Waste management - the next-generation driver for realising a green economy

wgesAisha Mohamed Abdullah Al Abdooli, director, Green Development Department in Ministry of Climate Change and Environment., is the writer of the column.The UAE has identified waste management as one with enormous potential to create employment and generate entrepreneurial opportunities

Today, waste management has the potential to contribute significantly to making a green economy possible. Communities around the world have identified waste management not only as part of an environmental strategy but also as an economic case with enormous potential to cut cost, create employment and generate entrepreneurial opportunities. 

In the UAE, the roots of this idea can be traced back to the pioneering ideas of late His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the nation’s founding father, on sustainability. The establishment of local waste management companies like Tadweer, Averda and Bee’ah have not only paved way for a cleaner and greener UAE but also offered jobs to many UAE residents. 

At the national level, the UAE Green Agenda 2030 adopted by the Cabinet in 2015 places National Waste-to-Resource Programme as one of the 12 implementation programmes. This programme includes harmonisation of waste management strategies and standards across the emirates, promotion of the 3Rs principle – reduce, reuse and recycle – among businesses and residents alike, and dissemination of waste-to-energy technologies. This strategy complements and strengthens the environmental objectives of the UAE Vision 2021.

In fact, governments and organisations across the emirates have already been introducing a number of waste management initiatives in a bid to maintain cleanliness and greenery of the emirate, as well as to tackle the global climate change. Dubai Municipality has doubled its efforts to shift 75 per cent of the waste produced in the emirate from the landfills. RAK Recycles, an innovative recycling programme introduced by Ras Al Khaimah Waste Management Agency aims to modernise the waste management technology used by community members in the emirate. A food waste awareness raising event organised in Sharjah featured the work of leading chefs in reducing food waste in their kitchens.

For waste management to work effectively, it is important for businesses and residents to work together in harmony. For example, a ‘leave-no-footprints’ eco venture by Meydan is making a real difference by cleaning and recycling all waste left behind during endurance horse racing. The company offers a training programme for stable grooms and staff involved in endurance racing to ensure the desert to be undisturbed after each race. Wastes like plastic bottles and caps left behind after every endurance event are all collected both at the Dubai International Endurance City and along the endurance racing track which are home to several species. In 2016, a total of 90 tonnes of waste were collected during the season, and that went up to 99 tonnes in 2017. Another latest example came from the Dubai Mall, where 26 tonnes of compost was produced from the waste collected from its food outlets through a partnership between the mall, the outlets and waste management companies. The produced compost will be used for landscaping at Emaar’s communities around Dubai.

Waste prevention, recycling and better waste management in general are all certainly crucial to minimise the flows into and out of the economy. Nevertheless, closing the material loop is not sufficient to prevent further impacts on the environment and human health and well-being. ‘Circular economy’ approaches are required to go beyond waste management, and to facilitate the transition to a green economy. The fourth World Green Economy Summit (WGES) 2017 is an exciting opportunity that will explore and identify most innovative approaches to the UAE’s waste management which are built on the philosophy of circular economy and 3Rs.

An interesting application of the circular economy principles is Jumeirah Golf Estates. This US$272mn Dubai development will feature gardens and landscaped area that use solar power and smart irrigation systems to regulate heat and moisture levels. It also features eclectic carports, wastewater technologies and organic waste management and ecologically sourced furniture.

In the UAE, responsible waste management and an emphasis on lowering consumption has already made its way. Companies like Averda and Tadweer have introduced smart solutions that help wastes to be reduced, reused and recovered to substitute demand on original resources. These companies not only offer an attractive collection system and waste segregation but also provide risk-free waste treatment and awareness programmes that create additional value for UAE industries.

Averda has provided the Dubai Municipality with smart e-waste bins since 2014 where the bins are equipped with sensors that interact live and online with Averda’s Dubai operations department. The bins’ intelligent systems provide analysts with data related to their filling level and expected dates for collection. Similarly, Tadweer, which recycles more than 30 per cent of around 800,000 tonnes of waste generated every month, set up new recycling plants in Abu Dhabi that focus on recycling more than 60 per cent of waste by 2020 and 75 per cent by 2021.

While the UAE has made a significant progress with its waste management strategy, there is scope for a lot more to be done. It is for this reason that the UAE will continue to invest in infrastructure and support entrepreneurship and alternate technologies to boost the waste management sector. More public-private partnerships will build and transform the sector to the point that it makes a significant contribution to job creation as the UAE’s radical waste minimisation targets are being achieved. Realising waste is money, WGES 2017 aims to promote community participation to drive the country closer to its goal of achieving sustainable development and a green economy.

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