Muscat: alternatives to waste incinerator are not viable, green measures underway

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat challenged the Opposition and those criticising the announcement of the proposed incineration plant to choose from other less sustainable options

There are only three ways to deal with waste, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said, and a waste incinerator is by far the most sustainable.

Muscat said that not only would the waste incinerator produce energy, but it would be the best possible option to deal with waste management.

The other two options would be exporting the waste, or landfilling it. But in order to export the waste, Muscat said, the government would need to fork out between €30 to €50 million in taxpayer money. “This would mean more taxes for the Maltese people,” Muscat said, adding that the Opposition had pushed people into poverty with water and electricity bills, and now sought to impose further taxes on them.

Read more: Malta to get waste incinerator at Maghtab by 2023

The Maghtab landfill has almost run out of space, and Muscat said that estimates show another one would take up 50 tumoli of land and only last ten years. “Not only would we have to find that amount of land, but we would have to find another 50 tumoli ten years later,” and so on ad infinitum.

Muscat said that he had no problem with the Opposition opposing the proposal, but that it would have to decide which of the other two options it prefers, explaining that if the Opposition objected to the use of 30 tumoli of virgin land for the American University, they ought to have issue with using double the amount every 10 years.

The prime minister’s comments come after the proposed incinerator was dubbed a ‘cancer factory’ by the Nationalist party’s newspaper il-mument.

Muscat went on to explain that a committee which endorsed the proposal was made up of a number of impartial professionals, including Prof Edward Mallia and former AD chairman Harry Vassallo, as well as representatives of environmental NGOs.

The current administration inherited a “complete mess” in regards to the waste management sector, Muscat said. The Opposition “sent emails to employ people at WasteServ” but failed to reach recycling targets and properly manage waste, he continued.

Read more: Emails from 2009-2013 reveal ministers and MPs directly recruiting 'recommended' constituents inside Wasteserv

EU rules state that 65% of packaging waste needs to be recycled, but solutions for the remaining 35% need to be found – which is where a number of new measures come in.

Muscat said that plastic bottles will be able to be exchanged for money as of next year. This measure would raise the price of soft drinks, but that the money will be given back to anyone who returns the bottles, Muscat said, adding that this step would require everyone’s cooperation.

Read more: Under EU rules, Malta faces mandatory recycling targets by 2025

Stricter laws for recycling will also be put into place, as the issue is not being taken seriously since the process of recycling waste collection is organised by local councils. The result is that different localities have different schedules, leading to disorganisation.

Muscat also announced that Wied iz-Zring will remain untouched in plans to extend the Bulebel industrial area, and that he remains open to better solutions to avoid further environmental degradation in the area.

Read more: Extension of Bulebel industrial estate would cause disastrous increase in flooding

More in National