Plans to build a giant waste-to-energy incinerator in Dubai could be delayed for at least two years because of the impact of the financial crisis, a senior municipal official says. Hassan Mohammed Makki, who heads the city's waste management department, said the financial crisis had led Dubai Municipality to reconsider the way it would finance the project. The incinerator was originally due to open by 2012 but the plant may now not be operational before "four to five years", Mr Makki said yesterday.
The city is looking at different options to pay for the facility, including the "build, operate, own, transfer" (BOOT) model involving a public-private partnership. The emirate produces as much as 10,000 tonnes of general waste a day. It has pre-qualified 13 companies and is considering different financial options to build and operate the plant before it approached the companies for its final round of selection, Mr Makki said.
Dubai Municipality announced its plan to convert waste into energy two years ago when it said it would develop the region's first large-scale incinerator by 2012. The emirate's waste burden has risen rapidly with the growth of the city's population and large-scale construction projects. Despite the slowdown of new arrivals and construction activity in the past year and a half, the amount of waste continues to grow.
"By the end of the year we should have a strategic approach," Mr Makki said on the sidelines of the Waste Summit 2010 in Dubai. "Given all the financial turmoil, we will know better what kind of financing we want, for example BOT [build, operate, transfer] or BOOT, or a turnkey project." In a BOT contract, the private sector builds an infrastructure project, operates it and eventually transfers ownership to the government.
Mr Makki said the city would follow a "sound technological approach that turns waste into energy". Dubai buries its waste in large rubbish tips. Its only incineration plant is just for medical waste. The emirate recycles about 15 per cent of its waste, but Mr Makki said the city was active in promoting recycling. It has just installed 2,000 recycling containers at bus stations. "We must still boost the rate of public involvement and close the loop in recycling, for example by boosting our infrastructure capability and regulation," he said.
Recycling rates are far above 50 per cent in some developed countries. Germany, for example, recycles about 70 per cent of its solid waste, according to the German Association for Waste Management. Only 29 per cent of Germany's waste goes into incinerators, with the remaining 1 per cent dumped in rubbish tips. But in Poland, more than 90 per cent of waste is buried and less than 10 per cent is recycled, according to the German association.
Apart from reusing natural resources, recycling saves large amounts of energy. It takes 90 per cent less energy to recycle an aluminium can than to make a new one. And on a typical construction site, 75 per cent of material can be reused and recycled. European citizens produce an average of 4 tonnes of solid waste per inhabitant per year, which amounts to about a truckload for each citizen. The more affluent a country, the more waste it generates.
"There are gaps in waste management, especially in our region," said Fareed Bushehri, the regional officer for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), who is based in Bahrain. Regulation plays a key role in increasing recycling and treating waste more sustainably, experts say. Germany forbade the dumping of untreated or biodegradable waste into rubbish tips and introduced a law that makes manufacturers responsible for all waste from product packaging.
"Although this is widely made fun of, this law has resulted in large changes and reduced garbage," said Andreas Moennig, the chief executive at the German Association for Waste Management. email@example.com