x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Out of the landfill and into the wallet

The UAE has barely started on the long road to the recycling of waste, of which we generate plenty.

Reduce, reuse … recycle?

The trio of environmental stewardship may be a well-known slogan to many, but there is still a long way to go before these practices are as ingrained in the UAE as in other countries.

By last count, just 20 per cent of all waste in Dubai was given a second life. In Abu Dhabi, where no private processing facilities have been established, that ratio is probably even lower.

Attitudes are part of the problem. In a nation whose residents are among the biggest producers of household waste in the world - some 1,700 kilograms annually for Dubai residents - just under a quarter of people are believed to be regular recyclers.

All of this should reinforce the capital's most recent effort to resurrect its recycling programme. As The National reported yesterday, two new companies have been contracted to provide bins and collection services soon to villa residents. People looking to sort plastic, glass and paper should be able to do so on their own kerbs.

Of course educating the public about how to recycle is only the first step in a properly managed waste stream. It's the second, third and fourth steps that have yet to be properly addressed.

At present, recyclable waste in Abu Dhabi must be sent to Al Ain for processing. There, facilities have been established to crush aluminium cans, smash glass and rip up paper to produce post-consumer product. If done properly recycling can be cost effective and bring in cash. Scrap metals like aluminium, for example, are valuable commodities.

Turning recycled materials into products that can be resold depends on a steady stream of post-consumer materials. The first step is consumers' participation in their kitchens. But government regulations are also needed to strengthen the market to make recycling a more cost-effective option.

Legally requiring recycling has worked in some countries, as has raising landfill dumping fees to make the failure to recycle more expensive. The Government might also encourage private firms to build processing plants, giving them breaks and cash incentives to do so.

In a nation that produces so much waste, there is much work to do. But at home is the right place to begin.