Waste Management Practices in Malta

Chapter 1

  1. Introduction – Context

As time gone by, the world as we know it evolved and also with it do did the waste management practices. Through the global widespread epidemic outbreaks, back in early nineteenth century,  waste management had shifted from the ‘dilute and disperse’ and ‘repair and reuse’ to the new concept of ‘collect and remove’ in order to protect the general public from unhealthy living conditions. This approach gave birth to what we know now a day as landfills. The latter saw the introduction of new practices such as waste collection from cities being carted away and discarded openly somewhere else away from the same cities. The first dump sites (landfills) were not engineered in any form which essentially entailed finding a place where one could dispose of unwanted material outside its habitable boundary/territory.

Since the beginning of the term sustainable living, many individuals famous to societies or also not known, along with other organisations had given definitions to waste. While every country around the globe has its own definition, other countries had moved forward, in particular the EU, and its 28 member states. Thus, the EU block has harmonised and has a synergy amongst all its 28 member states for defining waste. Waste has various definitions such as “Waste is what is left behind when imagination fails” (Ekberg 2009 as published by Linnenkopper in magazine Recycling International issue August 2016, para 1). However, within the EU, a synchronized definition of waste has been in use in its current wording for over three decades now and is embedded in the 2008, Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC). The legal analysis of Article 3(1) which defines “waste” as: – “…any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard…”

Again, within the EU and its 28 member states, the Landfill Directive, municipal solid waste is defined as” waste from households, as well as other waste which, because of its nature or composition, is similar to waste from households” (EU, 1999).

With lots of emphasis on waste management and waste becoming a problem, many took the advantage of this potential time bomb situation and came up with waste as a resource. The new concept of circular economy was born and introduced across the globe. Regretfully to say, there is no documentation when actually the term was born, but it is believed that it gained momentum in the late 1970s, and it was led by a small number of academics, thought-leaders and businesses. In smaller industries, where modern technology is usually less prevalent, a common tendency is to process waste through source separation (Berg, 1993:182). Hence, there is thus a considerable risk for sub-optimising solutions without an all-embracing perspective covering all kinds of waste (Tiberg, 1995 as cited in Stenis ,2005:22).

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As Mutavchi (2012:5) had stated in his Doctoral dissertation titled Solid Waste Management Based on Cost-Benefit Analysis using the Wamed Model ”The emphasis on waste continue to be problematic is more evident particularly in Europe. This can be confirmed by the European Commission investing in many innovative projects to control the waste issue. The latter are a wide range of initiatives ranging from reducing to reusing of wastes.

The notion of municipal waste collection what we know today as Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) was introduced in Malta towards the late 20th century, and the first for dirty materials -  Materials Recovery Facility ( MRF) was established in Marsascala in 1993. The practice of recycling had been introduced in Malta many years later and as the National Statistics Office (NSO) proves by its available data, recycling locally is immensely low in numbers. In Malta, the sustainable discussions when it comes to waste were initiated with the application of Malta to enter the EU block back in the 1990, of which the latter missed the 1995 accession and again application was frozen back in 1996 when there was a change in Government from the Nationalist party (PN) pioneer to accession to the EU block to the Labour party (MLP) anti EU accession but in favour of special agreements e.g. Switzerland. Malta Eventually joined the EU as a full member in 2004 when after a short-lived Labour government of just eighteen months, the PN were re-elected and negotiations to reactivate the application had taken place intensely by 2000 in order for Malta to catch up with the other candidates awaiting to join the EU block which took place in May 2004. Only to join the block in 2004 after national turmoil on accession.

Waste management was one of the issues that Malta had to cover during the EU negotiations and this gave birth to the first national waste management plan for the Maltese islands document back in 2001 of which its updated version is enforced via the Waste Management Plan for the Maltese Islands 2014-2020.

The researcher concurs with the vision of the Waste Management Plan for the Maltese islands 2014-2020 (MSDEC 2014) that of realizing the link between environmental objectives and human wellbeing will lead to sustainable waste management. In order for the National Waste Management plan to be successfully implemented, there must be a full societal commitment. Unless the Maltese citizens commence mutually to adopt the 3 pillars of zero waste (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) within their daily lives, there will be little to no improvement. Furthermore, such commitment calls for every citizen to change their current behaviour. However, the latter can only be made if only proper dissemination of information is made for better choices to be made in order for the stimulation of the involved stakeholders to improve.

