Write up: Roundtable on Public Cleansing

Friends of the Earth Malta was present at the Roundtable: Indafa Pubblika (Public Cleansing) organised by the Cleansing and Maintenance Division, to discuss issues around waste, dumping and our environment together with local NGOs. Alongside other organisations such as 7R Lifestyle, Birżebbuġa Clean Up Group, Kollettiv Żgħażagħ Ekoxellugin (young Greens), Coast is Clear, and Raniero’s Diving Adventures, we shared our recommendations and ideas with Parliamentary Secretary Glenn Bedingfield, General Director Ramon Deguara and staff of the Cleansing and Maintenance Division present at the Roundtable, held on Saturday 27 April at Esplora in Kalkara. 

The meeting started with a brief presentation about the work of their team, highlighting the change from basic street sweeping with skupa and pala, to using more modern technology, such as the electric street cleaning machines now found on our roads. They also shared statistics about the number of complaints received and actions taken, as well as key hotspots for waste dumping. According to their numbers, over 60,000 cases were received from the public between 2019-2023, of which 99.7% were resolved. Anyone noticing an area needing cleansing or maintenance can report this using the Clean and Upkeep app, or simply via https://cleanandupkeep.gov.mt/

During the roundtable discussion, we shared our concerns over continued illegal dumping, particularly of construction waste, the issue of waste ending up in the sea, the lack of standards for and adequate designs of bins, the lack of cleaning in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure such as cycling lanes and pedestrian over- and underpasses, as well as concerns over cleaning involving the removal of wild and flowering plants. We also highlighted the importance of observing the waste hierarchy: a list of priorities which states that first and foremost we should work to prevent and reduce the creation of waste, then on reusing, recycling, and finally collection and cleaning. 

Apart from concerns at a national level, we also discussed particular issues related to the street where our Green Resource Centre is located, Xatt ic-Cangatura in Floriana, which hosts the Sunday Market and is continuously littered with flying plastic packaging and bags from the market. Despite several clean ups and the installation of extra bins on our own initiative, with funding through a company CSR event, the issue is chronic and remains unresolved. 

Another issue mentioned by several of the organisations present was that of littering on Comino and the sea surrounding it, including the infamous pineapples and their accompanying straws, as well as other waste emanating from the uncontrolled volumes of tourists and visitors to the small island, a Natura 2000 site. 

After a coffee break with a view of the Grand Harbour, the General Director and Parliamentary Secretary responded to the concerns raised and suggestions provided by the environmental organisations present. Mr Deguara shared how they are working on better coordination with other government agencies and enforcement teams, such as from LESA, ERA, the police, local councils and the regions, to address the current fragmentation. They are also working on a control centre to better monitor and coordinate waste collection, bins, and street cleaning machines. Concerning the issue of street cleaning resulting in the clearing of wild vegetation, Mr Deguara shared that his division is working directly with ERA to train their employees and change this practice. Unfortunately, concerning Comino, they stated that their division cannot take any action, as anything pertaining to Comino falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of Gozo. The Parliamentary Secretary ended the Roundtable by expressing his thanks, stating that our organisations “represent a just cause, fighting for environmental justice, and being catalysts of change”. 

Overall, we were pleased to attend an event in which our concerns were heard and suggestions were listened to and taken on board, and we look forward to seeing further improvement in cleaning and maintenance of our public spaces and natural environment. 

Our full recommendations, including images of our clean ups in the vicinity of our Green Resource Centre in Floriana can be found here.

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