The government is consideringintroducing new rules to curb the use of plastic bags, after measures introduced in 2005 proved to be an abject failure.
Meanwhile, the government has no statistics to show how much packaging waste was re-used or recycled in the past three years, despite strict targets imposed by the European Union, and has hired an international firm to collect the necessary information.
By 2007 Malta was obliged to recover 47% of its packaging waste and to recycle another 25%.
The last available data dates back to 2004 when only 5% of Malta’s packaging waste was recovered from a 27% target set by the packaging directive. In the same year, only 5% was recycled from a 21% target.
With a new flow of waste in the form of plastic bottles invading Malta, it is highly unlikely that Malta will be able to meet EU targets for this year.
According to the Ministry, international advisory firm Ernst & Young Limited has been subcontracted and is currently collecting the data for 2005, 2006 and 2007.
The only statistics available are those on the amount of waste deposited in bring in sites, which has increased by 57% since 2005.
Whether Malta will be able to match the EU targets hinges on the success of the recently introduced weekly collection of waste from homes.
According to proposed legislation, traders who form part of a recovery scheme can benefit from a refund on their eco taxes, what was the amount of eco tax refunded in the past year.
But it is not clear how the refund mechanism will work after the government abandoned plans for a deposit system for plastic bottles in favour of a collection scheme from households.
According to the ministry, a legal notice issued last November is currently being updated to reflect these issues. But the ministry would not reveal any statistics on the use of plastic bags.
Bags of trouble
Speaking in the House of Representatives in November 2005 Environment Minister George Pullicino said that following the introduction of the eco-contribution, the number of plastic bags ending up in the waste stream decreased by 22 million during 2005.
Asked whether the number of plastic bags in the waste stream has increased or decreased after 2005, the Ministry spokesperson replied that the ministry has “no further data to report on this.”
A visit to any supermarket in Malta will confirm that people are back to their old habits packing their shopping in plastic bags given for free over the counter.
However the same spokesperson added that the “government does not rule out further initiatives to continue to restrict the use of plastic bags.”
In an interview with MaltaToday a few weeks before the election Minister Pullicino hinted at an Irish solution to the plastic bag problem.
“I regret that we did not do the same as Ireland. In Ireland, one has to pay for the taxed plastic bag directly upon paying the bill. What happened in Malta is that the cost of the plastic bag has been absorbed in the total bill.”
Apart from meeting targets set by the EU’s directive on packaging waste Malta has also to fulfil deadlines set by the landfill directive .
This directive obliges Malta to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste deposited in landfills.
By 15 July 2010, Malta will have to reduce the biodegradable waste going to landfill to 75% of the total amount by weight of biodegradable municipal waste produced in 1995.
According to the ministry, the 2010 target will be met by the Sant’Antnin facility.
But by 15 July 2013, the biodegradable waste going to landfill will have to be reduced to 50% of the total amount by weight of biodegradable municipal waste produced in 1995.
This deadline cannot be met by Sant Antnin alone, and new waste treatment plants will be required.