Reducing plastic waste in Malta

A local blog entry on living plastic-free a whole month has been on my mind for a while. Being in the Mediterranean makes me more aware of plastic waste. In Egypt, gorgeous observation points and splendid buildings were often marred by piles of plastic waste accumulating around them. In Israel, all vendors insisted on packing everything in plastic. I collected these bags and took them with me to the market, but even with my restrictive habits, I had to vacate a full cupboard section of plastic bags before I moved out.

Now in Malta plastic bags are typically given by default, and they are not like the super useful Lithuanian plastic bags with handles, that can be used for carrying stuff and are easy to tie. On a windy morning, carelessly discarded garbage becomes a chaotic orchestra, with papers swishing about, cans rattling and plastic bags rustling. The news came out today that recycling has dropped in Malta, one of the least recycling countries in the EU, and so the crowded beautiful island is drowning in garbage. I’d like to imagine that perhaps the figures quoted in the newspaper are partly to do with people using less plastic and having less to discard, but I strongly doubt it.

To be honest, I think that plastic bags are generally a great product. They are excellent for separating things and keeping them clean. They protect stuff from the elements. I always try to have plastic bags with me and reuse them for many purposes – protecting my stuff from spills in my suitcase, isolating anything that may spill or doesn’t smell right (including brushes for oil colours), protecting my laptop of I suspect that my backpack may be vulnerable to strong sideways rain, protecting my feet if I feel that my shoes have started leaking, and there’s still a long way to go, storing seasonal items that may be exposed to dust, and transporting all kinds of objects. I really wish that one day we have a cheap biodegradable product to replace it.

I think that with growing awareness the problem of plastic bags will be easier to solve than others. After all, plastic bags are easy to clean, reusable and very useful at home. I would argue that packaging is a bigger problem. Looking at various products at a supermarket today, I realised that the majority of them had at least a patch of plastic. Also, things like cheese are rarely sold in anything else than plastic. I remember once seeing someone selling Maltese gbejnet from an open container, exposed to flies. It looked quite unappealling, so it would take a genuine commitment to plastic-free life to choose this over the neat two-piece packs at shops.

Plastic boxes used used for strawberries and various other fruit or vegetables are not a huge problem. I’ve always found it easy to give them away to vegetable vendors in Malta.

Plastic tubes, bottles and vacuum packaging are a bigger problem. Even organic products are sold in plastic. Theoretically some of it is reusable, but I’m yet to see an organic shop that offers refills.

So I guess it means back to the good old upcycling and reusing for now.

Comments 2

  1. Stop using plastic straws, even in restaurants. If a straw is a must, purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass straw.

  2. WE see all the emphasis on collecting plastic waste but little done to manage the consequences. The collected material (plastics) have generally very little value in the current world as recycling them is not worth the effort. Reforming the constituent chemicals to make products is the key, and this can be done for a profit, it is not a service.

    We are intrigued with the notion that plastic products (essentially made from oil) are not viewed with the simplicity of being collected and turned into fuels for transport – a very easy procedure – in order to remove them from the waste collection arena.

    This processing can be carried out very effectively without toxic emissions and smoke etc. – a procedure which is key to the development process.

    Admittedly – this procedure deals with the results of collecting the plastics. It is a revision to that which we see routinely across the world waste management and treatment organisations who are fixed in their attitudes to recycling plastics rather than taking the next step forward making full use of the resource.

    We can turn these existing plastics in to a useable product (asset such as a fuel) with value which will be a better than current uses and the disposal to land fill or burning (as in incineration) which produces toxic emissions like Dioxins, POPs, Particulates and the likes.

    We have a process that can accept plastics here and even take on a small fee to turn them into such fuels as a light Diesel, Methane, and Hydrogen with ease. A programme that will accept – say – 50/54,000 tonnes of mixed plastics a year, or 150 tonnes per day – would produce over 40,000 tonnes of light diesel in the same time and from the revenue stream pay for the proposed development (budgeted at €50 Million) within 4 to 5 years. Such a programme would be designed to encourage participation by the local people to assist by being rewarded to collect plastics from their localities (where such is left outside the control of waste management collection authorities, such as in the areas in Asia and the likes) and this would help the world-wide issues.

    Such a process can be mounted both onshore and aboard an ocean-going ship or barge. Think of that in say Mumbai or the Philippines and Viet Nam and the likes.

    Correctly we add that we are not a waste collection-affiliated company and we do not have such allegiances.

    We are a provider of technical solutions and will use local companies to build the works to our design and we will therefore use our own personnel and design support teams to ensure programmes are brought to fruition. A typical project would take 15 months to design build and bring to operation.


    Confirming the issues beyond, we have also a processing development system to make various grades of Bioplastics, Bio-based Plastics, and Bio-degradable Plastics to be a full substitute for the oil-based equivalents. These have the ability to be used in equal place for existing plastics and can be tailor-made to self-decompose after use (after collection) or be reconverted to make Biofuels such as Hydrogen (which will also trap the Carbon and make it suitable for soil enrichment) or Methane. These plastics are accredited with uses that can range from the high-end value down wards.

    A programme we have set up for this development – in the Netherlands – is awaiting financial closure to start by end 2018/early 2019 which is scheduled to make over 50,000 tonnes of advanced Bio-Based Plastics per year at a budgeted value of €50/60 million.

    Please consider the above comments.

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