A new strategy to tackle Malta’s construction waste problem will give priority to establishing waste disposal standards for the building industry and introducing a regulatory framework for managing such waste.

It also proposes introducing incentives to restore abandoned houses and suggests that from 2028, high-density residential construction should be given targets to recycle at least 40 per cent of all excavated material.

The strategy, which targets the nine years stretching to 2030, was announced by Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia, along with Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) deputy director Kevin Mercieca on Saturday morning.

Around 80 per cent of all Malta’s waste is construction and demolition waste, compared to roughly 25 per cent in other EU countries.

Much of that waste is currently used to backfill abandoned quarries and just over 20 per cent is recycled as aggregate or other material for construction.

But with the rubble continuing to pile up, there remains a shortage of places to dispose of the waste. 

“The construction drive this government pushed for produced unprecedented levels of construction waste, which of course saw repercussions, and that is why this strategy is extremely important,” Farrugia said.

Land reclamation?

He said that the government has recently announced the proposed metro system, and the Gozo-Malta tunnel, two projects which are proposed to produced huge amounts of construction waste.

“This is why today we are announcing this strategy, to  improve the standards of the industry and that we start reducing, reusing and resourcing our construction waste and use it as a new source.”

Land reclamation, which has been suggested as a way of using such waste, features in the nine-year strategy, but little detail is provided.

The strategy notes that studies are currently in progress and that the ERA will develop “location selection criteria for potential areas for land reclamation,” followed by assessments of the socio-economic, technical and environmental impacts of such a plan .

Farrugia told Times of Malta that the studies had not been concluded and would be published when they were done.

He said he was in favour of land reclamation - something he has previously noted - and said that PN leader Bernard Grech has also indicated that he favours the plan.

“This means the country is united in this direction,” he said.

15 proposed measures

The strategy includes 15 proposed measures focusing on improving the standards of the construction industry, improving waste classification and setting of re-use and recycling targets. 

Mercieca said the strategy identifies four main priority areas crucial for the management of construction and demolition waste. 

“Firstly, we will look at design and planning, on how to address waste problems at the source. Then we will tackle waste management, and improve logistics of waste separation and how to manage it in a more sustainable manner,” he said.  

Other measures focus on quality management, that will work on raising the standards of waste separation in the industry. He mentioned other measures will focus on the regulatory entities, with the introduction of new legislation. 

Farrugia said the government is taking ‘courageous decisions’, as no other previous government took the initiative to implement such measures. 

“We will be addressing the challenges that the waste industry faces in a holistic manner, and this strategy will serve as a framework to bring cultural change for the sector and for us to start looking at waste in a different way and minimise construction waste and focus on a more circular economy.” 

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