Malta Upgrades the Infrastructure

In December last year, the Ministry for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning (MECP) of Malta had launched a public consul­tation addressing the Waste Management Plan for the Maltese Islands 2021-2030, which is mandated under the European Union Waste Framework Directive and to be transposed in local legislation.

As reported by the ministry, Malta’s annual municipal waste generated per capita is currently higher than most EU countries (at an average of 640 kilograms in 2018, according to Eurostat) while landfilling is still the predominant waste treatment option and the recycling rate the lowest amongst EU Member States (about 10 percent in the same year). The status quo is not an option, MECP underlined. “Waste prevention and improved management is not only a central aspect in supporting Malta’s transition towards a resource efficient and circular economy, but also in reducing pressure on Malta’s waste logistics and infrastructure and our dependence on either exporting waste or landfilling where land availability for such purpose is limited.”
Through the projected Waste Management Plan, the strategic objectives are to:

  • Maximize the resource value in waste through different management options
  • Innovate by designing waste prevention initiatives to lower Malta’s per capita generation rate
  • Reform the collection system to increase economies of scale, harmonize collection practices and modernize the collection fleet
  • Build the necessary waste management facilities to treat recyclable, organic and residual waste to achieve Malta’s targets
  • Study the feasibility of an enhanced producer responsibility framework to complement Malta’s transition to a circular economy and reflect further on the true cost of waste management
  • Promote further the involvement of the private sector in waste management

As described in the consultation document regarding the newest Waste Management Plan, Malta currently treats waste through a combination of material recovery center (Sant’ Antnin), mechanical biological treatment plants, thermal treatment facility, WEEE storage facilities and as a least preferred option engineered landfills. Now the country is busy at work upgrading the infrastructure.

In the opinion of MECP Minister Aaron Farrugia, Malta’s recycling situation has already improved. He expressed this conviction during a visit to the ECOHIVE complex in Naxxar, where WasteServ Malta Ltd – a company responsible for organizing, managing and operating integrated systems for waste management – is investing around two million Euro in an automated sorting line. The project will be part-financed by the European Union Cohesion Fund and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. In the future, around 41,000 tons of material will be processed using specially designed machinery that will automatically collect and sort the different types of metal, cardboard, and plastic, the minister underlined according to a report provided by WasteServ in January this year. The separated and baled materials could be sold to be transformed into other products.

According to the consultation document, ECOHIVE is home to four new waste management plants. “The biggest investment of its kind, and it will help us make the most of ALL our waste,” MECP emphasized. As reported, the process for a new high-level plant to replace the Marsa incinerator has started. In September 2020, WasteServ in conjunction with the ministry had announced the launch of the new ECOHIVE project, which is intended to transform the waste management infrastructure in Malta. Tenders for procurement were already published.

The waste-to-energy facility, called ECOHIVE energy, is meant to process waste that cannot be easily recycled. It will be treating 40 percent of non-recyclable waste generated in Malta diverting it away from landfill disposal, WasteServe announced. With a capacity of 192,000 tons annually, this 185 million Euro investment is expected to be put into operation in December 2023.

In the section of ECOHIVE recycling, a new material recovery plant will be designed to process co-mingled recyclables. With an investment of 20 million Euro, the Material Recovery Facility is expected to have an annual capacity of 70,000 tons. Here, the recyclables – namely paper, plastic and metal – are to be separated through an automated sorting process. “Waste will undergo a series of procedures that refine the material stream, extracting specific materials that can be recycled leading to higher quality materials for recycling.” It is the intention that this plant will be commissioned in 2024.

The Organic Processing Plant (ECOHIVE organic) will treat organic waste. Using the heat generated by the waste-to-energy facility for pasteurization, the plant will convert waste into biogas and agricultural compost. It is expected to process around 120,000 tons of organic waste on an annual basis. Around 118 million Euro will be invested to reduce the volume of biodegradable waste going to the landfill. Last, but not least, there will be a new Thermal Treatment Facility replacing the one in Marsa, WasteServ informs on its homepage. As ECOHIVE hygienics, it will also form part of the ECOHIVE project. The facility will process hazardous waste such as clinical and pharmaceutical waste “using environmentally sound technology”. Energy in the form of heat would also be generated in the process.

Other facilities
With an investment of 15 million Euro part-financed by the Cohesion Fund, the Multi-Materials Recovery Facility (MMRF), located in the Ħal Far area, is expected to start operations during the third quarter of 2021. “The processes performed at this facility are directed towards deviating recoverable materials away from landfill, in line with waste management targets emanating from the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC,” WasteServe underlined. The plant will be accepting electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) as well as tires, wood, mattresses, flat glass, expanded polystyrene, textiles and gypsum products. In July 2020, the company inaugurated a new rudimentary sorting line within the Sant’ Antnin complex, “which will be instrumental in creating a more streamlined and efficient mechanism for the sorting of dry recyclables disposed of in grey and green bags”. The complex also includes the Sant’ Antnin Mechanical and Biological Treatment (MBT) plant. WasteServ has been treating all organic waste at this facility since October 2018.

The Thermal Treatment Facility (TTF), situated in Marsa, consists of an incinerator which uses heat to process abattoir waste, clinical waste and other hazardous waste streams. The incinerator, inaugurated in December 2007, replaced the two old incinerators and helped increase the efficiency of operations. To operate its high temperature furnace, it is powered by electrical energy, Heating Gas Oil (HGO) and tallow produced in the autoclave plant, which was installed in 2015. The Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and the Waste Transfer Station (WTS) in Xewkija (Gozo) were set up for the reception, sorting and transportation of non-hazardous wastes coming from Gozo and Comino. The dry recyclable waste is sorted, compacted and baled at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), using a semi-automated mechanical process. Once baled, this is sold to registered waste brokers directly from the facility in Gozo.

Additionally, WasteServ will be opening four Reuse Centers to enhance its Civic Amenity Site experience and to further widen the concept of a circular economy, a press release in January said. These centers, which are expected to be opened by the end of the year, “will offer used and ‘pre-loved’ items such as ceramics, toys, books, and loose furniture which still hold value and can be reused”.

(Published in GLOBAL RECYCLING Magazine 1/2021, Page 30, Photo: etfoto /