Zero the hero
70% of waste generated by each household is made up of recyclables
Up to 70% of waste generated by each household is made up of recyclables that end up in landfill. fmME questions if the region’s zero waste targets are too ambitious
Over 1,800ha of land has been lost to landfills in the UAE, with Abu Dhabi alone generating 33,000 tonnes of waste daily. The UAE is on a rapid drive to put the infrastructure in place to deal with the staggering waste problem.
But, say many of the waste-management providers in the region, the problem is not going to disappear overnight. Last year alone over 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste was recovered from landfills in Sharjah, proving a serious gap in awareness when it comes to what qualifies as recyclables.
Bee’ah has signed a $27m contract to introduce new blue and green bins to the streets of Sharjah as part a target to achieve zero waste by the first quarter of 2015. Earlier this year, 2,000 pairs of blue and green bins were distributed across Sharjah City with an aim of encouraging waste segregation at home.
“For the past year, we have collected 600,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste from over 1,000,000 residents in Sharjah, of which we try and recover as many recyclables as possible but, as you can imagine, a lot of this ends up going to landfill due to the contamination levels in the unsegregated waste,” explains Khaled al Huraimel, CEO, Bee’ah.
Colour-coding the bins will encourage the common idea of waste separation, believes Bee’ah, cutting down the number of recyclables ending up in landfill. The green bin is designed for general waste while the blue bin is dedicated to receiving all recyclables including paper, glass, plastics, card and aluminium.
With Dubai finding that almost 70% of waste generated by each household in Dubai consists of plastic, glass and other recyclables, the municipality has launched a similar initiative.
‘My City, My Environment’ will see over 3,500 waste recycling bins provided to households in the emirate to highlight the importance of waste segregation at the source.
Averda, one of the selected waste-management operators appointed to collect waste directly from houses in Al Mizhar 1, Al Mizhar 2 and Nad al Hamar, where a trial of the initiative is taking place, has already been instrumental in helping Abu Dhabi achieve its 2018 zero-waste goal after the emirate awarded the company a major contract of more than $77m in an effort to see it crowned one of five cleanest cities in the world.
As well as the introduction of ‘iaverda’, an app designed to allow communities to quickly address any waste issue in their area by reporting the incident directly to Averda, the company launched an incentive scheme in the form of a reverse vending machine last year. The initiative aims to encourage consumers to deposit their recyclables in exchange for points that are redeemable against rewards.
But putting the tools in place is only half the battle, explains John Irvine, MD, Averda Dubai. Education is everything.
“We created Averda Learn to raise awareness among the communities that we serve about the waste we all produce in our everyday lives. Through Averda Learn, we teach communities the small steps that can be taken for us to all live our lives with more environmental responsibility.
Averda Learn is our tool to embed a new way of living in the communities that we serve. We regularly invite schools and university groups to our premises to show students the full scope of our activities, the benefits of recycling and how to preserve the environment. Our success with this programme proves that when communities [...] make even small changes, big improvements can happen.”
Al Huraimel supports this. The launch of zero waste has seen Bee’ah roll out an awareness drive through local media and door to door education sessions.
“Education is key. It certainly will be a big change for some people, so Bee’ah will be providing tools to raise awareness and help answer questions. Residents have already responded very well to previous recycling pilots, and we are sure people in Sharjah will embrace the new Residential Recycling programme once it is fully rolled out,” says Al Huraimel.
But stopping recyclables from ending up in landfill is just not enough to rid landfills of waste completely. Construction waste makes up a significant proportion of waste that ends up in landfill.
Construction waste and other non-domestic waste made up 2.1million tones of the waste received by the municipal waste landfill in Riyadh last year, and at 9,000 tonnes a day, construction and demolition debris is the largest source of waste in Abu Dhabi.
There are companies taking steps to resolve the issue. DuPont Building Innovations has achieved zero landfill status, eliminating over $120m worth of landfill waste annually.
The company focused on becoming landfill free for three years under its Drive to Zero landfill programme, which has seen the reuse or recycle of waste generated through production.