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1.2 Research Objectives

The motivation behind this research project is to feel the pulse of the Maltese citizens and any one residing in the Maltese Islands when it comes to waste Management practices, in particular waste management educational and awareness campaigns, their effectiveness on the general public and whether the latter are leading to the desired success when it comes to alter the citizen’s behaviour towards the 3 R’s as well as reaching the EU set targets.

This research project aims to identify issues pertaining to barriers and limitations when it comes to the citizen to execute the 3R’s as well as identifying the ‘niches’ subjects that the citizens feel that are not giving enough importance during waste management educational and awareness campaigns. The latter information gathering will give insight to better assessment prior and after campaigns as well as evaluate feedback that will make such campaigns more interesting and gain the desired success.

Nevertheless, the researchers’ previous experience within the social research field will be put into use and practice again, and previous experience within such research will help to guide and improve this research methodology even better by eliminating already known flaws from previous research experience.

The proposed research is aimed at:

  • Finding the barriers and limitations towards the 3R’s
  • Identify the success and failures of education and awareness campaigns
  • Identify whether the citizens differ between awareness and educational campaigns
  • Finding whether the citizens are ready to sacrifice their lifestyle for the sake of sustainability
  • Finding whether politicians and politics plays a role and have influence on citizens and waste management
  • Finding whether character assimilations can help participation increase in campaigns
  • Finding what else the citizens want to know from these campaigns
  • Finding whether there is Fragmentation or unity amongst the key stakeholders when it comes to waste management
  • Finding who the citizens look up to, to resolve waste issues
  • Finding whether management by crisis is applied when it comes to waste management issues
  • Finding whether more can be done such as fines, enforcement, monitoring etc.
  • Evaluating previous waste awareness and educational campaigns success.
  1. Research Questions

The main research questions that the undertaken research study will explore are the following:

  • What are the barriers and limitations to the citizens of the Maltese islands when it comes to waste management adherence?
  • Why are the waste awareness and educational campaigns not leaving the desired results? What is lacking?
  • What other information and guidance the Maltese citizens want to receive when it comes to waste management issues and executing of the 3Rs?
  • Where is, Malta failing when it comes to public involvement in reaching the EU set targets for waste management?
  • Whether education is or can be the link to bridge the gap between the citizens and waste management issues and living sustainably
  1. Structure of Dissertation
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The dissertation is divided into 5 Main chapters and throughout these chapters the researcher will engage in finding answers to the research questions. Following the introduction to the main subject in Chapter 1.

Chapter 2 provides an over view of the waste management in Malta and how it had evolved with time, along with other legislation and obligations that Malta have nationally and internationally. The same chapter also reviews past and current waste awareness and educational campaigns, along with other issues pertaining to waste management within the Maltese islands. The gathered literature review aims to give an overview of the current waste management scenario along with the attitude and behaviour of the citizens towards such subject.

Chapter 3, will take the reader around the approach the researcher had concluded to use throughout the study. The chosen methodology will aim to identify the main issues pertaining to waste management from a citizen’s and  main stakeholder’s point of view. This part also provides a detailed description of the tools used and applied to gain the required information in order to arrive to a conclusion.

Chapter 4 explores the in-depth evaluation carried out via the one to one interviews with various stake holders as well the focus groups carried out with various citizens. The latter chapter discusses in details the findings while evaluating deeply the findings gathered during the above-mentioned sessions. The findings during the analysis will give insight and ideas along with food for thought to the researcher in order to come up with proposals of how local scenario can improve on the whole.

The final Chapter is 5, which presents the findings throughout the whole of the study along with conclusions and recommendations made from this research. The chapter revisit the findings and concludes by calling for further research and actions  and for the findings and suggestions to be taken on board for execution by the responsible authorities.

  1. Conclusion

The citizen seems to be shifting from the ‘laissez faire’ mentality to the social responsibility of living sustainable, both for oneself and family as well as for the environment as a whole.  While one must conclude that social conscious towards the environment and sustainable living is on the increase, one must question whether the authorities are guiding the citizen correctly and helping in reducing and/or restricting its barriers to keep on moving towards the sustainable lifestyle that every nation desires.

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