iskart.

Meta tgħodd din l-art kollha għall-proġetti tal-Wasteserve fil-Magħtab ifisser li d-daqs tal-kumpless għall-iskart ser jikber għal madwar 850,000 metru kwadru, meta l-proġetti jkunu kollha mplimentati. Dan ifisser li l-254,144 metru kwadru ta’ art, primarjament raba’, imsemmija fil-Gazzetta tal-Gvern tas-17 ta’ Diċembru 2019 tista’ isservi bl-eżatt. Xejn ma neħodha bi kbira, iżda, jekk il-Wasteserve, bħal Oliver Twist, tkun trid iktar.

Meta nfittxu fuq is-sit elettroniku tal-Awtorità għall-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi (ERA) niskopru li l-permessi magħrufa bħala IPPC permits għall-miżbliet fil-Magħtab ilhom ftit li skadew. Dan ifisser li l-Wasteserve qed topera fi stat ta’ illegalità.

Dawn il-permessi imsejħa IPPC permits (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) jinħarġu mill- ERA skond kif tistabilixxi direttiva tal-Unjoni Ewropeja u dan wara li jkun hemm studji dettaljati dwar l-attività (f’dan il-kaz miżbla) u l-impatti tagħha. Skont is-sit elettroniku tal-ERA il-miżbla għal skart mhux perikoluż Ta’ Żwejra fil-kumpless tal-Magħtab qed topera fuq bażi ta’ permess li skada fl-24 ta’ Lulju 2018 (permess IP 0001/05). Min-naħa l-oħra l-miżbla għal skart mhux perikoluż tal-Għallis, ukoll fil-kumpless tal-Magħtab, qed topera fuq bażi ta’ permess li nħareġ f’Jannar 2013 u li suppost li skada fil-bidu tal-2018 (permess IP 0001/06).

Jekk il-Wasteserve mhiex kapaċi tosserva liġijiet bażiċi ambjentali, ħadd ma għandu jeħodha bi kbira li sezzjoni tal-pubbliku jimxu fuq l-eżempju tagħha.

Għaliex ir-regolatur ambjentali, l-ERA, tittollera dawn l-affarijiet? Ic-Chairman tal-ERA, l-Professor Victor Axiaq, għandu jispjega x’inhu jiġri. Messu ilu li rreżenja.


ippubblikat fuq Illum :Il-Ħadd 23 ta’ Frar 2020

Wasteserve illegality: sort it out.

Farmers in Magħtab have been asked to contact Wasteserve by the end of this month in order to facilitate access to their land “for necessary studies with the intent of potential acquisition for public purposes”.

Notice No. 1261, published in The Malta Government Gazette of the 17 December 2019, lists eight plots of land in Magħtab which are being considered. This land has a total area of 254,144 square metres, slightly more than 226 tumoli. Most of it is currently in use as agricultural land, notwithstanding the difficult circumstances arising from the operation of landfills in the vicinity since 1975.

What does Wasteserve need this land for?

There are three pending major waste management issues. The landfills at Magħtab will be shortly filled to capacity. Undoubtedly this state of affairs has been reached earlier than anticipated due to the fact that too much waste is still going to landfill. Recycling is still at an insignificant level and the collection of organic waste as a separate stream is still in its infancy. Much still needs to be done in instilling awareness on the need to substantially reduce both the amount of waste generated as well as the portion of it going to landfill.

The Government will most probably also seek to implement its electoral pledge to close down the Sant Antnin Waste Treatment Plant. This is pledge number 27 in the Labour Party Electoral Manifesto for the 2017 general election and it, too, will most probably be directed towards the Magħtab waste complex, which Wasteserve refers to as the Magħtab Environment Complex.

The third pending issue is the so-called thermal facility, ie the incinerator, scheduled to be in operation by 2025.

Wasteserve needs land to address all three issues, in the process converting Magħtab permanently to the waste centre of the Maltese islands.

The Wasteserve website describes the Magħtab complex as being comparable in size to Valletta, being spread over an area in excess of 600,000 square metres.

Earlier Environment and Planning Minister Aaron Farrugia, politically responsible for Wasteserve, explained on television that the planned extension to the Magħtab landfill requires 145,000 square metres of land, while the proposed incinerator and other facilities would require an additional 105,000 square metres. The “other facilities” is an indirect reference to the Labour Party’s commitment to close down the Sant Antnin Waste Treatment Plant.

Adding up all this land required for the Wasteserve projects at Magħtab would bring the Waste Complex size to around 850,000 square metres when all the pending projects are implemented. This means that the proposed take up of 254,144 square metres of mostly agricultural land as declared in the Malta Government Gazette edition of the 17 December 2019 could be just enough space. Like Oliver Twist, Wasteserve will, however, most probably come back for more.

