First the good news: After years of environmental awareness campaigns, Dubai finally seems to be winning its battle to reduce the amount of household waste being dumped. The bad news is that this is due to a logistical anomaly, rather than recycling initiatives or residents' major lifestyle changes.
As The National reported yesterday, there was a reduction in waste officially dumped in the emirate - 800,000 tonnes less in 2011 than in 2010, and 1 million tonnes less than in 2009. But these figures, reported by Dubai Municipality and Dubai Statistics Centre, are actually down to merely a ban on dumping in Dubai by other emirates.
The municipality's awareness campaign, encouraging people to become more active in recycling, is far from being an unqualified success.
So what can be done to end the resistance to recycling?
Part of the problem is that many residential buildings, even those built most recently, have communal rubbish chutes but still lack easy-to-use chutes or bins for recycling of paper, plastic, glass and metal.
In fairness, we note that Dubai Municipality has increased the number of recycling facilities in some public areas between buildings, in the Sufouh and Marina areas for example. But some of these offer little direction. Many residents will keep using only their chutes.
In this respect, requiring recycling facilities in new buildings would be a long step forward. So would more house-to-house collection for recyclables (some parts of Abu Dhabi, like Al Bateen, already offer this).
The recycling debate couldn't be more timely. During Ramadan the amount of waste produced rises by 7 per cent per household - not counting the waste from buffet Iftars and suhours in restaurants and malls.
"People are changing, but at the same time waste management needs to be regulated and enforced," said Glenn Platt, environmental manager at KEO Infrastructure in Dubai. "It will be nice to see commercial properties taking some responsibility for that."
While recycling of construction debris for raw materials is a lucrative and thriving business in the UAE, stories of mass dumping of domestic waste in desert landfills are not uncommon.
Recycling demands economic and physical infrastructure - end markets, sorting centres, collection networks - and that demands planning. But the incentive for recycling begins with a public culture of ecological awareness.
Making that change in the mindset of the whole population will not be an easy task, but the cause is well worth the effort. We cannot rely on statistical accidents to save the environment.