Bags full of recyclable waste have started piling up on roadsides across Gozo as several local councils and a service provider lock horns over a payment dispute.
Footage and images of the mounds of grey bags filled with recyclables have started cropping up on social media this week, as residents across the sister island wonder when and if the waste will ever be cleared.
Residents in Xlendi said the large bins meant for recyclable waste at the entrance of the popular seaside village were overflowing with grey bags and waste which was spilling out onto the pavement.
“This is disgusting – and right in the middle of tourist season, what a disgrace," resident Grace Bugeja said.
Xlendi was not alone. Last month The Sunday Times of Malta had reported how more than half of Gozo could end up without the collection of recyclable waste.
The local councils are refusing to pay an extra premium for the service provider to empty and clean the bring-in sites in their localities. They are also refusing to pay for door-to-door collection.
Green MT, a subsidiary of the Chamber of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (GRTU), had informed seven councils in Gozo and one council in Malta that they would need to start paying for the service as from September 1.
Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana took to Facebook on Tuesday, pointing the finger of blame squarely at the contractor.
The Environment and Resources Authority was responsible for ensuring companies engaged to collect waste, honoured their agreements with local councils, she said.
If a solution was not found in the coming days, the government would consider taking any emergency measures to clear the streets. It would also not rule out taking legal action against those involved, the Gozitan minister said.
It turns out that the authority had already ordered Green MT to continue providing the service to the councils, but the provider has since appealed this.
A hearing is set to be held before a tribunal in November.
Regulator warns producers of 'state of illegality'
ERA also informed the service provider that its "state of illegality" could prejudice its position.
In a letter sent to all producers associated with Green MT, the environmental regulator warned that they were on shaky legal ground. Green MT's refusal to collect waste from selected localities, the ERA told producers, could prejudice their legal position as they had entrusted waste collection obligations to the Green MT scheme.
Producers are companies which generate significant amounts of waste, and which must, under EU law, ensure that the majority of waste their business generates is collected. To do so, they sign up with either Green MT or GreenPak, which then collect waste from respective localities.
Green MT has called the regulator's warning "abusive and illegal" and threatened legal action against it. It has also told producers that it will be holding a meeting to discuss the situation later this week.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued last week, titled 'GreenPak should say the truth', Green MT alleged that its rival firm had saved “hundreds of thousands of euros” when local councils forked out public funds and paid waste collectors between July 2013 and November 2017.
GreenPak did not take the allegation of indirect State aid lightly and has said it reserved the right to take legal action to protect its reputation.
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