Record-breaking results on waste in two years of reform

The achievements of the hard work undertaken in the last two years are evidence that we shall succeed in delivering the environment that we have always been duty-bound to nurture

Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia at the Sant'Antnin Facility(Photo: DOI)
Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia at the Sant'Antnin Facility(Photo: DOI)

Two years of reforms and record-breaking results. In waste management, we had literally no time to waste – we quickly embarked on a process I can now confidently say led WasteServ from strength to strength, in line with a brief from Prime Minister Robert Abela for a strong sustainable waste strategy, and to deliver a reform worthy of the next generation’s environmental ambition.

We put together a new board of directors, and a management team with the required determination and track record to deliver what was required, and to do it quick. A few months later, new large-scale recycling setups were started and every six months, the team managed to double the performance of the previous six.

Two years down the line and we look back at 2021 as the most productive ever year in WasteServ’s history: 19,000 tonnes of recyclable materials delivered back to the economy.

At the same time, we secured the largest ever government investment in waste management, that standing at half a billion euro has the potential to put Malta at the top of all international score sheets.

The road to reforms is never easy, and this was no exception. Waste is particularly complex and full of challenges in itself. Add the onset of the pandemic and a hard-hit frontline sector and the task appeared to be extremely complicated, at times unreachable. However, hard work and a motivated workforce that understood the need to excel to deliver a better environment to our children were key to obtaining such record-breaking results.

Back in 2020, when most of the island’s workforce was operating from the safety of their homes, we started the rudimentary recycling line. The encouraging results allowed us to venture further, and the line was later complimented with a semi-automated recycling line -- produced in-house – for ferrous cans.

Once these two lines obtained their maximum potential productivity we shifted operation to a 24/7 basis paving the way to the best-ever results obtained by WasteServ.

But we did not stop there. Just a few days ago we inaugurated a new recycling line to process glass material. We will now be in a position to work more efficiently and to separate clear from coloured glass. This investment was also possible following the successful campaign on the need for the public to deliver clean glass to WasteServ, with the quality of the delivered material now standing at around 99%.

In the coming days we will also be launching a large-scale campaign on the need to improve the quality of the grey and green bags, so that together we continue to reach new highs.

Concurrently, we announced the plans for the ECOHIVE strategy and the extremely laborious preparatory work was put in full swing. Five state-of-the-art facilities in design and major procurement and permitting processes are underway. This is a vision that will allow Malta to move away from its past and predominant reliance on landfilling and to do away with the nasty environmental impacts associated with landfills.

More than this, all waste streams will be turned into resources, converting a problem into an asset in a 100% circular economy framework. Thousands of tonnes of recyclables, agricultural grade compost, and around 5% of the islands’ baseload energy demand coming from a resource that previously went to waste.

We also looked with determination at some of Malta’s largest environmental wounds. Past landfills that for years have inflicted severe impacts on the natural habitat in their vicinity and on the thousands of people impacted by the various negative attributes coming from these sites. Look at them now: Wied Fulija in Żurrieq is visited by hundreds of people every week to enjoy the thousands of trees and shrubs that have been planted in the area together with some of Malta’s most scenic natural views, and the Qortin landfill rehabilitation in Gozo a few weeks away from its inauguration as a public space for everyone to enjoy.

On the greening side we also launched a new branch within WasteServ and in just over a year GreenServ is already managing around €10 million worth of projects that are intended to inject some of Malta’s densest urban areas with a much-needed green uplift. Apart from these projects of a medium-scale that have already started, studies and preparations on two large-scale revolutionary projects are currently underway: the roofing of the Santa Venera tunnels and the pedestrianisation of St. Anne Street in Floriana.

The achievements of the hard work undertaken in the last two years are evidence that we shall succeed in delivering the environment that we have always been duty-bound to nurture.

This is what our youngsters want, and they deserve nothing less. We will continue to work day and night to meet this ambition, and the more people become sensitive to this mission the better the results we obtain. We all have a role to play by making small lifestyle changes that will ultimately result in a much better quality of life.