Throwing away old electronics isn’t as easy as getting rid of your regular household waste. That’s because electronic waste tends to contain toxic materials like mercury, lead, and cadmium. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that mercury isn’t very good for the environment, or for you, and it’s not a great idea to have it leaching into the soil.
As society becomes more and more dependent on screens and gadgets, and as these devices become cheaper and more disposable, greater numbers of electronic devices are ending up in landfills. Because of all the nasty stuff in phones and laptops, this can have catastrophic effects on the environment. In Malta, when you dump your broken phone in a bin it’ll probably head to the landfill in Magħtab. There it will sit and quietly break down, leaching barium and lithium into the groundwater system. Eventually, those toxic chemicals will make it into your tap water.
So, clearly electronic waste needs to be disposed of safely and effectively. But how do you go about facilitating this process? As mentioned, recycling your ewaste isn’t quite as easy as recycling your empty wine bottles, but for obvious reasons, it’s pretty important that you put in the extra effort.
Where do you take your electronic waste in Malta?
To civic amenity sites, of which there are six dotted across Malta and Gozo. These sites are situated in Mriehel, Hal Far, Luqa, Maghtab, Tal-Kus, Xewkija Gozo and at new site that recently opened in Ta’ Qali. They are open Monday to Sunday, including public holidays, 7:30 am to 17:30 pm. You can bring all sorts of waste to these sites, not just ewaste. They also take furniture, tyres, solvents and hazardous chemicals – pretty much anything you can’t just chuck in a bin.
“Bring-in sites” are different to these rarer civic amenity sites. In the case of the former, you can only recycle plastic, glass, and other more conventional recyclable goods. Civic amenity sites are the only places in Malta where you can safely dispose of your dying fridge or your buckets of toxic waste.
Waste collected at these sites is either treated locally, re-used, recycled, or exported overseas for treatment. In other words, your batteries won’t get dumped into a landfill and be left to leach into the groundwater supply.
Each site at Mriehel, Hal Far, Luqa, Maghtab, Tal-Kus, Xewkija Gozo and Ta’ Qali has its own website with plenty of information and even some pretty pictures of waste disposal in action. You can also request a special information leaflet about these sites from your local council. These leaflets contain all the info you need about disposing of ewaste and restrictions that might apply.
Now, if you’re just getting rid of your old phone, it’s probably not worth taking your time trekking to one of these civil amenity sites. It’s better to keep your old electronics somewhere safe until you have amassed a suitably large volume of home appliances and old electronics to throw away. You might want to take your broken laptops and phones along once you also have something big to haul, like a refrigerator or old television.
Given that you’ll probably have a lot of ewaste to drop off at these sites, you’ll also want a car. In fact, civic amenity sites in Malta don’t allow pedestrian walk-ins, so you’ll actually need to be driving. If you don’t own a vehicle yourself, make a day of it and persuade a friend to drive you. If you’re driving anything other than a car – a truck, van, or something even larger – you’ll need to fill out a form to register the vehicle.
There are also restrictions
On how many times you can visit Malta’s civil amenity sites. The exact number of visits allowed depends on the size of your vehicle, but in all cases, visits per year are limited. This is to encourage people not to throw away electronics and other goods, but to reuse as much as possible.
If all this sounds like a bit of a hassle, just try and remember the mercury leaching into the water supply. Consider how convenient and easy all these electronic appliances make your life in the first place. How many hours a week does a washing machine save you? Putting things into perspective will make the few hours a year you’ll spend disposing of ewaste seem more acceptable.
There is also another option
What if you don’t have a car, or any friends willing to drive you to a civil amenity site in return for a free coffee? If you are only looking to get rid of a few small electronic devices, you might be able to recycle them at a drop off point where they accept small Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) items. The best way to find out about these locations is to get in touch with your local council.