Only a handful of quarries are receiving construction waste despite 32 licences

At a time when the construction industry is booming, the lack of space to dump building waste is creating a lucrative, quasi-monopoly for a handful of quarry operators

Disposing of building waste has become a problem at a time when the construction sector is booming
Disposing of building waste has become a problem at a time when the construction sector is booming

Only a handful of the 32 quarries licenced to receive construction waste are actually doing so, leading the operators to make a killing from higher dumping fees.

Industry sources have indicated that between two and three quarries every day were receiving construction waste, while another two quarries could only receive small trucks because of accessibility issues.

The sources said that one of the quarries only operated for a few hours a day because it could not deal with the processing of large volumes of inert waste.

The situation has developed into a crisis at a time when the construction industry is booming, the sources said.

“The limited space where to dispose of construction and excavation waste is leading to trucks forming queues outside the few quarries as they wait their turn to discard their load,” they added.

But the situation is also leading to higher prices for the disposal of construction waste. One quarry last week informed contractors of a 70% hike in fees for every tonne of construction debris.

The quarry close to Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra prehistoric temples, which is operated by Tum Invest and V&C Contractors as La Cava Operations raised its rates to €12 per tonne from €7 per tonne for construction waste and to €15 per tonne from €10 per tonne for demolition waste.

This quarry enjoys a quasi-monopoly in a situation where only a handful of licenced quarries are actually receiving waste.

Sister newspaper Illum reported last Sunday that La Cava Operations could be making some €15 million per year as a result of the higher charges.

The quarry was licenced to receive construction waste last summer in a record three days and is by far the largest one in operation.

The exorbitant hike in prices raised eyebrows with Malta Developers’ Association president Sandro Chetcuti telling MaltaToday that the higher prices would have an impact on house prices.

He also confirmed that "not more than two quarries were presently accepting building waste" despite the 32 licenced quarries. Chetcuti added that this was creating problems for the industry.

He said the MDA was in talks with Environment Minister Jose Herrera to find a solution for the disposal of construction waste at a time when the industry was booming.

Developers believe the only long-term solution is land reclamation from the sea.

Herrera has so far held back from capping fees for the dumping of construction waste despite repeating the warning in an interview with TVM earlier this week.

The higher fees are particularly problematic for smaller contractors, who would have agreed on set prices with developers.

Herrera has also refused to use the power given to him by the law to expropriate the space in quarries to be used for the disposal of construction waste.

However, the latter option is opposed by industry operators and one that could be technically unfeasible because waste disposal is a regulated operation in its own right.

“It is not as if the minister can take a quarry and start dumping construction waste in it because there are strict EU rules on how this is done and how the waste should be clean and sorted accordingly,” an industry source told MaltaToday.

There are 32 quarries with permits to receive construction and excavation waste according to the Environment and Resources Authority website but most of these are still extracting stone and so unable to accept excavation waste.

Others have problems of accessibility and are unable to accommodate a large flow of trucks, while some are caught up in inheritance litigation.

Another 18 quarries have pending applications in front of ERA.

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