[WATCH] Failure to recycle will lead to a fine, environment minister says

Environment Minister Jose Herrera confirms plans to fine those who fail to recycle waste but insists ‘this is no tax’

Waste sorters at work: domestic households that fail to recycle their trash will soon be subject to a fine
Waste sorters at work: domestic households that fail to recycle their trash will soon be subject to a fine

The government will introduce a fine for citizens who fail to recycle their waste, by the end of 2018, Environment Minister Jose Herrera said.

Speaking on TVM’s Xtra in a pre-recorded edition, Herrera said he would do “what the PN never did” to see that “recycling is taxed”.

He then clarified that the law will not be a tax. “The only government that taxed waste was the PN government. We are committed to not put a tax on waste,” he said. “If you don’t recycle, you’ll be fined. But this is not a tax.”

Herrera said the government would not be meeting its waste targets unless it introduces a fine to encourage more people to recycle their waste.

Shadow minister for environment Jason Azzopardi said that recycled waste had decreased in Malta, describing the country as the member state with the “poorest EU recycling rate”.

“It’s obvious that the landfill will fill up faster if we are recycling less than ever before,” Azzopardi said.

Herrera insisted that 9,000 tonnes of green recycled bags had been processed in 2010, rising to 20,000 tonnes in 2017. He said the statistics cited by Azzopardi were misleading since one of the figures was limited to municipal waste while the other also included construction waste.

Despite the positive, Herrera insisted progress was not satisfactory. “I don’t believe that this could be fixed with education, so I made the decision to introduce the law for recycling. For the first time in the history of Malta, recycling will become obligatory.”

Proposed incinerator and WasteServ employees

Azzopardi accused the government of “panic” for resorting to introduce incineration of waste “despite the engagement of hundreds of employees in WasteServ” in the month leading to the election.

Presenter Saviour Balzan pointed out that the incinerator had already been proposed under the Nationalist administration, and then opposed by Labour, whereas now the PN was the one criticising it.

Azzopardi said he would not criticise the incinerator in principle, but had doubts about trusting the government with it. After all, the Sant’Antnin Waste Treatment plant fire in Marsaskala happened under this government's watch, he added. “If the plant will be closed by 2024, what is going to happen instead of it? Where will the new landfill be built?”

Azzopardi said a target to incinerate 40% of total waste would inevitably lead to the incineration of material that should be recycled, and that a new landfill would be required to dispose of the toxic fly ash it would produce.

The minister insisted that fly ash was recyclable. “Fly ash will be used for the roads, it can be recycled. Full stop,” he said.

Herrera also clarified that it wasn’t “hundreds of employees” that were employed but 128, explaining that over 100 new workers are employed at WasteServ every year. He said that the Sant’Antnin plant only began functioning at the end of 2016 and so the recruiting process began in that period. “The amount of people engaged in this period compares well to the amount that were employed in previous years,” he said.


The two MPs also faced off on the subject of clientelism, a phenomenon Herrera described as a natural corollary of politicians who are “close to the people”.

The minister said voters expected politicians to carry out house visits discuss issues, receive complaints, and keep their constituency office even if they are part of the executive. “This system makes politicians vulnerable,” he added.

Azzopardi himself proposed that the Constitution should be amended to make it illegal for permits, engagements, transfers, and promotions to occur once an electoral campaign starts. “When Eddie Fenech Adami and Lawrence Gonzi were prime ministers, whenever an election was called, there was no vote-buying exercises as we’ve seen in May and June of last year,” he said. “There’s no comparison to that which happened last May,” Azzopardi replied.

But Herrera said clientelism was not just an electoral phenomenon but a “modus operandi” for Maltese politics. “Politicians function in this way because the people expect that they are at their beck and call.”

The programme was recorded before Thursday’s planning meeting that discussed a permit for a new fuel station and which was partially disrupted by activists.

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