ABU DHABI // Plastic waste and used car tyres go in one end, tiny pellets the size of a lentil come out the other: that is recycling in action at two new plants officially launched yesterday in Al Ain.
With a stockpile of more than 100,000 tyres there is no shortage of rubber for processing - but residents are being urged to recycle more plastic.
The new Dh70 million plastics recycling plant is already near its daily capacity of 50 tonnes after three weeks' work, but operators want more.
"We have space for another two production lines," said Reinhard Goeschl, general manager of Emirates Environmental Technology, which built it.
"This would increase the capacity to 100 tonnes," he said.
Increasing production will be possible only if more plastic is collected in recycling schemes in Al Ain and Abu Dhabi city. At an average of 550kg per person, the emirate of Abu Dhabi is among the world's largest waste producers, and the Government has vowed to deal with the problem by encouraging recycling.
For now, the plant works with plastic extracted from general household waste at the nearby sorting station, which takes in about 1,200 tonnes of mixed solid waste a day. Of that, 55 per cent is organic material that is extracted and turned into compost. Another 15 per cent is paper, glass, metal and plastic that can be recycled.
In the past, the recyclable materials were separated and sold to reprocessing companies. With the opening of the new plant, some of the reprocessing is now done in Al Ain, further closing the recycling loop.
Every day the new plant re-processes about 25 tonnes of high-density polyethylene, which is used to make shampoo containers and milk and juice bottles. The plant also handles up to 20 tonnes a day of low-density polyethylene film, used for shopping bags and packaging.
Once a week, the plant processes polypropylene, which is used for yoghurt containers.
The plastics are shredded to flakes as small as 10 millimetres. The flakes are cleaned of metal and other impurities, washed, then melted in an an extruder that produces pellets the size of lentils. The pellets are sold to companies that manufacture products including hard pipes, other construction materials and plastic sheets.
The new tyre recycling plant, which has been operating for two weeks, was built at a cost of Dh40 million by Omnix International, an Abu-Dhabi company. It shreds old tyres to pieces as small as a millimetre, and separates the synthetic rubber from the metals and textiles in the tyres. The fine rubber dust is sold to re-processing companies that manufacture sports mats, flooring, soft pipes and other products.
"We can recycle all the tyres that are in the landfill," said Zaid Bdour, plant manager at Gulf Rubber Factory, which was created to run the project. Al Ain's stockpile of old vehicle tyres is well over 100,000, he said.
The company has already received its first order - from a company in Dubai that makes artificial tracks for horse racing.
"In the first three months of next year, we will open stage two of our plant, which will manufacture end products with the recycled rubber," said Mr Bdour.
The two new plants were built on behalf of the Centre of Waste Management - Abu Dhabi. The two private companies will operate them for 10 years before handing ownership to the Government.
They will be followed by other projects designed to address Abu Dhabi's waste problem, said Hamad Al Ameri, the centre's general manager.
"We have two more tyre recycling plants coming up soon and many other projects," he said.
The new plants in Abu Dhabi and the Western Region are at the commissioning stage and will be launched shortly.