Lax en­force­ment of il­le­gal dump­ing gives cause for con­cern, GreenPak CEO says

Lax en­force­ment of reg­u­la­tions in the waste and re­cy­cling sec­tor is a cause of grave con­cern, GreenPak CEO Mario Schem­bri told The Malta In­de­pen­dent.

Malta Independent - - INTERVIEW - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land writes.

Waste man­age­ment ser­vices are frag­mented and cur­rently fall un­der three min­istries: the Min­istry for Jus­tice, the Transport Min­istry (through the cleans­ing depart­ment) and the Environment Min­istry.

“Things tend to fall through the cracks as a con­se­quence,” Mr Schem­bri said, cit­ing the ex­am­ple of waste col­lec­tors mix­ing re­cy­clable waste in one truck that had led to out­rage from con­sumers.

“The pub­lic is dili­gently sep­a­rat­ing plas­tics, pa­per and the like from other waste and dis­pos­ing them in the colour-coded bringin sites. Some ir­re­spon­si­ble waste col­lec­tors are mix­ing them all up when emp­ty­ing these bins. GreenPak con­demns this be­hav­iour and has asked the au­thor­i­ties to take the nec­es­sary ac­tions to clamp down on these waste op­er­a­tors.

“We are com­pletely against the mix­ing of al­ready sep­a­rated waste. In or­der to have an ef­fi­cient and cost-ef­fec­tive re­cy­cling sys­tem, the ear­lier the ma­te­ri­als are sep­a­rated at a con­sumer level, the more ef­fi­cient re­cy­cling will be­come, thus mean­ing there will be bet­ter per­for­mance as a na­tion.

“By sep­a­rat­ing waste, one ends up with bet­ter re­cy­cling. The more ma­te­rial is re­cy­cled, the less ma­te­rial goes to land­fill. It is that sim­ple. The peo­ple who reg­u­larly use the bring-in sites and sep­a­rate their waste know this. There­fore, it makes ab­so­lutely no sense that sep­a­rated waste ma­te­ri­als are mixed by the waste col­lec­tor.

“Such waste col­lec­tors should be pe­nalised for mix­ing ma­te­rial they take from those sites. You can­not have a col­lec­tor mix all these ma­te­ri­als in the same truck. It is il­le­gal, wrong and dis­cour­ages peo­ple from re­cy­cling. They should have their li­cences with­drawn.”

Hav­ing ev­ery­thing fall un­der three min­istries does not help the prob­lem ei­ther, the GreenPak CEO ex­plained.

“Things must be sim­pler, with less bu­reau­cracy and costs. There is also the prob­lem of clar­ity when it comes to their roles with min­istries tend­ing to step over each other’s toes or else leave a vac­uum.

“By hav­ing a co­or­di­nated sys­tem, tax­pay­ers’ money can be put to bet­ter use. At the mo­ment, you have three en­ti­ties try­ing to solve a com­mon prob­lem, of­ten in iso­la­tion from one an­other. This leads to du­pli­ca­tion of re­sources, mis­un­der­stand­ings and in some cases con­flict­ing ac­tions.”

What are GreenPak’s main aims?

“In terms of the environment, there is a con­cern re­gard­ing the waste of re­sources. Let’s not waste

waste is in fact the slo­gan of a cur­rent on­go­ing cam­paign that aims to make peo­ple less waste­ful and adopt sus­tain­able liv­ing. The idea is to try and re-use as much of the ma­te­ri­als as pos­si­ble through re­cy­cling, or not have a need for them in the first place. The con­cept of sus­tain­abil­ity started to en­ter en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­cus­sion with in­creased vigour in 1980s. Nev­er­the­less, putting ideas into prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions is much harder. One ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of how liv­ing sus­tain­ably can be achieved is through what is known as ex­tended pro­ducer re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“A study car­ried out in the 1980s aimed to un­der­stand how best to re­cy­cle a car con­cluded that it was not pos­si­ble to do so in an eco­nom­i­cally or en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able man­ner. It was dif­fi­cult to dis­man­tle the car and the ma­te­ri­als were not eas­ily re­cy­clable as they were made of in­com­pat­i­ble ma­te­ri­als.

“The so­lu­tion was to make the pro­ducer of the car re­spon­si­ble for re­cy­cling it af­ter end of use. This meant that car mak­ers had to in­cor­po­rate at all stages of the pro­duc­tion – in­clud­ing at de­sign stage – that the car is to be re­cy­cled. This closed-loop ap­proach is what ex­tended pro­ducer re­spon­si­bil­ity is all about. The pro­ducer has an obli­ga­tion to re­cy­cle the prod­uct af­ter the con­sumer has no longer use for it.

“There are four main laws in Malta gov­erned by EPR: pack­ag­ing, elec­tri­cal goods, bat­ter­ies and ve­hi­cles.

“It is, how­ever, unimag­in­able that sup­pli­ers of goods go to each house and col­lect ‘their’ prod­uct when they have no fur­ther use for them. In­stead, GreenPak does it on their be­half. GreenPak is a co­op­er­a­tive so­ci­ety made up of com­pa­nies that need to pro­vide a col­lec­tion and re­cy­cling service to the pub­lic. Es­sen­tially, GreenPak is pro­vid­ing com­pa­nies with their pro­duc­ers’ ex­tended re­spon­si­bil­ity obli­ga­tions.

