ABU DHABI // The capital has hired two new firms to give wide-scale recycling another go and continue an ambitious programme of underground waste bins, disposal officials said this week.
By autumn, residents in villa compounds will receive special bins where recyclable materials such as plastic, glass, metal and paper should be thrown. A similar attempt was made two years ago in compounds in Khalidiya, Bein al Jisrein and Officers City, but the initiative fizzled.
This time the recycling bins are the responsibility of two new private companies hired to clean the capital. Averda, founded in Saudi Arabia in the 1960s, is responsible for the Corniche and the east side of the island up to Airport Road, including Mushrif and Al Bateen. Lavajet, which operates in Italy, Lebanon and the Ivory Coast, is responsible for the other side of the island, west of Airport Road.
The companies started work last week.
"We are deploying 1,000 people to collect the waste and clean," said Malek Sukkar, the chief executive of Averda, which will receive Dh284 million over five years under its contract with the Centre for Waste Management - Abu Dhabi.
The company has distributed 7,000 black bins in its sectors of the city. Seventy trucks will collect the waste. Within a month or so, Averda will hand out green recycling bins.
"Once we do that, we are already beginning to win the war," Mr Sukkar said.
Separating materials that can be recycled from those that cannot is vital for the success of any recycling scheme, as it affects the quality and quantity of recycled materials that can be produced. One hurdle for the new scheme is the fact that once the waste is collected, there are no facilities in the city to further separate and reprocess it.
That was also a challenge for the earlier scheme, with residents questioning what happened to recyclable waste once it was collected.
An official at the Centre for Waste Management - Abu Dhabi admitted that was a problem but said the centre had already started building the needed infrastructure. In the meantime, the recyclables will be trucked to Al Ain, which has suitable facilities.
The official, however, insisted that as an important first step, the public needed to support the scheme.
"We need the public to understand and get into the habit of separating the waste at source," he said. "The centre is working out how to have a recycling plant within a short period of time."
Besides recycling, other innovations are under way, Mr Malek said. An application for smart phones, allowing users to take pictures and send them to the company if there is a complaint, will be launched by mid-September. They will also have collection campaigns for light bulbs, batteries and other items that can be potentially damaging if dumped in a landfill.
But the two companies' first challenge is a holdover from the previous waste-disposal company, whose contract was ended without fanfare.
Two years ago, the centre installed 17 underground waste bins in Khalidiyah and the Tourist Club area.
Access to the underground bins, which have capacities of 15 or 2.5 cubic metres, comes via a small above-ground rubbish chute. The bins have two doors - one for the general public and one for buildings nearby - and are fitted with sensors that indicate when they need to be emptied.
A visit to the Khalidiya district showed that the bins were overflowing with garbage. Samsudin Molakadaeh, who manages a grocery in the area, said the problem is recent.
"Before they used to collect the garbage daily. Now it is three or four days with no one coming," he said.
Manaf Puthukkudi, who works in a pharmacy in the area, said another problem is that the openings on the waste units are too small to accommodate bulky waste, and residents are forced to leave it kerbside.
An official at the centre said the areas would be better served once the new contractors come up to speed. "This is an interim period," he said.
The centre is continuing plans to introduce more subterranean bins.
Another 115 containers have already been installed all over the city - near Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Corniche and other densely populated areas. It will be a month and a half before they are operating.
The centre is installing another 160 bins in the emirate, and those should be functional by the end of the year. The new bins have been modified to make them more suitable for Abu Dhabi, including bigger chute openings.
There is also work on a control room, which would monitor all the units.
"Every unit will be under control," he said. "When it gets up to 80 per cent full, there will be an alarm and a call to the company to collect the waste."