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The Government has once again failed to consult and discuss with GRTU. After all the promises that we were made and the frivolous statements stressing how important SMEs are to the economy, our input was once again over-ruled. Once again we are faced with arrogance and bulldozer tactics. This time the issues are the strategy being considered to meet the challenges set out by the EU packaging directive. This is in spite of the fact that this directive will effect the vast majority of SMEs as well as consumers at large.

The Government has once again failed to consult and discuss with GRTU. After all the promises that we were made and the frivolous statements stressing how important SMEs are to the economy, our input was once again over-ruled. Once again we are faced with arrogance and bulldozer tactics. This time the issues are the strategy being considered to meet the challenges set out by the EU packaging directive. This is in spite of the fact that this directive will effect the vast majority of SMEs as well as consumers at large.

GRTU is making it crystal clear that although we are and will remain environmentally conscious we will not accept any new impositions on SMEs that will cause yet more burdens.
Government is proposing to set up a countrywide mandatory deposit scheme which will at first cover beverage containers of every kind. This will include all glass, plastic or metal containers such as beer cans. The Government’s proposal is based around a 3 cents deposit that will be refundable by returning the container to a shop. GRTU objects strongly to the introduction of this scheme whether mandatory or voluntary. First of all we do not agree that certain types of packaging should be singled out and their collection tackled differently. Packaging should not be selected according to its original contents but according to the material its made of. The only discriminatory criteria that is allowed by the EU directive is if the container in question was originally used to contain hazardous substances. These obviously have to be handled in special ways.

Throughout the European Union beverage containers only constitute around 9% of all packaging. Admittedly this may be marginally higher in Malta due to our hot summers urging consumption of more beverages. Even if we were to collect 100% of all beverage containers we would still be very far off from collecting the 50% of all packaging materials as the directive sets out.

We are categorically against the mandatory deposit scheme being suggested by the Government. The argument that we already have a functioning deposit scheme does not hold much water. The existing scheme was designed at a time when a few local producers dominated the market. Consumers did not have the choice they have today. Furthermore, the present scheme includes bottles which are eventually destined to be refilled. This practice is soon to be outlawed by the EU as its considered wasteful. The process involved in cleaning and re-labelling the bottles before refilling them involves a energy consumption which offsets the benefits, this is what the EU says.

We feel that the government should not impose mandatory deposit schemes on the consumer to forcibly make them separate and return their garbage. Today they mention beverages containers. Tomorrow it will be all other container. The household will simply end up a depository of packaging as a 3-cent on each container adds up to too much money. GRTU believes that government is simply shedding its responsibilities on to the householder who is forced to comply as he/she has too much money caught up. The householder then carries his garbage to the shops. That’s government scheme. That is why we speak now. The system being proposed is hence bordering on the anti-social. It will hit low-income families hardest at a time when they are still reeling after the electricity bills shock (no pun intended). If the government has his way with this scheme consumers will not only have to keep and separate their beverage containers but also carry them and transport them to the deposit point. They will then have to queue up to get their money back. The sum of money involved will not be negligible either. For a family of 5 this may be as much as Lm8 per month or more so it simply cannot be ignored. And this is only on beverages. If other packaging is added later the consumer will be hit hard. And yes GRTU is interested in the consumers’ net disposable income.

GRTU main concern is the involvence of shops as garbage deposits. That is why we strongly object to the involvement of shops in any deposit scheme, mandatory or voluntary. In our small economy the voluntary will quickly become mandatory given the pressure of competition. Its bad enough that shops have had to bear this burden so far, many of them having to keep bottles and crates outside their shops only to be reprimanded by MEPA! We are united and determined not to allow this scheme to go ahead. We intend to rally our members to fight this all the way if necessary. We do not want shops to become rubbish dumps. It is unhygienic and already the existing scheme takes up expensive shop floor space, one can just imagine how much more will be required to include all types of beverage containers, not to mention the employee time involved. We also oppose even voluntary participation in deposit schemes because we know that even a voluntary scheme will become wide spread as shops compete for customers. Indeed we believe that this would even lead to an unfair advantage for large Super Markets over village grocers. We believe that shops are part of the community to serve it with products and services and not to become the local rubbish dump. We want to make it unequivocally clear that we are not in the business of garbage collection and disposal and do not want to be.

Euro Commerce’s position on this matter tallies with that of GRTU. Mandatory deposit schemes do not reduce rubbish generated and cause a lot of health risks and unnecessary burdens for the shop owner and the consumer. Their position is as clear as ours and this is why we fail to see how the government could possibly be considering such a scheme. Studies we have conducted clearly show that deposit schemes are expensive to run and maintain and do not offset the benefits. Clearly the end does not justify the means in this case. The experiences of Germany and Denmark who have both tried such schemes have not been envious either. They have been faced with the soaring costs involved in maintaining the system, costs which the consumer will have to bear. Government is being given bad advice and is hearing only one side of the story. We are in favour of kerb-side collection schemes. This is what the Maltese consumer has had so far and is most comfortable with. Numerous experiments have been conducted in the past and the scheme that was the most successful was always the kerb-side collection system. Favoured by consumers, kerb-side collection does not involve the shops and does not put any more financial burdens on our already financially strained consumers. The government should use fiscal incentives through ECO TAX refunds to promote investments in recycling plants. Garbage separation at source should be encouraged through educational campaigns. Already a percentage of separation is being done, albeit small. This is not due to any deposit scheme but through consumer education. Much more could be achieved if this campaign is taken more seriously and more investment is made in this regard. When Eco-Tax was introduced we told government clearly that they had made a very specific choice. They had decided to collect the money to compensate for waste management and were willing to refund it to those who shared the burden with them. We told them clearly: lean the retailers out of it. And government through the Prime Minister gave us that assurance. We will not have any turning back now. There is no need for it. Waste can be managed better without the nonsense of turning the retail shops into garbage deposits.


We also urge the government to consider Thermal incineration as a means to partially reach the targets set out by the directive. The directive clearly indicates that incineration with energy retrieval is an acceptable means. Energy which we could all use.

GRTU is ready and willing to participate in any effort to design a system that will not be anti-social and that will not burden SMEs. We firmly believe that a homogenous solution can be found that will not be unfair to any one sector in particular. GRTU also categorically states that if the government intends to continue in the direction being suggested we intend to rally our members and provoke stiff opposition.





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