“Organised as a co­op­er­a­tive, GreenPak en­sures that com­pa­nies pro­vide the best pub­lic service as it also works with a not-for­profit ob­jec­tive. To­day, GreenPak pro­vides re­cy­cling ser­vices to over 70% of the Mal­tese pop­u­la­tion through agree­ments with lo­cal coun­cils.”

Do you be­lieve a need for higher en­force­ment fines ex­ists?

Mr Schem­bri be­lieves that most fines for such of­fences are al­ready high enough. The prob­lem is not the value of the fine but the ab­sence of en­force­ment.

“I re­cently at­tended a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion meet­ing, and govern­ment is propos­ing that a €100 fine be in­tro­duced for ev­ery por­ta­ble bat­tery found in the black bag. That is high enough for me and I look for­ward to it being en­forced.

“Pro­vid­ing ef­fec­tive en­force­ment re­mains elu­sive. Yet, I be­lieve there are so­lu­tions. Ho­mo­gene­ity be­tween waste op­er­a­tors, the min­istries and the sev­eral govern­ment en­ti­ties is the first place to start. In­di­vid­ual au­thor­i­ties speak of not enough re­sources, which is true with the cur­rent set-up. In my opin­ion, one rea­son for this is that the funds being spent each year are being di­luted across many ac­tors, end­ing to pay for du­pli­ca­tion and in­ef­fi­cien­cies. The money saved through stream­lin­ing can be used for proper en­force­ment.”

Around 50 peo­ple are ex­pected to be taken to court in Oc­to­ber af­ter being caught on cam­era committing over 100 il­le­gal dump­ing-re­lated of­fences at bring-in sites in Zeb­bug.

“Ir­re­spon­si­ble peo­ple aren’t being pe­nalised enough, and in turn keep on dump­ing. Hope­fully, the court rul­ing re­gard­ing the louts caught dump­ing il­le­gally will send a clear mes­sage.”

If not en­force­ment, then what ac­tion is cur­rently being taken?

In most sit­u­a­tions, il­le­gal dump­ing at bring-in sites is being solved by send­ing in the Cleans­ing Depart­ment to clean up, rather than slap­ping peo­ple with fines and en­forc­ing the law.

“You need to keep the is­land clean, but there must be ac­count­abil­ity, and peo­ple must be pe­nalised for il­le­gal dump­ing. Other­wise, all law-abid­ing cit­i­zens are end­ing up pay­ing for these law­break­ers.”

Do you be­lieve bring-in site dump­ing could be due to a lack of ca­pac­ity or col­lec­tion is­sues?

“Def­i­nitely. GreenPak solves the ca­pac­ity prob­lem by hav­ing trucks reg­u­larly empty the sites. If they no­tice that sites are full, we send them ear­lier. We are not per­fect, but we are con­tin­u­ously mon­i­tor­ing them and try­ing to im­prove.”

He men­tioned a daily service run by GreenPak, where they are col­lect­ing empty glass bot­tles in three lo­cal­i­ties. The service, avail­able for bars and restau­rants, runs along the seafront be­tween Ma­noel Is­land, pass­ing through Qui-Si-Sana, Tower Road, Bal­luta Bay, and ends at Spinola Hill.

It was meant to run un­til this Sun­day, how­ever, “we have de­cided to ex­tend this in­def­i­nitely to at least cover the week­ends. This sys­tem was in­tro­duced be­cause the bring-in sites in the area were being over­loaded with glass.

“We re­alised that the cater­ing es­tab­lish­ments, along that strip, were emp­ty­ing their glass bot­tles at clos­ing time. There was a ca­pac­ity is­sue. We can’t fill the area with more bins, so we de­cided to pro­vide a tar­geted service to ad­dress that prob­lem. As a re­sult, we no­ticed that enough space was left in the glass skips for the service of the gen­eral pub­lic.”

Bring-in sites are emp­tied around three to four times a week, he said.

Ir­re­spon­si­ble peo­ple aren’t being pe­nalised enough, and in turn keep on dump­ing. Hope­fully, the court rul­ing re­gard­ing the louts caught dump­ing il­le­gally will send a clear mes­sage.

Given the amount of waste col­lec­tion around the is­land, do we re­ally need bring-in sites any­more?

“Def­i­nitely. We are con­tin­u­ally re­sist­ing pres­sure from lo­cal coun­cils to have us re­move bringin sites when these are being used as dumps. Lo­cal coun­cils are them­selves un­der pres­sure by res­i­dents com­plain­ing of the mess left be­hind. This brings us back to en­force­ment. Why should a pub­lic service be stopped be­cause an ir­re­spon­si­ble few go un­pun­ished?

“Re­mov­ing bring-in sites will stop peo­ple from re­cy­cling end­ing up in more waste go­ing to land­fill. Whilst many other coun­tries are mov­ing to­wards a zero waste ap­proach, mean­ing that nearly no waste will go to the land­fill, yet in Malta, we have an ever-pil­ing Maghtab.

“Waste ser­vices need to fit peo­ples’ life­styles. In some lo­cal­i­ties, the waste col­lec­tion service runs in the evening. For peo­ple work­ing from 2pm till 11pm and with a col­lec­tion service run­ning at 8pm, this is a prob­lem as the service time is at odds with their life­style.

“When this hap­pens, many end up tak­ing out their garbage bags many hours be­fore the service be­gins and it is no won­der that other peo­ple com­plain about the smell, the sight and rats.

“Pro­vid­ing only sim­ple ba­sic waste col­lec­tion ser­vices is not enough for to­day’s com­plex life­styles.”

Photo: James Bianchi

Mario Schem­bri

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