x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Hazardous habits start in the home

The new hazardous waste facility will only be effective if everybody participates in separating their rubbish.

According to a report compiled by consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan, the UAE produces 80,000 tonnes of hazardous waste a year. At the current rate of growth, this amount will double by 2020. It follows that mechanisms are needed to dispose of the dangerous substances created by industry as well as everyday items that can pose a danger to our environment.

Yesterday's news that Abu Dhabi's first landfill for hazardous wastes will open within a year is obviously welcome. The dump, designed to handle toxic, corrosive and easily ignited materials, will be the second such facility in the UAE after the Jebel Ali hazardous waste treatment complex in Dubai.

While oil and gas companies have their own plants to handle waste products, a lot of hazardous material from everywhere else is now sent to landfills designed for household rubbish. This means that toxic chemicals present in some waste material are in danger of leaking into the groundwater supply and the broader ecosystem.

Faris Al Munaiei, the manager of projects and facilities for the Centre for Waste Management - Abu Dhabi, told The National that the new complex will have sealed disposal areas, and the site will include a laboratory and pre-treatment centre where highly volatile waste can be mixed with chemicals to make it safer. Phase two of the project will include an incinerator that will be able to handle 15,000 tonnes of clinical and combustible waste a year.

While the authorities have moved in the right direction on this issue, the concerns will not be laid to rest when the plant is finished. As The National has noted in regard to recycling initiatives, the system will fall down without participation at all levels.

The facility is being built, but it won't operate at its intended capacity and efficiency if people who create hazardous waste don't separate it and ensure that it goes to the right place. And it's not just industry that has the responsibility here.

Everyday items such as batteries, light bulbs, paint cans, mobile phones and other common electronic devices can leak toxic waste. All need to be disposed of properly and separately from other waste. We must all be aware of this, and all do our bit if we are to share a cleaner, healthier tomorrow.