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New Maltese plant will produce energy and resource from waste

A waste-to-energy plant, which will be up and running by 2027, will be treating up to 40% of the generated waste on the island. This portion of waste is that residual waste that would be left after Malta reaches its waste targets on recycling.

Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia explained that the facility is set to divert a significant amount of waste currently being sent to landfill. This will not only limit the generation of landfill gas and the related adverse environmental impacts associated with landfill leachate, but will contribute to the generation of greener energy improving Malta’s renewable energy mix.

Farrugia explained that waste management, a service that includes the collection of waste and its treatment at each of the authorised facilities, must continue despite the extraordinary circumstances in the country. It is for this reason that Wasteserv is persevering with its day-to-day business as well as a number of pressing projects. The development of a Waste to Energy (WtE) Facility will see the recovery of energy from that portion of waste that is left after Malta meets its various recycling targets. “Even before people were spending more time at home, the amount of waste being generated and the lack of a committed effort to separate waste at source was reaching a tipping point as the limited amount of landfill space in the Maltese Islands has been decreasing. This is why we introduced a separate organic waste collection and why producer responsibility organisations organise collections for the collection of paper, plastic, metal, and glass. An interim solution requiring the extension of the current engineered landfill has to be reached before the middle of 2021, when landfill space would have run out,” Farrugia said, explaining that this would ensure that the country has sufficient disposal void space to cater for Malta’s needs until all waste management plants are commissioned. Waste generation has increased significantly He explained that waste separation remains critical, and stressed on the importance and urgency for all residents in the Maltese Islands to do their utmost and commit themselves to separate their waste correctly. However, this alone would still not solve the landfill extension problem which is essentially a race against time. This strategy is in line with the EU Action Plan for Circular Economy, which in December 2015 stated that “when waste cannot be prevented or recycled, recovering its energy content is in most cases preferable to landfilling it, in both environmental and economic terms”. The rate of generation of non-hazardous waste in Malta has increased significantly over the years, rising from c. 245,000 tonnes in 2014, to 290,000 tonnes in 2017. This equals some 24,000 tonnes per month. The new EU Waste Package sets a number of targets in respect of waste management with the most challenging being that to reduce landfilling to a maximum of 10% of municipal waste by 2030 when today we landfill around 90% of this waste. The WtE project will operate in conjunction with other waste management facilities. This includes the Material Recovery Facility, which sorts dry recyclables collected from the bring-in sites and the grey bag in preparation for export to a recycling facility.

Public participation crucial

The Minister explained that success in waste management and the achievement of our targets rests heavily on the participation of the public, which is why Wasteserv is running a number of campaigns to educate and encourage better management of waste, from organic to recyclables and other types of waste. It is also gearing up its facilities to be able to handle the different types of waste generated as a result of campaigns such as Sort It Out and Don’t Waste Waste.

He said that the prevention of waste in the first place is of utmost importance. “While the facilities will help save on the usage of land, if too much waste is produced, then the facility throughputs would be exceeded, forcing diversion to landfill. The plants, as proposed, will substantially reduce landfilling, but will not completely eliminate the need for it as some rejects from the various plants and bottom ash will need to be landfilled.

Farrugia explained that reducing the generation of waste is therefore crucial. “This includes, for instance, managing the purchase of food and the correct use of food portions and using leftovers in a creative manner rather than throwing it away. We should also strive towards buying items with less packaging or with packaging that can be recycled. This is an effort that we all need to make together, as it is a challenge that we are all facing. As customers, we have the power to induce change. So the challenge is in our hands.”

The Minister stressed another important aspect of waste reduction, that of reuse.

“Rather than throwing away unwanted items, people can consider passing them on to others who may need them.Certain items may be upcycled or upgraded, thus extending their useful life. Next on the hierarchy comes recycling, where collection volumes continue to be on the increase. It is not difficult to manage our plastic, paper, metal, and glass when we have regular kerbside collections.I appeal for all households to ensure that these materials are not placed in the black bag but in the appropriate bags and containers that Local Councils advocate.When this is not possible, the recovery of energy from waste is critical, and this is why we need a waste-to-energy facility to supplement our recycling infrastructure.”

Necessary studies will be carried out

“The recovery of energy is of value as the energy extracted from waste increases our security of supply and the proportion of green energy produced to service our needs. This is the scope of the creation of the Waste to Energy Facility. Finally, when there is no alternative treatment, safe disposal of non-hazardous wastes in a landfill remains the only option.”

Before works on the waste-to-energy plant commence, the necessary assessments will be carried out, including an environmental impact and appropriate assessment to evaluate the way in which the integrity of the site, its surroundings, its species, habitats and ecosystems are likely to be affected by the project. An air dispersion and traffic emission modeling will be undertaken to provide information for the site selection and design processes. The plant will also require an Integrated Pollution and Prevention Control Permit (IPPC) to ensure that it operates to the highest environmental standards.

Minister Farrugia remarked that Government is investing up to half a billion euro to provide Malta with a state of the art waste management system. “The potential of this system can only be maximized if each and every one of us does our part. We need to consider our environmental responsibility when purchasing, and opt for products that minimise waste generation as far as possible. Once at home or at your place of work, we should ensure that we separate our waste by having separate bins for organic waste, dry recyclables, and glass and to minimise our black bag waste arisings. The small effort from the many will ensure our collective success, and the benefits will be reaped by all for years to come.”

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