Waste generated by kiosks and food trucks at Blue Lagoon, Comino, is being collected by Gozo ministry workers rather than third parties as obliged by law.
According to the Catering Establishments Regulations issued by the Malta Tourism Authority, all kiosks and snack bars must contract a third-party waste collection service, with the Environment and Resources Authority providing a list of licensed contractors.
Eyewitnesses who spoke to The Shift sent in pictures of “ministry workers” collecting “large amounts of garbage bags, boxes for pineapples and other waste” directly from kiosks, saving the establishments the cost of contracting their waste collection.
Comino falls under the remit of Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri, who refused to answer questions on whether workers from his ministry were involved and whether a separate agreement with the kiosk operators had been reached.
According to the Malta Tourism Authority’s website, none of the Comino kiosks has a permit. The Planning Authority issued an enforcement notice against only one of the kiosks at Santa Marija Bay last year.
The enforcement of regulations on kiosks is unnecessarily difficult, with various ministries and agencies handling different aspects of operation.
The Shift has reported how the operators of the kiosks and deckchairs at the Blue Lagoon involve developer Daniel Refalo and Mark Cutajar, the brother of Labour MEP Josianne Cutajar and a canvasser for Camilleri.
Another kiosk, known as Tal-Exka, is operated by Victor Refalo, a former Żebbuġ Labour councillor and also a staunch ‘canvasser’ for Camilleri.
Energy Minister Miriam Dalli, in charge of waste collection, similarly refused to answer questions from The Shift.
In a statement on 18 August, reacting to criticism of Comino’s waste management problem, an example of the waste collection issue affecting Malta, the Gozo Ministry claimed it cleaned Comino’s Santa Marija Bay and the Blue Lagoon three times a day, collecting 31 tonnes of rubbish in June alone.
The sources who spoke to The Shift claimed that most of this waste was generated by the kiosks meant to handle waste collection for themselves.
The kiosk operators are the same owners of the deckchair concessionaires on Comino or related to them.
The Shift has reported that last year, despite public outcry and activists’ direct action against the abuse by deckchair operators, their concessions were extended without a tender. Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo refused to divulge information, claiming “commercial sensitivity” last July.
While Bartolo has admitted that his father and uncles have a direct vested interest in Comino as they own Pleasure and Leisure Ltd, a ferry service to Comino, he dismissed suggestions of any conflict of interest.
The minister has still not produced a management plan for the island that was promised years ago.