The government has postponed the publication of a legal notice introducing a mandatory deposit system for cans and plastic bottles in a last minute attempt to get retailers on board.
Speaking during yesterday’s Greening the Economy conference, Environment Minister George Pullicino and Edwin Vassallo, the parliamentary secretary for the self-employed, made it clear that before such a scheme is implemented, retailers must be taken on board.
The government originally intended to publish the legal notice for public consultation three weeks ago, but following an angry reaction from the Malta Chamber of SMEs (GRTU) which threatened to boycott the scheme, the government decided to give more time for discussions.
Speaking during the conference, parliamentary secretary Edwin Vassallo insisted that recovery schemes should only be introduced after full consultation with retailers.
“It is not enough that someone comes up with a scheme, it is important that before introducing it everyone is on board,” Edwin Vassallo said.
In his intervention Vassallo said that he was not involved in discussions on the introduction of waste recovery schemes, and referred to the negative feedback from self-employed grumbling about extra costs: “We do not need textbook solutions. We should not copy foreign solutions. Solutions must be adopted to the realities of small businesses.”
Vassallo insisted that the size of shops must be taken in to account when enacting these schemes. He also referred to the potential inflationary impact of schemes if they mean extra costs for the retailer.
The GRTU has objected to the whole concept of deposit scheme as proposed in the legal notice. The legal notice had proposed a deposit fee of 3 cents on each plastic bottle or beverage can. The consumer would have recovered the deposit upon returning the empty containers from retail shops and other receipt points. Claiming that the new system would have created new costs for the retailer, the GRTU insisted that retailers should not have any role in waste management.
Instead of the deposit system the GRTU proposed a greater investment in an efficient kerbside collection system.
Asked how the government intends to get retailers on board when the GRTU is objecting to the idea of a deposit scheme, Minister George Pullicino insisted that an agreement with retailers is essential for the system to work.
“All the links in the chain must be inter-linked if we want the system to work,” Pullicino told Business Today.
Pullicino also added that the GRTU is only disagreeing with the current proposal and is not imposed in principle to a waste recovery scheme.