ABU DHABI // A new waste-management system will turn refuse from an indoor food market into usable material.
The system in Mushrif Mall's The Market, due to open within two months, will also allow customers to shop without the lingering odours of fish and meat.
The Green Loop waste-management system being installed there will recycle about 7.5 tonnes of waste a day from the market's 200 meat, fish, fruit and vegetable stalls.
"There are a lot of people in society that want to do the right thing, but they have no place to do it at the moment," said Bjorn Ostbye, the project development manager at Emke, which owns LuLu hypermarkets.
The aim is to save the company about Dh3.5 million a year and significantly cut its demand for scarce resources such as water.
The market had been designed with a "zero-waste philosophy", Mr Ostbye said.
"Many people have thought about doing this and made plans, but this is the first time [in the UAE] that we could actually do it for a market," he said.
"We are doing this for hygienic reasons, to save money, to go green and to show other companies and people … how it's done."
The market's waste will go through several stages to create useful by-products.
Once collected in 240-litre bins at the back of the market, it will be taken to a sanitation room to be separated.
The first step is removing inorganic solids - cardboard, paper, plastics, aluminium and glass - which will be compressed by solid baling machines.
The bales will be collected by a company in Dubai for further recycling.
The seafood market will generate a great deal of organic waste, with many fish gutted and cleaned on site.
Only about 10 per cent of the waste will be packaging.
It will be sorted into dry waste and wet waste (fish parts, cuts from preparation rooms and unsold goods). About 60 per cent of the total waste will removed through a straining process.
The organic matter will then be converted into animal feed through sterilisation and pasteurisation.
Fishmongers will work on specially designed cutting tables that drain into large strainers.
The water to clean the boards and solids will fall through the strainer into a bucket, leaving the solids behind, and then into a gutter, where it will be strained again.
All solids will then be removed from the water, which will travel back to the municipality's recycling plant.
"We will install a small, on-site recycling plant in the near future to sterilise and recycle the water once it's economically viable," Mr Ostbye said.
"We calculated more than 1 million litres of water a day that we can recycle, from cleaning water to 70 tonnes of melting ice."
The strainers will be wheeled out to the back and emptied into 50-litre bins.
Those will then be taken to chilled waste room and emptied into 240-litre bins.
The organic waste will be put into one of two giant bio-converters being flown in from Italy - one for meat, fruit and vegetable waste, and one for seafood - and turned into fertiliser for farms. A tonne of dry fertiliser will sell for Dh450.
There will be far less waste from the meat market as most meat arrives butchered and packed in plastic.
"We are saving overall Dh3.5m per year on waste on a 75 per cent capacity operation," Mr Ostbye said.
Waste food from the staff canteen will also be recycled.
"We also plan on setting up two recycling bins on each side of the building before the opening of the market for people to drop their recycled items," Mr Ostbye said.
All stallholders will be trained in food and waste handling, with inspectors from the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority permanently on site.
"Environment issues and waste management are critical for Abu Dhabi, and knowing how to manage waste from A to Z is vital," said Mohammed Jalal Al Reyaysa, the authority's communications director.