Malta is at risk of missing its 2020 municipal waste recycling targets, according to an early warning report by the European Commission.

The country is bound by a target of 50% recycling rate for municipal waste, but in 2016 this figure stood at just 7%, while the landfill rate was 83%, according to data reported by Malta to Eurostat.

Malta is one of 14 member states the Commission deemed at risk of missing the 2020 targets.

The Commission’s assessment concluded that Malta still faced serious difficulties in its implementation of EU waste law, mainly due to lack of infrastructure and collection systems for recyclables and bio-waste.

It also pointed to a “lack of coordination between different administrative levels and insufficient capacity at the local level” as well as a general lack of incentives, economic and otherwise, to prevent waste and improve recycling.

The Commission provided a list of measures for Malta to improve its waste management performance, including making local councils responsible for the collection of all household waste and setting out reporting requirements, to allow underperforming councils to be held to account.

It also recommends measures to ensure businesses do not free ride on household waste collection services, economic incentives for households in the form of pay-as-you-throw schemes (where households are charged a rate based on how much waste they present for collection) and mandatory recycling targets for local councils.

“If implemented swiftly by national and local authorities, these suggested actions will significantly reduce the risk of the targets not being met,” the Commission said.

The government announced in February the construction of a new €150 million waste-to-energy plant in Magħtab, scheduled for completion in 2023.

The incinerator is planned to process 40% of Malta’s waste, with the rest being recycled, although this recycling rate is not envisioned to be reached by the time the plant is operational.

Last week, the government also announced the setting up of a new agency for waste recovery and recycling, which will be bolstered by forthcoming mandatory waste separation laws.

Malta has one of the highest levels of waste generation in the EU – around 642 kilos per person per year.