The value in recycling
Recycling converts waste matter into new products or materials and is an alternative to conventional waste disposal that helps to save and repurpose objects thereby further contributing to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions leading to climate change mitigation. Materials which are referred to as ‘closed loop recyclables’ are collected separately and include glass, plastic, paper, metal and wood. These materials are common in everyday products which we all use, so we need to know how to manage this waste properly. It is best if these materials are free from dirt, chemicals and grease by emptying and washing them out prior to recycling.
The Waste Framework Directive requires that by 2020, at least 50% of municipal solid waste (MSW) including paper, plastics, metal and glass are reused and/or recycled, whereas the Landfill Directive imposes the diversion of biodegradable municipal waste from landfills towards recycling and recovery facilities. The recently published NSO figures show that recycling rates are rising in our islands but to date still fall far from this target and unfortunately MSW generation is also increasing. In 2015, waste output from private pre-recycling treatment facilities amounted to 78,372 tonnes of which 89.7% were exported for recycling or recovery. In 2015, the separate collection of waste fractions from Civic amenity sites increased by 11%, amounting to 2,733 tonnes. Residents showed a greater preference for kerbside collection of recycling bags (grey or green) and glass containers over bring-in sites for the disposal of recyclable waste, resulting in a significant increase in recycling. Since we do not have the facilities in place to convert the waste material into usable products, the recycling plants in Malta tend to sort the waste, e.g. PET bottles or cardboard, and pack them into bales which are then eventually transported overseas.
Due to our small size and high population density we do not have the space to engineer and construct more unsightly landfills, in fact our active landfill is close to exhaustion so it is up to all of us as individual generators of waste to make the effort to reduce, reuse and recycle. Whilst most recyclables such as empty beverage containers, paper and magazines, aluminium cans and others are easily recognisable, some items are commonly confused and disposed of incorrectly. To improve our recycling habits, some misconceptions need to be addressed. Broken glass or ceramic kitchenware is not to be separated with glass, but it should be wrapped for health and safety reasons and disposed of in the black bag. Food packaging with metallised plastic film (composite material of plastic and metal) such as those in certain crisp and snack packets with a silver lining are currently not recyclable. Cartons, on the other hand, be they of milk or juice, are recyclable. Food waste is to also be separately disposed of in the white bag in localities where the organic waste project is ongoing – this will further reduce the waste going to landfill whilst recovering energy.
More tips on improving waste separation can be found on dontwastewaste.gov.mt. Do your bit!