Perusal of the information available on the website of the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) indicates that the IPPC permit for the landfills at Magħtab expired quite some time ago, signifying that Wasteserve is operating in a state of illegality.

The IPPC (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) permits are issued by the ERA in terms of the provisions of the relative EU Directive after detailed studies on the operations and impacts of the proposed activity have been carried out or updated. According to the ERA website, the Ta’ Żwejra non-hazardous landfill within the Magħtab complex is operating on the basis of a permit which expired on the 24 July 2018 (permit IP 0001/05). On the other hand, the L-Għallis non-hazardous landfill, also within the Magħtab complex, operates on the basis of a permit which was issued way back in January 2013 and should have expired at the beginning of 2018 (permit IP 0001/06). Malta’s only landfill complex is thus operating without a valid permit at law.

If Wasteserve does not follow the provisions of basic environmental legislation, it is no surprise that a section of the population is inclined to follow its example.

Sort it out!

Why does the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), the environment regulator, tolerate this state of affairs? The Chairman of ERA, Professor Victor Axiaq, owes an explanation. His resignation is long overdue.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday : 23 February 2020

Sħab ma’ min iħammeġ

Il-pjan ta’ Malta dwar l-immaniġjar tal-iskart huwa intitolat “A Resource Management Approach.” Huwa titlu li għandu sinifikat u jwassal messaġġ li kull skart jeħtieġ li nħarsu lejh bħala riżorsa li għandna nagħmlu użu tajjeb minnha.

Bdejna nirriċiklaw l-iskart li niġġeneraw. F’kontenituri mxerrda mal-pajjiż jinġabar il-plastik, il-ħġieg, il-karta u l-metall. Nhar ta’ Tlieta l-ġbir tal-iskart minn wara l-bibien ta’ djarna jiffaċilita li nirriċiklaw fid-djar tagħna. Tliet darbiet fil-ġimgħa, bieb bieb, jinġabar l-iskart organiku.

Meta ser nirriċiklaw l-iskart tal-kostruzzjoni?

Meta tara r-rapporti dwar il-laqgħa li l-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi Maltin kellha f’Kastilja f’nofs il-ġimgħa tirrealizza li l-emfasi kontinwament kienet li hemm bżonn iktar postijiet fejn jintrema’ l-iskart. L-ebda vuċi ma lissnet imqar kelma waħda favur kemm hu meħtieġ ir-riċiklaġġ tal-iskart tal-kostruzzjoni kif ukoll dwar kemm dan jagħmel sens ekonomiku u ambjentali.

Hemm raġuni waħda sempliċi l-għala ħadd ma tniffes u lissen kelma favur ir-riċiklaġġ tal-iskart tal-kostruzzjoni: għax għalfejn tħabbel rasek fuq x’tista’ tagħmel ġaladarba għandek Gvern li jimmina kull inizjattiva dwar dan billi joffri is-soluzzjoni l-faċli permezz ta’ ħlas baxx biex tkun tista’ tarmi l-iskart tiegħek?

Iktar kmieni matul il-ġimgħa kien irrappurtat li s-sidien ta’ żewġ barrieri, waħda Għar Lapsi u l-oħra fl-Imqabba, ħadu l-inizjattiva u minn jeddhom għollew il-ħlas biex jintrema l-iskart tal-kostruzzjoni fil-barrieri tagħhom minn €8 għal €15 għal kull tunellata. Ir-reazzjoni għal dan kif irrappurtata fil-media hi tal-biki: il-Gvern jaqbel li joffri inċentivi biex is-sidien tal-barrieri jżommu l-prezzijiet stabbli bit-€8 kull tunellata għal tal-inqas tmintax-il xahar!

Jidher li l-Gvern għandu idea perversa tal-prinċipju ambjentali “min iħammeġ iħallas”. Flok ma jassigura li l-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni ddaħħal ftit ordni f’xogħolha u ssib soluzzjoni għall-iskart li tiġġenera, il-Gvern, b’mod irresponsabbli juża t-taxxi li jiġbor minn fuqna biex jissussidja t-tħarbit tagħhom. Huma jħammġu u aħna nħallsu.

Ir-riċiklar tal-iskart tal-kostruzzjoni jinvolvi li tissepara u ssib użu għall-ikbar ammont ta’ materjal li ma jkunx hemm użu għalih fis-sit tal-kostruzzjoni. Il-kwantità ta’ skart li tista’ tirkupra tvarja minn sit għall-ieħor imma tista’ tkun waħda sostanzjali. Tinkludi kull forma ta’ ġebel u metalli, inkluż rinforz tal-konkos minn strutturi li jkunu spiċċaw.

