No more a waste(d) resource

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Malta’s EU membership has brought a paradigm shift to our practices of waste disposal, waste management and even the way many look at it.In many developed economies, including those in the EU, waste had been for years treated as an important resource, particularly for energy generation and the development of other by-products, yet in Malta, waste was treated as just that – something to get rid of.

This, over the years, had led to the creation of many environmental scars, with the most visually evident being the (in)famous Magħtab dump, in the north of Malta, which over a few decades of mismanaged landfilling had developed into a gigantic rubbish ‘mountain’.

Malta’s quest to join the EU and the strict rules which it needed to adhere to for membership meant that the island had to start re-thinking its waste problem.

A new strategy was produced after the start of the new millenium and new organisations where set up, including Wasteserv and the Environment regulator.

The EU, in its negotiations with Malta, insisted that landfills like Magħtab, and il-Qortin in Gozo, could remain open.

Since the problem was an accumulated one, transition periods had to be negotiated so that Malta’s waste management could be brought in order. The most pressing issue which local authorities faced was the restructuring  of the old landfills once they were closed.

Through millions of euro obtained from the European Regional Development Fund, an extensive project was started to turn the large space occupied by the old landfills into recreational areas.

While Magħtab closed down, a new engineered landfill, in an area known as Għallies was created, this time accompanied by proper management structures and where the process of landfilling was controlled and developed according to strict rules.

Schemes were put in place so that a large proportion of municipal waste generated by households would not end up landfilled but, instead, is either recycled or reused. Programmes were also put in place to reduce the generation of waste including through environmental taxation.

In the meantime, infrastructural processes were started at both Magħtab and Qortin to collect hazardous gases produced by the years of mismanaged waste dumping. New systems were literally dug into these disused landfills and new drain systems were introduced to reduce the dangers. This led to a process were both landfills were finally capped.

This process was complemented by turning the areas into more environmentally friendly habitats, with thousands of trees planted and vegetation, once again, let to breath and grow.

The same project involved another landfill, in the south of Malta, which had been closed years earlier.

Through the use of Cohesion funds, this landfill in Marsascala, has been turned into a large family park, with hundreds of children frequenting the area on a daily basis. In what perhaps is one of the best testaments of the transformation brought about by EU funding, children can enjoy themselves in a recreational area which was once their parents’ dumping ground. 

This article is part of the OurEU.mt campaign, which is being managed by CiConsulta’s ComuniqEU, with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of CiConsulta and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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