Waste today gone tomorrow sustainable waste management: Malta, a case study

This source preferred by Tilak Ginige

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Authors: Ginige, T.

Journal: COBRA 2008 - Construction and Building Research Conference of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

When discussing waste management in the context of sustainable development, we are considering a system involving a process of change in which the core components, i.e. society, resource use, investment, technologies, institutions, and consumption patterns, need to operate in greater harmony with ecosystems. The current hierarchy for waste management follows a predominately-linear pattern, where we buy, use a product and throw it away. This system has a propensity to cause increases in the amount of waste generated, which has a direct causal effect on waste disposal. This may result in endangering the supply for future generations through the depletion of our natural resources. Thus, there is a need for new approaches, coupled with attitudinal changes towards waste. For too long the focus has been on what will be done with waste once it is produced. The primary functions of waste management plans are to lay the groundwork for a sustainable waste management. Sustainable waste management cannot be decoupled from resource conservation until a shift from waste management to resource conservation takes place, i.e. a shift from 'what are we going to do with our rubbish' to 'how are we going to prevent wastage and conserve natural resources'. Research to date has shown that the current levels of resources used by the developed world is pushing the planet way beyond what is sustainable. Therefore, closing the material loop is essential, i.e. turning our present linear use of resources into a cyclical one. This will require us to a change our present thinking into a life cycle approach. There is evidence that a shift of sorts is taking place. This can be seen in the approach that the European Union is taking with regard to the changes that are being made to the current Community Framework Directive on waste. This Directive proposes: the setting of the EU's first ever general waste recycling targets and enshrining the five-step waste hierarchy into EU law - prevention, reuse, recycling, recovery and disposal-; a definition of by-products that will allow some materials currently defined as waste to become non-wastes and that no longer have to comply with waste regulation; the realignment of EU waste priorities to give greater emphasis to lifecycle considerations and the link between "waste" and resource use; the introduction of pro-incineration approaches to recovery definition. The implications of EU environmental policies applied to the Maltese Islands within the microcosm of competing interests would enable us to critically evaluate the applications of these new aims and objectives and to better ascertain their long-term implications for the new member states. © RICS.

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