The Local Councils – Are they a good helping hand when it comes to reducing waste?

One of the councils I interviewed was the Birkirkara Local Council. Their main focus is more on recycling waste rather than reducing it. This is because the Local Council thinks that is too early to start reducing. However, they do not exclude trying it in the future. The local council focuses on recycling waste through the following actions:

  • Joined forces with campaigns by Wasteserv and GreenPak.
  • Do announcements on notice boards and in churches.
  • Distributed a number of bring-in sites which are very much in use amongst the Birkirkara residents.
  • Keep in touch with their residents through their facebook page and leaflets sent to every residential home.
  • Give awards to people who separate waste. For example one of the campaigns by GreenPak is that they are giving away €5000.
  • Created a mascot called “Karkarinu” which talks educated students at schools with regards to waste separation and reduction.
  • Distributes bags for recycling and organic waste twice a year to encourage citizens to recycle waste.

Birkirkara was one of the localities which were involved in the pilot project when the separation of organic waste was introduced 2 years ago. This year the local council is expecting to spend around €240,000 for the pickup of waste and around €150,000 for waste that goes to the landfill. This means that out of the €1,300,000 budget for this year, they are using around €400,000 in expenses for waste.

A difficulty which the Birkirkara local council is facing is that residents are taking out waste bags on the wrong day or after the truck has already passed which means after 8.00 am. The council nowadays is giving out fines to people who are not following the new times and regulations.

Mr Ray Azzopardi who was interviewed on behalf of the Valletta local council said that the council spends around €420,000 on waste. The majority of the residents are watching out how to sort their rubbish. However, there is also a small group of residents who either do not care or are still misinformed on how to separate waste correctly. Mr Azzopardi mentioned that if the residents had to be more watchful, the expenses will go down and the funds saved will be used on other projects around the city.

As a council they are facing a number of problems, namely:

  • The time the collector is picking up the rubbish is way too early for the residents to have enough time to take out the rubbish.
  • The collector is not always honouring the contract and passes earlier than the agreed time and not from everywhere. This results in having some residents taking out the trash after the waste collector has passed.

Fortunately, they are finding support from different departments and ministerial offices.

After interviewing some other local councils it could be observed that most of the councils are working on simple yet good tips like frequent reminders on their Facebook page, sending reminders by mail and giving recycle and organic bags for free to every resident. Some councils are also increasing the number of waste separation bins in their locality.

Most of the councils explained that if the residents cooperate more and by reduce or sorting out the waste properly the expenses for the handling of waste would go down drastically. This would be of a good benefit for the residents themselves since the money saved will go for other needs within the local town/city. My suggestion to the Local councils would be to publicise and share actual amounts of money being spent on waste which could have been easily avoided and used somewhere else. Have factual amounts might make the residents more aware of this problem.

Another issue which emerged from this article is the need for the local councils to focus more on reducing waste rather than focusing only on recycling schemes. This would be a great leap in advance since reducing waste is the primary key to tackling the problem about waste in Malta.

Isaac Sam Camilleri

Student at St Albert the Great College, Valletta

This article was written for the Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) competition