Times of Malta, 18th September 2008, by Christian Peregrin –

The government’s crackdown on littering and dumping has been extended with various projects, enforcement programmes and events planned including a three-day national clean-up at the end of October.

The Times yesterday visited the control room of Aurelia Asset Protection Ltd, the company subcontracted by Mepa to monitor bring-in sites through CCTV cameras. These cameras, operating in 15 localities, catch people red-handed when misusing the bring-in sites.

The number plates of every car are recorded so that if an individual is caught doing something illegal, Mepa can issue the fines accordingly.

If there is some reason to believe that the contravention was unintentional, such as if separated waste is left next to the skips because they were already full up, a warning is issued instead. This is the case also when individuals leave boxes or bags behind after separating the waste diligently.

Matthew Formosa, a spokesman for the company, said that sometimes these sites are used for illegal dumping. Bulky objects, animal carcasses and ordinary household garbage bags are often dumped, creating eyesores that discourage local councils from having more bring-in sites.

The company, which forms part of the JF security group, also supplies Mepa enforcement officers with training, equipment, and vehicles, apart from coordinating the inspections of construction sites. These inspectors ensure that the right tools are used and that the sites are secured properly in order to guarantee safety and stop dust from flying all over the place and disturbing neighbours.

Mepa reported that since the crackdown was launched there had been about 4,000 inspections and reports, 328 of which resulted in fines being issued. Public Dialogue and Information Parliamentary Secretary Chris Said, who is spearheading the crackdown by coordinating policemen, Mepa officers and local wardens, in a bid to enforce the Litter Act, that enforcement is working. A total of 680 fines and 170 warnings were issued between August 20 and September 11.

He disclosed that plans were in place to tie littering fines to the renewal of driving licences so that offenders would be forced to pay up.

“We have been educating the public for a long time. Now it is time to enforce. We believe the law needs to be a deterrent. We should keep our streets clean just like we keep our homes clean,” Dr Said argued.

He applauded the public for cooperating by reporting defaulters. Even comments posted on www.timesofmalta.com were being taken heed of and every report was being inspected. The government was now considering upping the fines so as to further deter people from littering.

“The experiment worked. It will now continue and be developed into a long-term strategy,” he said.

A three-day clean-up is being planned for the October 23- 25. Each day a number of volunteers, including school children, employees of various companies, NGOs, organisations and the public, will clean up problem areas to raise more awareness about the issue.

Dr Said also said that the government was planning an intense media campaign for the autumn schedule which would feature videos of clean-ups taking place as well as before-and-after clips.