Plastic waste in Malta increased by nearly a third over the past decade, making the island one of Europe’s worst performers when it came to curbing plastic use, a new report has found.

Published by the European Environment Agency earlier this month, the 10-year (2007-2017) review of plastic waste management puts Malta in fifth from bottom when it comes to reducing the amount of plastic waste being generated. Only the Eastern European states of Slovakia, Estonia and Poland, along with Hungary, fared worse in the list.

The EU average increase in plastic waste was just six per cent.

Malta has experienced significant economic growth during the period reviewed in this study, however, its plastic waste efforts have not been as vigorous.

The government last month announced plans for a ban on single use plastics, the end of free plastic bags at shops and restrictions on other non-biodegradable products as among the green measures planned to be implemented in the next few years.

The reform, which is currently open for public consultation, largely follows an EU-wide policy adopted last year.

Meanwhile, the EAA report says that demand for plastics is in-creasing rapidly worldwide. 

In 2017, the demand for plastics in the 28 EU member states stood at almost 52 million tonnes, up from 46 million tonnes in 2010. Global production of plastics reached 348 million tonnes in 2017, an extra 13 million tonnes compared with the year before.

The use of plastic in products, the report says, keeps increasing because of its low price and the useful properties of the various plastic types, which make them effective in a wide variety of applications.

Use of plastic in products keeps increasing

Packaging is the sector identified as using most of the plastic produced, followed by the construction, automotive and electronics sectors.

Almost one fifth of the global plastics production came from Europe.

In 2016, a third of plastic waste was recovered in Europe – but only 63 per cent of that recovery actually took place in Europe – and only about six per cent of the current European demand for plastics was covered by domestic recycled or secondary plastics, meaning almost all the plastic on the EU market is freshly produced.

Malta was a late adopter of recycling, with efforts to enforce it only having really picked up in recent years.

Figures released by the National Statistics Office show that in 2016, a total of 8,714 tonnes of plastic waste were generated, of which 7,915 tonnes were recovered and treated.

However, rewind to just a few years earlier and the figure shrinks to just a fraction.

Data from 2007 to 2017 for the 28 EU member states shows a recent relative decoupling of plastic packaging waste generation from economic growth. However, the EAA says there are big differences in the development of plastic packaging waste generation per capita in the individual countries over the same time period.

Of the 28 EU member states, nine managed to decouple plastic packaging waste generation from economic growth.

The economic level, structure and development of the countries plays an important role in the level of waste generation, making it difficult to attribute changes in waste quantities to waste prevention measures alone.

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