[WATCH] Up to 350 beverage refund machines to be installed around Malta by 2019

Shop owners with a premises larger than 150 sq.m. will be obliged to house refund machines with harsh penalties for producers and importers looking to cheat the system

Malta to install 360 beverage container collection machines by 2019 with prison sentence liable for placing wrong bottle in machine

The environment ministry on Friday launched a public consultation ahead of the implementation of a beverage container refund system that will see 350 reverse-vending machines (RVM) installed around Malta by 2019. 

Addressing a press conference on the new system, environment minister Jose Herrera underscored how just 14% of PET plastic containers and 4% of can containers are recycled, leaving Malta a long way from reaching its recycling targets.

The scheme, he said, was part of holistic effort to tackle littering in Malta, and would oblige the selected operator to recover 70% of containers in the first year of operation.

“We are determined to change people's mentality and to teach them that there is a price to littering,” Herrera said, adding that those who understood this and used the system would not incur additional charges.

He said the government was determined to introduce the concept of a circular economy, where materials are used more than once before they are disposed of. The minister said he would be present the long-awaited circular economy bill to Cabinet in the coming days.

Herrera insisted that the government was serious about tackling Malta’s waste problem, and was prepared to make difficult decisions in order to make more progress.

Ministry consultant Marc Muscat explained that Malta’s target of reaching a 50% recycling target by 2020 had been pushed back, with Malta now needing to reach this target by 2025, going up to 60% by 2030.

Muscat said that over the past months, a number of informal workshops had been held with various bottling companies, the Chamber of Commerce, GRTU, and GreenPak, all of which offered their views on how the system should work.

How it will work

  • A deposit of €0.10 will be added to the price of each beverage container by producers, which will in turn be passed on to retailers and eventually consumers.
  • In order to recover the deposit, consumers will need to place bottles or cans into RVMs, 350 of which will be located across Malta and Gozo.
  • All producers will be obliged to participate in the scheme, and will have to print a Malta-specific logo and barcode, which will specify the type of bottle being deposited. This will allow the system’s operator to gather data on the type of container being collected, while cutting down on cross-border fraud.
  • All shops having a footprint of at least 150 sq.m will be obliged to house a RVM, while smaller shops can opt in. RVMs can also be placed in public places. Shops with RVMs will be paid €4 for every 1000 containers processed.

Muscat stressed that it was essential for the system not to add any new costs, and that it would be placing responsibility on both producers and consumers.

He said that the system was for the time being specific to beverages because the type of liquid contained in them meant they were very often relatively clean, and could processed more quickly and efficiently. Moreover, Muscat pointed out that such containers were often used by people while they were out and about, and most likely to use plastic bottles.

Products falling under the scheme include: water, fruit juices, ciders, beers, carbonated soft drinks and alcoholic drinks with not more than 10% alcohol, which are in refillable containers, one-way glass bottles, metal cans or plastic bottles. 

A fast-flowing depository centre for restaurants and businesses will also be set up, Muscat said.

For the scheme to be implemented, Muscat said and operator would be selected through a competitive tendering process. The selected operator will be obliged to fine tune how the system will work, and to deal with the processing of the material once it is collected.

The operator will also need to determine which method will be used for giving out refunds, noting however that the vast majority of similar systems abroad did not pay out cash, especially since this made them more vulnerable to theft. 

A voucher system would likely be implemented, but this will be finalised once the operator is selected.

A council overseeing the process will be established, and will monitor and audit the system on a regular basis. The selected operator will be obliged to recover 70% of containers in its first year of operation, increasing to 90% by the third year.

Moreover, Muscat said that importers and producers looking to cheat the system would liable to a fine of up to €50,000 and a possible six month imprisonment.

The selected bidder will be granted government land to operate out of. As for the timeline being envisaged, Muscat said a request for proposals will be issued by June 2018, following a four-week consultation. A successful bidder will be selected by December 2018, with operations starting one year later.

GreenPak welcomed the government’s consultation paper on the Beverage Container Refund scheme.

“Waste and litter in our environment is a major challenge and we are committed to supporting any initiative aimed at tackling this problem – including the beverage container refund scheme, which we believe is capable of having a positive impact once key issues are addressed to ensure that it is indeed effective,” GreenPak CEO Mario Schembri said.

“We are pleased to note that the government has already taken on board some of our early proposals, and GreenPak will continue to draw on expertise and its members’ experience to provide further feedback; however, it is important for everyone to understand that the use and misuse of glass, plastics and aluminium goes way beyond beverage containers and that it takes a collective effort on behalf of everyone to increase recycling in a meaningful way.”

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