The 1987 Brundtland report drafted by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) introduced and popularised the concept of sustainability, a concept that has since gained acceptability and importance. The main catalyst for this popularity in recent years, particularly in terms of sustainable development, was the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, held in 1992. There is no universally accepted definition of sustainable development; however, the most popularly quoted definition remains that of the WCED, on which the Rio summit definition is also based. Sustainable development meets the needs of current generations without jeopardising future generations' potential to meet their own needs.
In line with current trends in environmental policy, contemporary waste management philosophy is rooted in the concepts of sustainability. It may be argued that in the overall context of wastes management the notion of sustainability is a contradiction in terms since the waste management industry deals with the sterilisation of resources and prevents their use by future generations. These practices are by far not compatible with the conservationist principles underlying sustainable development.
However in terms of the Rio definition of sustainable development, Chapter 21 of Agenda 21 provides a solution as to the reconciliation of waste management with adequate levels of environmental protection. 'Environmentally sound waste management must be beyond the mere safe disposal or recovery of wastes that are generated and seek to address the root cause of the problem by attempting to change unsustainable patterns of production and consumption'.
Effectively, in order to achieve sustainable waste management it is necessary to implement measures requiring waste producers to take responsibility for the waste they produce and to focus on means by which waste management could move away from disposal to waste reduction and recovery. In the European Union (EU) Member States, the integration of the concepts of sustainability within waste management was achieved through the adoption and application of the waste management hierarchy. The waste hierarchy consists of a number of possible waste management options ranked by their relative sustainability. Minimisation occupies the highest tier of the hierarchy, followed by reuse, recovery of material and energy, and finally, the least sustainable, end-of-pipe disposal.
In Malta, the incorporation of the essential elements of sustainability in waste management policy is done through a process of strategic waste management planning, which includes the preparation of the National Solid Waste Management Strategy for the Maltese Islands. Another important element in ensuring adequate protection of human health and the environment is to have a tight waste management regulatory regime. The Malta Environment and Planning Authority is the Competent Authority regulating waste management in the Maltese Islands. MEPA provides for the regulation of all waste management facilities and activities.
This website includes detailed information on the various types of permits that are issued by MEPA to facilities and individuals working within the local waste management industry. Information about EU and National legislation, plans and policies is also provided.