A report presented by environmentalist Edward Mallia has found that the recycling plant at Marsascala was barely catering for 45 households, let alone the 1,400 households as originally planed.

The Sant’ Antnin waste recycling plant turns organic waste into compost. The plan was to produce enough biogas which in turn would generate electricity for 1,400 households.

Moreover, only 50% of the organic waste processing targets were met at the plant over the past two years.

The findings of the report have led the government to temporarily close the Marsascala family park, which is situated right next to the plant – a decision which was met with criticism by the Nationalist Opposition.

Because of a fault in the adjacent plant, the experts were of the opinion the park should be declared “out of bounds”. 

A hydroliser tank, used to clean the biogas produced from treating household waste from hydrogen sulphide before this passes into the electricity generating unit, was damaged.

Environment Minister Leo Brincat explained the decision to temporarily close the family park was taken at a political level, and not by WasteServ’s management.

“We wanted to send the message that even if the report was of the opinion, and not a recommendation, that the park be closed, we owed it to the rapporteurs to take their suggestion on board even if they admitted that sulphur content of emissions had not surpassed EU levels,” Brincat told MaltaToday.

He insisted it would a “big disservice” to the hours and commitment the review team put into their scientific exercise if one were to focus on the risk assessment element only.

Originally, the task of the review team was to focus on environmental health with particular emphasis on air quality. At their own request, this was was then extended to incorporate the performance of the plant on waste to energy.

“The findings of the report were alarming, especially when it transpired that waste separation was badly lacking. It proved to be a big mistake for the previous government to locate the family park so close to a recycling plant,” Brincat said, noting the report found that most of the Sant Antnin compost had excessively heavy metal content.

The experts found the air quality was so inefficient in monitoring terms, that they called for the whole air quality monitoring procedure in the environs of plant to be re-evaluated. They said air sampling for certain pollutants should be carried out on a continuous 24/7 basis publishing all such results in real time.

The review team found that one person responsible of HR was not enough to handle with and cope with the various operations with WasteServ had across the the island.

The same conclusion had been reached in a separate study carried out by IDEA Consulting.

“What I personally found worrying was a revelation made by the IDEA report: according to board minutes, the former management had tried to keep under wraps the involvement of a person who was unable to sign all documentation pertaining to his job. The said person had a suspended court sentence after having been found guilty by the local courts of malpractices in his line of business,” Brincat said.

The minister said health and safety standards in the whole plant “were a big joke”. The review team found “totally unacceptable” widespread disregard for health and safety. Workers, for example, were found smoking in areas were hazardous material was kept.

Brincat found “interesting” Mallia’s strong case for a more robust waste to energy strategy.

In his report, Mallia claims Malta needed to consider more intensive investment in waste-to-energy technology if this were to contribute significantly to the 2020 renewable energy targets.

To date, little of renewable energy targets have been target. According to the environment minister, this was down to the intrinsic defects in the execution of the plan, particularly due to the inferior quality of organic waste feed which depressed the contribution of waste treatment.

“What I found even more depressing was the performance predictions on uncertain or unclear assumptions and the lack of monitoring of actual performance which will invariably lead to failure to achieve set targets,” the minister said.