You’re suddenly seeing small, white bags wherever you go in Malta, are quite ashamed to admit you haven’t started separating your organic waste yet, but still don’t have the foggiest idea about where to start.
If this sounds like your situation, then read on because we’ve got you covered.
Every household is entitled to a free organic waste kit, basically a set of biodegradable organic bags and a small ventilated bin to reduce the smell of the trash. These kits were distributed both on a door-to-door basis and from community pickup points, but if you missed the bus on both counts you can still pick them up from your nearest civic amenity site. Biodegradable waste bags are now also available from several supermarkets.
So does it have to be a specific bag?
Wasteserv’s website states that rubbish collectors will collect organic waste that is dumped into any white bag. However, the advantage of biodegradable bags is that they can be decomposed along with the rest of the organic waste. So if you’re separating waste to help the environment, you might as well just go all the way and use the biodegradable bags too.
What items count as organic waste?
A detailed list of what rubbish goes in which bag be found below:
And when is this waste collected?
Organic waste bags are collected every Monday, Wednesday and Friday around Malta, but collection times differ by locality. The current town-by-town schedule can be found here.
I saw my garbage man tossing white and black bags in the same rubbish truck…
Given that the system requires a change in mentality on something not many people usually give much thought to, Wasteserv has decided not to rush things. If you put out your organic waste late, then the next rubbish truck collecting black bags will probably pick it up, and this not to leave streets strewn with unsightly garbage bags.
Black bags put out too late or on the wrong day are not being tossed into organic waste rubbish trucks, but are being slapped with red stickers as warning signs to people that they had gotten the date wrong.
However, you shouldn’t get too comfortable with the current system but rather use it as a learning curve. In the coming weeks, fines of between €150-€300 will be imposed on people who take their bags out on the wrong day or more than four hours before collection time. Enforcement will be carried out through a combination of inspections by Environment and Resources Authority wardens, community reporting and CCTV monitoring.
Black bags left out late or on the wrong day are being slapped with red stickers
What if I just decide not to recycle at all?
There is probably a very high chance that absolutely nothing will happen to you if you decide to keep dumping all your waste into black bags. While any wardens on the beat will be able to see through the white and grey bags to find out whether you are obeying the law, they will have to open up and dig through the black bags.
Even if they do this, they will then have to find out which resident is breaking the law, meaning surveillance teams will have to be sent to problematic areas and search rubbish bags as soon as they are dumped on the floor.
While such a system is envisaged in the law, it is understandable to believe you can get away with it. The question is, why would you?
Malta was recently ranked as the country which recycles the least amount of waste in the EU, with only 7% of the country’s total waste being recycled as of 2016. This is way, way off its EU target of recycling 50% of waste produced by 2020.
However, beyond the immediate EU targets, there are several pro-environment reasons why you should jump on board. The alternative to recycling organic waste is dumping it into landfills with the rest of the mixed waste, not only wasting (pun very much intended) precious space but also releasing harmful methane gas into the environment.
During the recycling process, the organic waste will let off thermal energy, which will then be used to generate electricity, while the remaining compost-like material will be used as a soil improver.
It is essentially sustainability in action, but while the government has finally shown a sign of intent, the real test must now come from the public.