DUBAI // Faced with a large and growing waste disposal problem, the municipality of Dubai has set an ambitious goal: to recycle all its waste by 2030, up from just 20 per cent today.
Each resident of Dubai produces 1,700kg of waste per year, according to Rashed Mohammed Karkain, the head of Technical Support and Studies for the municipality's Waste Management Department.
That compares poorly with figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which show a 660kg annual figure in North America and an even lower 560kg amount for Europe.
So far Dubai's zero-waste-by-2030 target is not much more than an ambition.
To start turning it into reality, the Waste Management Department will begin in the coming weeks by inviting external consultants to assist in drawing up a master plan. A pre-study will be finalised in collaboration with the chosen consultant.
Abdulmajeed Abdulaziz Saifaie, director of the Waste Management Department, said: "We are at the beginning phases of the project, which may include more recycling, more waste-to-energy plants and more investment in this field."
"We have shifted from the concept of waste collection to waste management," said Mr Karkain, "deeply focusing on sustainable and innovative management."
But a senior manager at Zenath Recycling and Waste Management in Dubai, Mahmood Sait, said he believed the 100 per cent recycling goal was not realistic and that the municipality would be better off aiming for 80 per cent.
"Laws need to change and become more stringent about recycling waste, otherwise it is very unlikely [that Dubai can] reach 100 per cent recycled waste by 2030," said Mr Sait.
"We have to implement strong rules in the house, in labour accommodation, commercial outlets, parks and roads for the plan to work - so the master plan needs to address issues from the bottom up."
He said other countries, mainly in Europe, already have successful programmes, especially for encouraging people to separate their own rubbish to avoid contaminating each type of refuse.
Switzerland, for example, has managed to achieve a 0 per cent sent-to-landfill figure, according to a European Environment Agency report.
Dubai faces a hurdle Switzerland does not in the transient nature of the emirate's population. Officials continue to launch awareness campaigns about recycling and waste reduction, but migration dampen such efforts.
"New cultures are coming in and out," said Mr Saifaie. "It's different from other countries where 90 per cent are probably the same residents, so the education stays. Here, you educate, they move out and new residents come in. So that's a problem we face."
A crucial goal for the department will be getting the Waste to Energy Project's Al Warsan plant off the ground.
The aim of that project is to generate 150MW/h of power while disposing of 6,500 tonnes of waste a day.
"Bids [for Al Warsan] have been extended to March 2011 because it is a big project requiring detailed surveys. Most of the 13 bidders so far are international companies," said Mr Saifaie.
The plant will be located on a 30 hectare plot in Al Warsan, as a joint venture between the public and private sectors.
Hussain Nasser Lootah, director general of the municipality, has said that a municipal team has travelled extensively to study various similar projects.
"Many countries with best practice in modern and efficient waste management systems have waste-to-energy plants, so we decided to establish such a plant in Dubai," he said.