Published On: Wed, Jul 13th, 2011

Waste target feeds recycling industry

ABU DHABI //Municipal initiatives to curb waste production are doing more than reducing rubbish.

The new emphasis on sustainability is creating an opportunity for local recycling companies, particularly in construction and demolition.

Abu Dhabi produces about 4.7 million tonnes of waste a year and that figure could increase to more than 30 million tonnes by 2030 if current production rates continue.

Per capita, the city ranks among the top five waste producers in the world with about 1.8kg of waste generated by each person a day.

The Centre for Waste Management (CWM) is trying to cut those numbers by 80 per cent before 2018, while diverting 90 per cent of waste from landfills.

A reduction on that scale opens up opportunities for the burgeoning recycling industry.

“We’re creating a market in Abu Dhabi,” said Jamal Jeetawy, the technical adviser for Nadafa, a CWM initiative that monitors and controls all waste-related activities in the emirate.

The programme’s first major project, a tariff of Dh225 a tonne on businesses for dumping, launched this year.

“This is a clear incentive to all business activities because this affects the bottom line,” Mr Jeetawy said. “Since this has been in place, we have seen a spike in recycling and we’ve seen movement in investment in the recycling sector.”

CWM estimates the emirate has lost about 1,800 hectares to landfill.

Eighty per cent of landfill waste comes from business, and 60 per cent of that comes from construction and demolition.

“We’re recycling more this year than ever before,” said Muneer KM, an environmental engineer for Target Engineering Construction Company in Abu Dhabi.

Mr K M said it cost Target between Dh600 and Dh800 a week to get rid of waste at each of their construction sites.

Less than 1 per cent of the total waste generated annually in the capital is recycled.

Shadi Al S’ady, the health, safety and environment manager at Nael and Bin Harmal Hydroexport, said companies had stepped up their efforts to reuse wood, recycle oil and reduce rubbish.

“When we generate so much waste, we address that in a positive way,” Mr Al S’ady said. “For construction, it’s a good cost-effectiveness strategy anyway.”

Construction companies, developers and contractors are also expected to meet pollution and waste reduction benchmarks by next year as part of implementing Environment, Health and Safety Management System (EHSMS) plans, guidelines required by the municipality.

There are more than 1,200 waste management entities operating in the emirate. About 400 of those are treatment and recycling companies, and that number is rising, Mr Jeetawy said.

At the Al Dhafra recycling plant, more than 5,000 tonnes of construction and demolition waste is recycled each day, six days a week. The largest plant of its kind in the UAE, it processes concrete, wood, plastics and steel, then sells the recycled materials to local companies.

“Recycling has definitely increased in the 15 months since we’ve been open,” said Scott Patterson, the waste services manager for Thiess Services Middle East, the company that operates the Al Dhafra plant.

“The environmental cost and economic cost of landfills is very high, and recycling is becoming more attractive and more economically viable.”

Green building guidelines are also helping to bolster this sector, Mr Patterson said. All new communities, buildings and villas must meet sustainability standards, and using recycled materials in construction helps to fulfil those requirements.

But other industry experts said the emirate had a long way to go to meet its goals of 45 per cent waste reduction by the end of next year, 70 per cent by 2015 and 80 per cent by 2018.

“It is still early days. This is an area of learning for the UAE, as it is across the Gulf,” said Michael Merriman, a spokesman for Envac, which is an automated waste collection company that has operated in the UAE for seven years.

Mr Patterson said the biggest challenge was changing attitudes and promoting a culture of recycling.

“With education, with the right systems in place, with the right legislation, people’s minds change,” he said.


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