21 – 27 February 2001

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Doing away with the Maghtab landfill

By Francis Zammit Dimech

The environment minister last Friday answered the most pressing question to Malta's problem of solid waste: How to manage the environment over the next century to prevent further disasters on the scale of Maghtab? The answer lies in the Integrated Solid Waste Management Strategy and Project, as Dr Zammit Dimech explains…

Last year about 1.4 million tons of solid waste were disposed of at Maghtab and Sant'Antnin. Of this amount there were 1,170,000 tons of construction waste, 165,000 tons of domestic waste and 88,000 tons of industrial waste. This was an increase of 18 per cent on 1999. Construction waste was up by 230,000 tons, or by 25 per cent. A positive sign, if we look at this increase as an indication of increased activity in the construction industry. A negative sign, if we look at the at the Maghtab landfill which the years turned into a mountain.

Your question is: How would you manage the environment in Malta over the next century to prevent other disasters on the scale of Maghtab? The answer lies in the Integrated Solid Waste Management Strategy and in the Integrated Solid Waste Management Project.

The Strategy evolves around four strategic guidelines, namely prevention, recovery, improving disposal conditions and regulation of transport of waste. A National Plan for the Management of Solid Waste will be published in the very near future. This will be based on solutions resulting from the call for Contract Proposals for the Development and Operation of an Integrated System for the Receipt, Management, Treatment, Processing and Disposal of Solid Waste in Malta. The request for proposals will end next month. It is expected that the adjudication process will take around 36 weeks to be concluded. So we envisage that by the end of this year, or the beginning of next year, a Letter of Acceptance will be issued.

What does the Integrated Solid Waste Management Project entail? Quoting from the Contract Proposal, the successful contractor assumes "responsibility for the provision of an Integrated Waste Management System with all the necessary facilities, plant, equipment, staff and support services capable of receiving, treating, transporting and disposing of all the waste currently being received, treated, transported and disposed of by the Government." The Proposal adds that "such responsibility may also include any or all of the four existing facilities listed below together with the respective existing waste mass and that accumulating during the contractual period:

•the St Antnin Solid Waste Treatment Plant at Marsascala;
•the (active) landfill at Maghtab, l/o Naxxar;
•the (active) landfill at Ta' Qortin, Xaghra - Gozo;
•the (closed down) landfill at Wied Fulija, l/o Zurrieq."

Definitely this project will not take a century to materialize. The present Government is expecting that the construction and finishing of works related to the modification of existing facilities shall be completed within the first eighteen months of the Contractual period. The construction of new facilities shall be completed within the first 36 months. This means that within a period of from four to five years all the facilities forming part of the Solid Waste Project will be in operation. It is also envisaged that the minimum Contractual Period of the Proposal shall be of 15 years from the date of the Letter of Acceptance .

The Solid Waste Management Project includes not only the closure of the landfills but also the possible reduction in volume of the existing waste mass and its subsequent rehabilitation to a usable land area, safe for public use, within a stipulated time. As the size of our island is what it is, Government is considering various options for the reuse and recycling of this relatively large waste mass, including controlled reclamation at sea. This entails the construction of small islands from solid waste which could be turned into real estate.

Under European Community Legislation, member States are obliged to draw up waste management plans. By themselves waste management plans do not solve the waste problems. Everybody must act to reduce the volume of waste. The economic sectors should not only minimize their waste but involve themselves in the recovery and recycling of used products. Citizens should become more discerning consumers by choosing products with a longer useful life, by giving preference to recyclable products, by cutting down on packaging and reusing it.

My last appeal to our younger generation. The Ministry for the Environment seeks your co-operation to prevent mini-scale Maghtabs from mushrooming all over our islands. My Ministry is doing its utmost to cart hundreds of truckloads of rubbish and debris from areas which are much more appreciated by everybody when clean and which can serve as recreational and leisure centres. Lately employees from the Unit Ghall-Ambjent Nadif carted over 150 truckloads of debris and rubbish from the area of Ghar Hasan and the road that leads to Fort Benghajsa.

Other areas which were cleared are the open spaces on the outskirts of Imtarfa, the road leading to Popeye Village, an area on the outskirts of Luqa and Qormi. Last year the Unit Ghall-Ambjent Nadif carted 1,500 truckloads, or 6,800 tons of rubbish, from 670 kilometres of roads. This shows the extent of the littering in these islands by irresponsible persons. I am sure that if each and everyone of us shows more civic responsibility we will make this country cleaner.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt