Updated 6.05pm - Added PN statement

Construction sites across the entire country could start facing hefty delays and fines in the coming days, skip operators warned on Tuesday as dumping sites for building waste have reached capacity. 

“We have been told that there is nowhere left to dump the building debris – everywhere is full. That means we can’t collect our skips from construction sites, meaning there is a serious problem because construction at present is in full swing,” veteran skip operator Jesmond Zerafa said.

Surrounded by around two dozen other irate operators who were signing a petition letter to the government on the matter, Mr Zerafa said that their pleas for help had so far fallen on deaf ears. 

Since 2017, skip operators have been dumping construction waste at two quarries, one in Mqabba and another in Żurrieq. The quarries were offered as a solution after other sites previously used, had reached capacity.

Read: Developers object to minister's quarry warning

At the time, Environment Minister José Herrera had said the country was facing an “unprecedented construction waste crisis”, with public construction projects failing to get started because there was nowhere to dispose of construction waste. 

Skip operators said the problem was back.

The two quarry owners, they said, had started instructing operators not to bring any more waste as they had run out of space for the heaps of debris leaving construction sites every day. 

Though only butter-yellow, the 7pm sun on Tuesday was still biting hot as the incensed skip workers told the Times of Malta how they had been led around the garden path by the authorities.

We have been told there is nowhere left to dump the debris

“First we went to the ministry – after the minister didn’t answer our calls to him directly. Then we were told to go to the Environment and Resources Authority, which sent us back to the ministry, and Waste Serve didn’t help us either,” another operator said.

One skip operator said he had several skips out at construction sites that were due for pick up in the coming days and he had no idea where he would dump the debris.

He was followed by a chorus of others who all said they were in the same boat. 

In a statement, the Environment Ministry said it was working with the ERA to assess a number of interim measures to address the situation. While this is being done, the ministry called for increased cooperation from the construction industry “to improve the construction and excavation techniques and facilitate recycling opportunities leading to a sustainable sector”.

The statement added that ERA had been tasked with drafting a long-term strategic solution.

Meanwhile, operators said that in the immediate term, the government should allow them to dump construction waste at the State landfill to avoid “a disaster” in the construction industry.

Nationalist Party environment spokesman Jason Azzopardi said the impending crisis was the result of the government’s failure to create a long-term strategic plan for construction waste disposal.

In a statement, Dr Azzopardi said that if the government wanted the construction sector to drive economic growth, it had to also think about eventualities such as waste disposal.

Dr Azzopardi dismissed talk of land reclamation, arguing that much of the waste was debris from demolition works and could not be used for reclamation purposes.

“Environment Minister Jose Herrera is responsible for this lack of planning, because he knew this problem would rearise,” the PN spokesman said. “Instead of preparing for this eventuality, the government did nothing and now people will pay for it.”

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