The environment minister has dismissed a suggestion by the Local Councils Association to bin door-to-door waste collection and instead have residents drop off their garbage at designated points for pick-up.
In comments to the media, Aaron Farrugia said that in terms of the national waste strategy door-to-door waste collection will be retained and improved.
"I understand people's concerns. We have a 10 year plan which does not include the removal of door-to-door collection," Farrugia told Times of Malta.
"The people will still have their waste collected outside their door and we will work to improve the efficiency of the service."
The association made its proposal as a way to avoid garbage bags obstructing pavements and to ease traffic congestion caused by garbage trucks.
Mixed reactions from mayors
Its suggestion, however, drew a mixed reaction from mayors, some of whom feared it might not work in practice.
St Paul’s Bay mayor Alfred Grima said the final decision should not be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model.
“The concept of a national waste strategy is needed to address the inconvenience of garbage littering the pavements and to reduce traffic and vehicles on our roads but it is essential that each locality is studied and a plan submitted that is tailor-made for their needs, size and population.”
St Julian’s mayor Albert Buttigieg said that one of the main issues with introducing large skips was space and location.
“The issue with garbage containers is that they accumulate a lot of waste and become a dumping ground. It might work in a locality with a lot of open space but can you even think of trying to find a spot in St Julian’s, Birkirkara or even Mosta,” he asked.
“And where would you place these skips? Some people do not even want a dog bin next to their house, let alone a garbage skip.”
The mayor of neighbouring town Sliema, Anthony Chircop, echoed Buttigieg’s concerns.
Chircop said that the concept of underground garbage containers would be a starting point to tackle the issue of garbage overflowing on pavements.
“The idea of an underground container is ideal but we cannot simply pick a street and start digging,” he said.
“Studies need to be made to see where we can place such skips, ensuring they are available to everyone while not obstructing the entrance to someone’s home at the same time.”
Hybrid system possible
Other mayors voiced the possibility of having waste skips, while retaining door-to-door collection.
“Ideally, we would have a number of underground containers where those people who cannot stick to the schedule collection times can dispose of their garbage there,” Ġzira mayor Conrad Borg Manch said.
“But you cannot remove door-to-door garbage collection. On a daily basis we collect around 16 tons of garbage. Can you imagine all that garbage in these containers?”
Waste separation rooms in new apartment blocks
Borg Manché said an idea to consider would be that new apartments come with a waste separation room, which would reduce the number of garbage bags placed on the pavements.
“The concept of a garbage room is not new and would certainly help reduce the number of bags in the road,” he noted.
Marsascala mayor Mario Calleja said one could consider underground steel containers where residents could dispose of their organic waste only. "That way, there will no longer be organic bags leaking on our pavements,” he said.
All mayors stressed the need for more law enforcement when it comes to waste collection.
“For any scheme to work there needs to be enforcement. Without it no matter what was studied and implemented, it won’t work,” Calleja said.
“We have nine bring-in sites in our locality. Before we placed CCTV cameras on site these places were a mini-Magħtab. The moment we installed the cameras and started issuing fines, people stopped dumping all their garbage there.”
Buttigieg suggested the introduction of green wardens who would work for the council and issue fines on the spot.
“Short-let residents might get fined one day but the next they leave the island. What good does this do,” he remarked.
Grima also emphasised the importance of enforcing the law on garbage collection and to introduce the obligation for all residents to recycle.
“We still have cases where people are mixing their garbage bags and not recycling. It needs to stop,” he insisted.
Owners, he added, should register their property with the council, especially if it is being used for short lets. That way, the council can notify the owner when tenants are disposing garbage incorrectly.
Refund machines for pastic bottles
He also called for the introduction of refund machines for plastic bottles to be set up in supermarkets.
“Large supermarkets are among the main source of waste and the council believes that they have the obligation to install these machines, not only to help recycle more but also to further boost business,” Grima said.