Updated | NGOs express concern over lack of technical information on new Wasteserv plant project

Land takeup and environmental impact among top concerns

NGOs have welcomed the waste to energy proposal but said that more studies were required
NGOs have welcomed the waste to energy proposal but said that more studies were required

A number of NGOs have welcomed the government’s plan to invest in new waste management facilities and start addressing Malta’s waste management problem, but have expressed concern as to the absence of detailed technical information about it. 

In a statement released on Saturday morning, 8 NGOs:  Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Isles of the Left, Malta Youth in Agriculture Foundation, Moviment Graffitti, Ramblers Malta, The Archaeological Society Malta, made the demand for more detailed and technical information on the proposed new waste-to-energy system to be made public.

“Although a waste-to-energy system is a decisive improvement over dumping waste in engineered landfills, we must realise that it should not be presented as the only possible solution.”

“Incineration and thermal conversion do not qualify as renewable energy and it would be wrong to deceive the public into thinking that it does,” said the NGOs.

Apart from the required environmental impact assessment, a social impact assessment should also be carried out before any definitive decision to go ahead with this project is taken and the plant should be no bigger than necessary, they argued, adding that detailed studies about carbon dioxide and other potentially hazardous emissions must not be overlooked.

“We are primarily concerned that a waste-to-energy system could potentially lead to excessive waste generation. Maltese society as a whole needs to understand that we need to make a collective effort to start recycling more and implement practices that will help us minimise waste generation and reach our targets.” 

This meant that all sectors of society, especially hotels and factories, needed to be on board and fully committed to respect waste separation procedures, they said. 

In order to achieve this a robust Waste Management Plan was needed,said the NGOs, pointing out that the government had promised to implement this by the end of the year. 

“This plan should be based on a clear understanding that the resources on this planet are limited and will one day be exhausted. We must understand that we cannot keep manufacturing, producing and recycling paper, plastics, metals and alloys indefinitely.”

Materials which cannot be reutilised or regenerated, and which do not fall within the circular economy, should be phased out and eventually banned, said the NGOs. 

Further studies should also be conducted on the incinerator’s potential cooling system as warm water would be discharged into the sea in the Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq area, having a negative impact on the marine environment, including the protected Posidonia meadows, in the process. The Posidonia meadows are one of the most important sources of oxygen provided to coastal waters, also known as the lung of the Mediterranean, pointed out the NGOs.

They also argued that the sacrifice of 83 tumoli (9 hectares) of arable land was “excessive and unnecessary for this kind of project,” urging that apart from seriously reconsidering our waste strategy and culture, Malta should also make sure that waste management projects are sustainable and do not encourage further take-up of agricultural land and resources.

In a reply, released this afternoon, Wasteserv said it welcomed the statement of the NGOs noting that a waste to energy plant is a decisive improvement over the predominant past reliance on landfilling.

Detailed studies are currently underway, and amongst various other fields, these cover air quality with laborious air dispersion assessments and models, and the required marine ecology studies, said the company.

"Moreover, this plant cannot be seen in isolation. The size of the plant has been determined after extensive studies that take into account past waste trends and more importantly EU waste related targets. The plant's design is also being thought with operational flexibility in mind and its capacity is split on two lines that can be operated separately."

Wasteserv said it greatly valued the farming community. "This strengthens its resolve to deliver the ECOHIVE project so that the country moves away from predominant reliance on landfilling and thereby safeguarding further agricultural land." It noted that not only the land uptake exercise which has led to just one third of the original portion, but that one of the plants, the organic processing plant, will produce high quality agricultural grade compost. 

 

This work is part of Government's overall environmental agenda that also involves a revamped waste management policy that will be launched in the coming months.

 

 

 

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