We live on a planet with finite resources, yet the opportunities for transformative change are boundless. One of the most promising pathways is adopting a circular economy, a model that emphasises reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling materials to extend their life cycles and minimise waste. But is Malta doing enough to embrace this future, or are we merely scratching the surface?

       The Promise of Circularity

The Circularity Gap Report 2023 presents a compelling case for the circular economy. By integrating circular-economy solutions globally, we could slash material consumption by 30%, fulfilling the needs of the global population while significantly cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This shift is essential to keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

Additionally and in 2020, the European Commission launched an action plan to accelerate Europe’s transition towards a circular economy. This plan aims for climate neutrality by 2050, promising to boost global competitiveness, foster sustainable economic growth, and create new jobs. By 2030, adopting circular economy principles could increase the EU’s GDP by an additional 0.5% and generate around 700,000 jobs. Add to that, for EU companies, this shift in model from a linear to a circular economy would result in savings ranging from €250 to €465 million, representing 12 to 23% of their material costs.

It is important to highlight that the circular economy is not just a climate necessity, it presents in itself an opportunity from a financial and labour perspective for those willing to seize it, as entrepreneurs would have a whole new world of possibilities at their fingertips. By adopting circular economy models, innovators can lead the way in reducing waste, conserving resources, and minimising environmental impact. Moreover, sustainable start-ups are becoming increasingly appealing to consumers and investors who prioritise environmental responsibility, thereby gaining a competitive edge in the market.

     Malta’s Circular Economy: A Mixed Bag

For Malta, a small island nation heavily reliant on imported raw materials and finished goods, the focus must be on enhancing reusability, repairability, collection, and recycling. While there have been some commendable efforts, the overall impact remains debatable.

  • Waste-to-Energy Facility: Projected to process 192,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste annually, this facility aims to convert waste into green energy. However, critics argue that waste-to-energy can perpetuate waste generation rather than encouraging reduction and recycling.
  • Bring Your Own Container Initiative: Over 180 retailers have joined this initiative, offering discounts and incentives to customers who use reusable containers.
  • WasteServ Achievements: In 2024, WasteServ processed over 20,000 tonnes of recyclable waste, the highest in Maltese history. Simultaneously, there was a 23% reduction in household mixed waste.
  • Beverage Container Refund Scheme (BCRS): This scheme incentivises recycling by allowing consumers to return beverage containers for a refund.

Despite these initiatives, Malta still faces significant challenges in fully embracing the circular economy. Companies need to better grasp circular economy opportunities and overcome market barriers. Additionally, the island’s small size and consumer behaviour also pose obstacles.

However, JA Malta recognises that educational programmes are crucial in promoting the circular economy. Encouraging students to consider circular principles and use products made from recycled or upcycled materials will surely foster a culture of sustainability. Programmes undertaken by JA Malta and supported by Melita and HSBC Malta Foundation such as Girls Go Circular tackle the concept of the Circular Economy and introduces it to girls and students overall. The programme goes beyond the surface and touches upon the Circular Economy of Food in cities as cities can be key to driving circular change and transform the food system. The Programme also sheds light on electric devices and smartphones and the importance of integrating them into our circular ways.

Education alone cannot drive change — it must be coupled with robust policies and corporate responsibility. Therefore, by fully committing to the circular economy model, Malta can lead the way to a more sustainable, prosperous future—one where economic and environmental health go hand in hand.