A proposed legal amendment to fine households and businesses that do not separate their waste has been broadly welcomed by the restaurant and catering sector, with both the Association of Catering Establishments (ACE) and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) saying that the move to a circular economy is an important one which has the full backing of the industry’s representative bodies.

A legal notice currently open for consultation foresees the replacement of the black bin bag with a transparent one that will allow inspectors to ascertain every bag’s compliance with the new law mandating the separation of waste into different streams.

The change is in line with the Government’s Long Term Waste Management Plan, which proposes measures that will make producers and generators of waste fork out money to reflect the costs of its treatment.

MHRA president Tony Zahra, speaking to BusinessNow.mt, says that the proposed law will not be an issue for hotels and larger restaurants with the space and resources to effectively manage their waste.

The problem, he says, is that smaller establishments with limited space might find it difficult to comply.

“It’s not going to be a major difficulty for most of our members. For many, it is something they are already doing, so this is simply a continuation to what they are doing. One or two smaller members might find this a little inconvenient – but it needs to be done.”

“We are pro sustainability and are in favour of the measures being introduced to reach Malta’s 2050 targets,” says ACE CEO Omar Vella, who however strongly emphasised the need for adequate information and education of business operators before any such measure is introduced.

He points out that the Beverage Container Refund Scheme (BCRS), introduced last week, has caused a lot of suffering due to a rollout that has not met people’s expectations.

“We hope that the way this is introduced and implemented is certainly better than the way the bottle return scheme was launched,” he says, adding that “it is imperative that everyone knows exactly what to do and has been given correct and timely information to comply with the changes, before fines start being dished out.”

While admitting that BCRS is still in its infancy, and stating his acceptance that a new system always represents a learning curve with teething problems, Mr Vella repeats that the introduction of such an important system could have been carried out better.

“We have businesses tell us that they do not know these bags will be picked up – some mistakenly believe that BCRS collectors will automatically be passing by and collecting them. They do not actually know how they will be picked up, that there is an app.”

He continues: “The issues we are coming across indicate that there should have been much more time for the industry to understand better, to be educated better, to adapt better.”

Mr Vella stresses that the problem cannot simply be laid at the feet of Government, reminding that BCRS is a private entity owned by some of the largest companies in Malta.

“BCRS has a duty to educate, establish a working logistics network, and to do what it said it is going to do. The scheme’s success is reliant on the entity managing it.”

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