The Planning Authority board on Thursday unanimously approved an application to increase the height of the Għallis landfill by 15 metres to avoid a waste disposal crisis. The measure will provide space for dumping to continue for a few years until the waste-to-energy plant  (the incinerator) is completed.

The new height will extend the landfill's lifetime by up to three years. It cannot grow any further due to engineering limitations, WasteServ CEO Richard Bilocca told the PA board.

Despite our efforts, the [waste] problem is still big and the daily challenges are massive

Despite the heavy visual impact from practically all viewpoints, the landfill will grow to 70 metres but will remain 22 metres below the highest point of the infamous Maghtab rubbish dump.

“Despite our efforts, the [waste] problem is still big and the daily challenges are massive. The nation needs a culture shift and we will be in a better position to achieve this with new policies in place,” Bilocca said, while admitting that the visual impact cannot be defended. He said this will be mitigated with greenery.

He told the board that the extension is a stopgap measure until the waste-to-energy plant is completed. That project will include a new landfill. Agricultural land in the vicinity will continue to be safeguarded.

“From the environmental aspect it makes sense as we will be increasing the space on the same footprint, without taking up more agricultural land,” he said. There is an absolute need for this permit, he said, as he explained that despite a reduction in waste, the nation is still way off its targets.

The development involves an increase in the vertical height of the landfill profile to increase its volume capacity by 850,000 cubic metres. This will be achieved by building a retaining wall at a specific angle.

No other immediate options

PA chairman Emanuel Camilleri noted that Malta had reached a point where this application was “a necessity” since there were “no other immediate options”.

He called for additional education campaigns and more awareness about the country’s waste management problem.

Camilleri expressed concerns over the visual impact and said that WastServ seemed to be adopting an incremental approach rather than a transformational approach to mitigate and eventually eliminate the problem in the long term.

Bilocca retorted that campaigns were working, and results were being achieved, although more had to be done. He said WastServ recently launched another educational campaign because 40 per cent of the waste found inside the black bags was still organic waste.

Waste to be converted to energy

He mentioned the waste-to-energy plant under construction and how it will turn hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste into energy. He said around 192,000 tons of waste that is currently landfilled will be incinerated and turned into energy instead. An additional 70,000 tons of organic waste will also be turned into energy.

“I am confident that we will turn around the situation drastically because all resources and support is being given and policy decisions have been taken,” he said.

WastServ still requires an IPPC permit to be able to execute Thursday’s decision.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us