Uffiċjali tal-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi kontinwament jiftaħru dwar kemm jaqblu mal-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Tant jgħidu dwar dan l-iżvilupp sostenibbli li jġibulna qalbna ġunġliena, kienu ma nafuhomx biżżejjed! Mhux aħjar jippruvaw ipoġġu fil-prattika dak li jgħidu li jemmnu fih biex jippruvaw isolvu l-problemi bl-iskart li qed jiġġeneraw u b’hekk inaqqsu l-impatti ambjentali tal-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni?

Mhuma ser jagħmlu xejn qabel ma jispiċċaw daharhom mal-ħajt u jkollhom iħallsu minn imneħirhom tal-ħsara li qed jagħmlu. L-unika soluzzjoni possibbli hi t-tassazzjoni ambjentali. Jekk tkun applikata lill-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni din tkun tfisser il-ħlas ta’ taxxa fuq il-ġebla li toħroġ mill-barriera u fl-istess ħin żieda konsiderevoli fuq il-ħlas biex jintrema l-iskart sakemm l-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi tifhem li jagħmel anke sens ekonomiku u ambjentali li tirriċikla l-massimu li tista’ mill-iskart tal-kostruzzjoni.

Imma nafu li l-Gvern għandu allerġija għat-taxxi. Jippreferi jagħmel użu mis-sussidji u b’mod partikolari favur dawk li ma għandhom l-ebda dritt għalihom.

L-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi Maltin għandha linja ċara: huma impalaw il-profitti, u inti tħallas il-kont. Jistgħu jibqgħu għaddejjin biha sakemm nibqgħu b’Ministru tal-Ambjent li m’għandux idea x’laqtu.

Kulħadd hu konxju li l-Gvern hu ħaġa waħda mal-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi. Sakemm l-iżviluppaturi jibqgħu jiġu ssussidjati m’hemmx ċans li l-problema tal-iskart tal-kostruzzjoni tibda tissolva. .


ippubblikat fuq Illum 22 ta’ Settembru 2019

In cahoots with the polluter

Malta’s current Waste Management Plan is entitled “A Resource Management Approach.” This is not simple a fancy title – it encapsulates the underlying philosophy for the management of our waste which is that waste is a resource which can be put to good use.

We have started recycling our waste. Recycling bins around the islands cater for plastic, glass, paper and metal waste. Waste collection carried out on a Tuesday is an effort to facilitate recycling in our homes. Three times a week the door-to-door collection is aimed at our organic waste.

What about recycling construction waste?

Going through the reports on the Malta Developers’ Association Meeting at Castille in mid-week, the need for dumping sites for the construction waste being generated was emphasised by all those reporting: not one word was uttered in favour of the need to recycle construction waste. Neither was there any mention of the economic and environmental benefits derived from such an exercise. Who cares!

There is a very simple reason for this attitude: why rack your brains as to how to recycle when the government is continuously undermining all your efforts by offering the easy way out through cheap rates for the dumping of construction waste?

Earlier in the week, it was reported that the management of two quarries at Għar Lapsi and Mqabba had unilaterally decided to increase their dumping charges from €8 to €15 per tonne of construction waste. In reaction, it was reported in the local media that “government had agreed to provide incentives to the quarry owners to keep the price stable at €8 per tonne for at least another year and a half”.

It seems that the government has a perverted understanding of the polluter-pays environmental principle. Instead of ensuring that the construction industry cleans up its act and adequately addresses the question of how to deal with waste that it generates, the government is irresponsibly using taxpayers’ money to subsidise their mess.

Construction waste recycling is the separation and recycling of recoverable waste material generated during construction activity. The quantity of recoverable construction waste varies and includes masonry and metal items, including steel reinforcement used in discarded concrete structures.

The officials of the Malta Developers Association repeatedly claim that they are “in favour” of sustainable development. How about putting their beliefs into practice and applying them to resolving the issue of the construction waste which they generate, thereby contributing to a reduction in the environmental footprint of the construction industry?

They will not do it until such time that they are forced to pay up in full for the mess they are creating – in other words, without discounts or subsidies. Applying “the polluter-pays principle” through environmental taxation is the only possible solution. Applied to the construction industry, this would mean taxing the extraction of stone on the one hand and simultaneously increasing – many times over – the dumping charges until the Malta Developers Association realises that it makes economic sense to recycle all the recoverable construction waste.

But the government says that it is allergic to taxes. It has a distinct preference for dishing out subsidies, especially where these are not justified.

The Malta Developers Association clearly has one formula: they plough the profits and you pay their bills. They can only keep at it as long as the holder of the post of Minister of the Environment has no clue as to what his brief is all about.

It is common knowledge that the government is in cahoots with the Malta Developers Association and that as long as the polluter is not forced to pay up in full there is no end in sight to the mess developing around us.


published on the Malta Independent on Sunday : 22 September 2019

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

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