Plastic bottle recycling: a significant culture change

On all levels, the introduction of this scheme stands as a testament to our commitment to improving the environment in which we all live

A bottle-recycling scheme is not just as straightforward as a machine devouring your lemonade plastic bottle. It is actually a complex process that will see Malta reach important environmental targets in a bid to improve the quality of life for all those living in Malta.

Our ambitious plan for a beverage container refund scheme us one of the challenges that Malta took on at the 2017 Ocean Conference. We sought to be trailblazers in implementing serious measures to change the way we look at our recyclable resources.

It took a lot of work, and wide consultation, no less with the European Commission. It was only last December that the European Commission approved Malta’s model. Now, we can collectively conclude the agreement which will give us a refunding system for beverage containers on a national scale – a significant leap towards a cultural change, an improved mentality towards our resources, more sustainable behaviour, and ultimately, a circular economy approach.

With the conclusion of the regulations of the schemes and the green light from the European Commission, we are well on our way.

This agreement is in line with the direction given by the European Union, whose directives stipulate the amounts which need to be collected and eventually recycled, with ambitious targets. However, as government, we believe that we could be even more ambitious and take it a step further in agreement with stakeholders.

In light of COVID-19 and its impact on our country’s economy, this scheme becomes even more pertinent: we are now rethinking certain aspects of our economy, and could use a helping hand with generating new jobs. Experience teaches us that schemes such as these do indeed create green jobs.

Apart from this, the fact that the scheme will, by nature, be changing the way we dispose of our beverage containers, I am expecting that the general public begins to foster a culture of responsibility, for the benefit of everyone.

But this cultural shift needs to be a collective effort. We will be pushing both producers and consumers to be more responsible, with further, additional schemes so that we can truly begin creating a circular economy environment. This is a vision we believe in as government and will continue to ensure that the principles of the circular economy are implemented in an organic way: as part of economic activity which entrepreneurs and consumers are actually incentivized to participate in. It simply needs to become second nature.

The scheme has ambitious national collection and recycling targets. This will ensure that the materials being collected will be recycled in line with the circular economy principle. In fact, the targets are based on best practices Deposit Return Systems in other countries and progressively increase to achieve a collection rate of 90% containers placed on the market.

There’s work to be done: a clearing centre that incorporates best practices observed from other countries, as the building itself includes environmental and innovative aspects, will be built through an investment of €15 million which will also cover the costs of machines and the technology. Through this alone, around sixty new green jobs will be generated.

The Resource Recovery and Recycling Agency (RRRA) will be working together with the operator as well as other authorities such as the Commissioner for Revenue and Customs to ensure that producers and importers follow the rules and regulations set out in the legal notice amongst others to ensure that objectives are attained. We are committed to ensuring adequate enforcement resources will be put in place accordingly.

Admittedly, the process to conclude the regulations was a meticulous and time-consuming one: best practices from successful models in other European countries were studied and adapted to the local realities. The legislation had to also be vetted by the European Commission. The signing of the agreement gave the Consortium a 14-month period to make the necessary preparations for the scheme to take off. Interestingly enough, from these challenges, one thing became very clear to me: the private sector and industry are more than willing to join us working side by side for the common good, especially when we can provide a clear vision and the comfort of certainty. This is what we have been doing and will see through.

On all levels, the introduction of this scheme stands as a testament to our commitment to improving the environment in which we all live. This scheme will not only benefit our environment but also provide new opportunities that the circular economy inevitably brings. It is clear that we have much to gain by changing our attitudes and begin to appreciate the significant economic value of all our resources.

More in Blogs