Electric Gozo: Muscat lays out his green vision

Electric Gozo: Muscat lays out his green vision

Plastic bottles refund scheme will bring about another change in culture

Environmental issues were discussed during Tuesday's Cabinet with the People meeting. Photo: Reuben Piscopo, DOI

Environmental issues were discussed during Tuesday's Cabinet with the People meeting. Photo: Reuben Piscopo, DOI

Malta's shift to electric cars should start in Gozo, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Tuesday.

Speaking during a “Cabinet with the People” meeting held at the Salina Natural Reserve, Dr Muscat spoke about the gradual change of combustion engine cars to ones with electric motors.

Watch: Government consultation to set cut-off date for diesel and petrol vehicles

He said that there was plenty of preparatory work to do, but that one of the ideas being floated was that Gozo would be the first place to "completely switch" to electric vehicles. 

Dr Muscat did not provide any further details.  

Malta has yet to set a cut-off date for the sale of combustion engine vehicles, though Environment Minister Jose Herrera had told Times of Malta last November that it could be "much closer" than the 2040 deadline being floated. 

The Energy Ministry was working to develop incentives for people who bought electric cars and charged them at their personal garage at particular times, Dr Muscat added on Tuesday. 

Public transport

This change, he said, coincided with the government’s work in the public transport sector. Youths and students were increasingly using public transport - which has been made free for them -  and the government had now also announced that public transport between Malta and Gozo would be free once a tunnel linking the two islands was built. The plan was to eventually have free public transport for all.

The Prime Minister said it was encouraging that many tonnes of waste had started to be used as a resource including for the generation of energy. The difference was already being felt but more needed to be done.

Plastic bottles

Another change in culture would come through the plastic bottles refund scheme, he said.

The scheme will see beverage containers increase marginally in price, with those price increases refunded when bottles are returned for recycling. 

Dr Muscat predicted criticism when the scheme began, though he reminded people that consumers would get their additional outlay if they returned empty bottles instead of throwing them away. It was positive that industry had united to administer the scheme, he said.

The Prime Minister said that following the conversion of oil to gas in the energy sector, traffic pollution was now to be addressed for the environment to be improved in a real way.

Afforestation zone in Bengħisa

Environment Minister Jose Herrera said that the Environment and Resources Authority was looking at recognising a number of further sites as Natura 2000. This would ensure they were protected and received detailed management plans.

He also said that talks were underway with several entities for 30,000 square metres of land in Bengħisa to be transformed into an afforestation zone. Some 5,000 indigenous trees and shrubs could be planted on this land, he said. 

The minister said that, in a few weeks, a holistic policy on single use plastic was to be published while the Waste Management Plan for post 2020 would be issued for public consultation.

On organic waste, the minister said that 6,775 tones of waste had been separated so far. This meant a 25 per cent reduction in waste going into the black bag.

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