Sanding waste has been used as a filler replacement in concrete, ground-up scrap Corian sheet is used as recycled content in first grade products, crushed scrap Corian is sold for use as road sub-base material and as landscape stone, while shipping pallets, carrier belt film and cafeteria waste are also recycled and re-used.
However, with news such as Abu Dhabi’s $12m plant that recycles construction debris into material for building roads and other infrastructure coming to a halt due to lack of demand for the end product, it raises questions as to whether these materials are going to end up in landfill anyway.
Currently, the waste is being stockpiled to a location within the landfill for later recycling, says a government official. But if demand stays low, will the waste remain there?
And what will the effect of this be on meeting the ambitious zero waste deadlines set by the Emirates?
Tim Harwood, GM of Thiess Services Middle East, the company that operates the plant, remains optimistic, despite the glitch, and hopes new projects in 2012 will see demand rise for the end-product.
Irvine is also optimistic, adding that everything can be recycled or re-used.
“We believe that everything is recyclable, and we do our very best to uphold this belief for the better benefit of our planet,” says Irvine.
“We break down items into their core components, recovering and recycling as many elements as possible, but we’ll admit that there are always some residual remains that need to be dealt with.
Until we can create the perfect recycling system that leaves zero to waste, we can treat these residues and then safely deposit them in sanitary landfills that are monitored on a regular basis, to ensure the highest conditions of safety and sanitation.”
Al Huraimel says Bee’ah is on track to help Sharjah achieve its zero-waste goal.
“Zero waste is the way forward. The most sustainable countries in the world are already implementing best practices and technology to attain zero waste. At the moment, we have invested in various recycling facilities to recover recyclables from household waste, construction and demolition waste, tyres and wood. All these processes are helping us divert 40% of waste from the landfill.”
Irvine believes, as awareness increases, so too will appropriate disposal of waste.
“Averda firmly believes that the recovery rates within the Emirates will become even more successful once ‘waste producers’ understand in depth the methodology and, of course, the associated costs in recovery techniques and diversification programmes.
“This is why it is critical [...] to work in a transparent partnership with our clients so they fully understand that waste diversification is achieved in tandem at a cost to all,” he concludes.
Supplier Focus: MAN
Sham Sunder, Sales Manager, Trucks & Bus Division, United Motors & Heavy Equipment Co. LLC
MAN trucks have been successfully marketed by United Motors in the UAE since 1994. Among those waste-management companies that have had MAN trucks supplied to them are Trashco, West Coast, Clenco, Tides and Kleanwell.
MAN is a versatile truck manufacturer that can provide trucks for almost all needs in the industry. MAN Trucks are being used worldwide as efficient, reliable, environmental-friendly and economical solutions for the waste-management industry.
MAN offers tailor-made transport solutions adapted to the industry’s requirements and individual needs. In addition, the aftersales back-up provided by United Motors is second to none. With service facilities across the UAE, United Motors customers receive complete peace of mind when it comes to owning and operating an MAN truck.
Further, the move towards achieving the zero waste goal or developing a cleaner environment requires a revamp in the industry. We look at this as positive, and anticipate further growth in our industry due to the UAE government’s commitment to create a better quality of life for all.
Supplier Focus: First International
By Sameh Maher, Engineering Manager, First International
First International commenced its UAE operations in 2002, representing electric vehicles from international brands to serve the Middle East and GCC countries.
First International introduced the Taylor-Dunn electric dump box and garbage van box to collect garbage and waste. Used within exhibition halls, malls, hotels, parks, factories and by facility management companies all over the region, the battery-operated vehicle reduces pollution waste and operational cost.
Counting the numbers of Taylor-Dunn electric dump boxes presently operating, the number of vehicles we are selling and will be selling in future, we recognise the importance and effectiveness of this vehicle, particularly in achieving the UAE’s zero-waste objectives.
Our goal is to provide our customers with eco-friendly vehicles to make waste management easy, fast and effective at a reasonable price.
Our sales teams and customer-care representative ensure the customer is receiving a high quality and the right product for them. In addition, we offer both maintenance and an aftersales service.