Malta struggles with landfill space for construction waste after Qrendi quarry closure

Illegal dumping in Hal Far reported after quarry closures reduce landfill space for construction waste

A quarry used for back-filling purposes
A quarry used for back-filling purposes

The construction industry is struggling to find spaces where to dump waste and debris, in an ongoing saga that has now seen another landfilling quarry close down. 

The Qrendi quarry had been used for the disposal of construction and landfill waste. But a stop-and-compliance order was issued by the Environment and Resources Authority in November 2019 after finding that the disposal of inert waste in the quarry’s upper area, right outside the quarry void itself, was not covered by a permit. Action was also taken by the Planning Authority. 

The ERA says an alternative landfill is being sought for national waste agency Wasteserv in Siggiewi, which possesses a valid environmental permit, but not for the industry itself.

But despite the alternative quarry, dumping illegalities are still widespread according to industry sources. 

Photos received by MaltaToday show government land in Hal Far being used for illegal dumping of construction waste. 

The ERA has denied issuing any permits for this land. “ERA enforcement officers will be investigating the site further and action will be taken as deemed necessary,” ERA said.  

The environment authority also said that the site has been prone to illegal dumping for years. “ERA has carried out a number of actions including the issuing of Stop and Compliance Orders in the Industrial Area,” it said.  

Malta Developers Association director-general Marthese Portelli – the former Nationalist MP – said the lobby has long been calling on government to adopt a long-term solution. “As recently as last year, the MDA held discussions with the government and found a temporary solution. However, this had to be followed up. It didn’t and things are now back to square one,” she said. 

The MDA is insisting that any solutions put forward should be based on the fundamental principle of a level-playing field for all members and stakeholders, stating it will strongly defend its members if selective expropriation measures are taken. 

The long-term effects of yet another quarry closure are yet to be seen according to Portelli, who said the biggest impact will be felt in the short term, particularly on the public sector due to a large number of ongoing projects. “The bulk of construction waste generated at the moment is coming mainly from these public projects – a typical case in point being the simultaneous works being done on a large number of roads,” she said.  

Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia acknowledged the ongoing issues surrounding landfilling quarries, stating the issue had been put on the back burner by numerous government administrations.  Farrugia vowed to provide solutions in his time heading the environment ministry.  “In this same way we solved the issue surrounding Maghtab, I look to put a stop to this matter,” he said.