‘Full-up’ landfill at Ghallis gets one-year extension

Malta is generating an average of 600kg of waste for each inhabitant as the island’s population spiked to over 433,000 in recent years

The engineered landfill has taken in most of Malta’s domestic waste for decades
The engineered landfill has taken in most of Malta’s domestic waste for decades

The life of the Ghallis landfill – only recently tipped to expire within two years – will be extended by another year through engineering works.

The engineered landfill has taken in most of Malta’s domestic waste for decades, but the island risks running out of space to dispose of its garbage, as it deals with the consequences of larger waste generation on the back of increased population and economic growth.

Malta is generating an average of 600kg of waste for each inhabitant as the island’s population spiked to over 433,000 in recent years.

But while the Cabinet was recently told that the landfill will be running out of space by 2020, environmental studies indicate that no further extensions can be carried out within this site after a new extension.

The studies are aimed at finding a way to prolong the life of the landfill by another year to 2021. The most recent extension to the landfill was approved in 2013.

This will be achieved through engineering works which will extend the Ghallis landfill’s lifetime by around nine to 12 months, increasing empty space in the landfill by 350,000 cubic metres.

Studies included in a project development statement outlining the latest plans reveal that the remaining empty space at the Ghallis landfill is expected to be “filled rapidly”, given current waste deposition rates – an average of 21,500 tonnes per month during 2016.

With this in mind the landfill will be extended again before the development of an incinerator, which is being proposed to burn 40% of household waste after 2022.

The limited space available at the Ghallis non-hazardous landfill is described “as the most significant waste management issue at the national level.”

The project will create a freestanding retaining wall by using compacted waste, using lining materials and engineered reinforcement. This wall will have a steeper profile than that currently in place, but will not result in an increase in height over that approved in previous permits.

In its reaction to the proposed plans the Environment and Resources Authority lamented the absence of a comprehensive plan for the Magħtab waste management complex. The ERA expressed its concern that ad hoc site-specific commitments, in the absence of a more holistic picture, may end up displacing other interventions related to the waste management complex itself onto undeveloped lands nearby.

The ERA is now requesting the submission of a long-term strategy plan for the Magħtab waste management complex.

Malta is ranked sixth amongst the top EU countries that generate the most waste per inhabitant. Additionally, 87% of all waste is going to a landfill while just 8% is being recycled.

Malta is the EU country that has the highest rate of landfilling, with Ghallis having been for decades used as a disposal area for the incineration of waste before being turned into an engineered landfill. Indeed, only 0.4% of waste in Malta is now incinerated, while some 3.6% is treated by composting.

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