DUBAI // Businesses found flouting new guidelines governing the dumping of grease from commercial kitchens and restaurants will be fined up to Dh10,000 and risk losing their licences.
Dubai is home to the only recycling plant in the region able to cope with such waste - yet officials said yesterday that less than 10 per cent of it is being recycled.
Most of the waste is instead dumped illegally, or ends up clogging the city's sewage system where it proves costly and difficult to remove.
In a bid to stop the practice, new guidelines from the municipality provide for fines ranging from Dh500 up to Dh10,000 and the loss of business licences for the worst offenders.
The new rules require that each removal tanker is equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS) to track its movements.
Every vehicle will also be issued a coupon book that will record where waste has been received, and where it will be deposited.
Licensed operators have also been forbidden from using subcontractors.
Companies have six months to comply.
Faisal Al Hammadi, the head of technical support at the drainage and irrigation network department of Dubai Municipality, said the new rules were essential to tackling the problem.
He said the rules prohibit operators from mixing the grease with sewage and disposing of it at the sewage treatment plant in Al Aweer. They also prohibit operators of tankers from dumping the grease into the storm water drainage network or into the desert.
"Half of you are not working straight," Mr Al Hammadi told a small gathering of licensed grease removal companies yesterday.
He said offences were all too common, but did not provide specific numbers.
"We caught some companies and gave them fines," he said. "But this is not our goal to issue fines ... we want to organise this business."
There are about 17,000 restaurants and cafeterias in Dubai, and they are all required to install grease traps to prevent fats and other kitchen products from ending up in the sewer network. Grease traps have to be cleaned at least once a month, with the waste taken to the Dh15 million grease recycling plant in Al Aweer, which has been operating for two years.
The plant is run by a local company, Al Serkal Group, on behalf of Dubai Municipality. Tanker companies are required to pay 50 fils for every gallon of grease they offload.
While the plant is capable of recycling 25,000 gallons of grease every day, it operates at less than half its capacity, receiving an average of 9,000 gallons a day, said Elham Pourtangestani, the plant manager.
"The problem is illegal transporters who do not send the waste to the recycling plant," she said.
Ms Pourtangestani estimated that Dubai produces about 100,000 gallons of grease per day.
There are about 20 grease removal companies in the emirate. Yesterday, managers and owners at those companies complained they faced unfair competition from operators who cut corners, and that the new rules would make their businesses more difficult to run.
Ziad Alany, who owns Bio Environmental Services, said his company charges Dh250 for cleaning. Few people realised how difficult the business is, he said.
"If you work legally, you will have to close your company," he said.