Updated Monday 4.42pm with GreenPak reaction below - More than half of Gozo could soon end up without the collection of recyclable waste, as councils are refusing to accept a request by the service provider to start paying for the door-to-door collection.
The local councils are also refusing to pay an extra premium for the service provider to empty and clean the bring-in sites in their localities.
Green MT, a subsidiary of the Chamber of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (GRTU), has informed seven councils in Gozo and one council in Malta that they would need to start paying for the service as from September 1.
The letter was sent to Munxar, Żebbuġ, Għasri, Għarb, San Lawrenz, Fontana and Kerċem in Gozo and Senglea in Malta. Another two localities in Gozo where Green MT operates – Victoria and Għajnsielem – are not affected by the new regime.
They are the same local councils which Green MT informed in January it would be stopping the “unsustainable operation”.
After this, the Environment Resources Authority ordered Green MT to continue providing the service to these councils, but the provider appealed. It is currently pending before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT). A hearing was meant to be held last month, but the case got deferred to November.
Despite the pending appeal, Green MT recently wrote to the councils informing them of a new pricing regime and that it would only collect the grey bags for free on the first Tuesday of every month.
It also informed the councils that emptying and cleaning bring-in sites, as well as the collection of glass and the provision of grey bags, would become paid services.
Councils that want any of the services must give Green MT eight days’ notice.
Each council has a different pricing regime, according to the size of the locality. The letter, seen by The Sunday Times of Malta, informed the council of a charge of €105 per collection; €8 to empty every container at the bring-in site, €20 per bring-in site for cleaning and €105 per collection of glass. Grey bags will be provided at 6c each.
Green MT chief executive officer Joe Attard said his company was not in financial difficulties “but will only operate under sustainable circumstances”.
He explained that between July 2013 and 2016, a number of councils paid over €500,000 for the collection of the grey bags. These were not local councils under agreement with Green MT.
He said that according to publicly available information, local councils were paying other contractors – those responsible for picking up both black and grey bags – for the collection of recyclable waste. He added that in some instances, the total payments to the contractors involved sums in excess of those acceptable under current procurement regulations, as no calls for tenders had been issued.
“The current legislation has brought about an anomaly and all our actions are aimed for the authorities to establish a fair and level playing field. We have outlined our conditions for providing the service. It is within their remit to decide whether they will pay for the services or not.”
Mayors of five of the seven councils in Gozo told The Sunday Times of Malta when contacted individually on Saturday they did not have the money to start paying for this service, as it had not been budgeted. They would need to reduce other services if they were faced with no option.
According to Legal Notice 226 of 2017, it is the authorised packaging waste recovery scheme that should finance the collection, treatment, recovery and sound disposal of packaging waste generated from households and other sources.
Recycling collection is financed by the business community according to the placement of packaging waste on the market. The system is based on the producer pays principle. According to the Packaging and Waste Directive, every producer has to recover 65 per cent of their packaging. This will increase to 80 per cent by 2020.
Producers choose either GreenMT or the other collector of recyclable waste, GreenPak, to recover the waste for them from local councils. They pay approximately €80 to €90 per ton on average.
Questions sent to the ERA remained unanswered by the time of writing.
GreenPak says it will not charge councils to collect recycled waste
GreenPak CEO Mario Schembri in a statement insisted that his cooperative will continue to provide the service to all its 41 local councils for free.
"The members of the cooperative pay to provide this free service to the public through local councils and there are no compensations received from the government,” he said.
Mr Schembri said that according to Legal Notice 226 of 2017, it was amply clear that the authorised packaging waste recovery scheme should finance the collection, treatment, recovery and sound disposal of packaging waste generated from households and other sources.
This meant that by law every local council had to be provided with a free service since the scheme was financed by the business community who chose GreenPak or Green MT to recover 65 per cent of the packaging they put on the market. This system was based on the producer pays principle and by 2020 the amount that has to be recovered will increase to 80 per cent.
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