x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Small steps lead to big waste solutions

Waste-streaming, gas harnessing and awareness campaigns are all part of the tranche of changes that will reduce the UAE's environmental footprint.

There is no silver bullet that will instantly solve the issue of how to deal with the rubbish produced in the UAE. The solution will instead come from a series of small and smart changes to the way we live, the methods of handling waste and through harnessing the latest technology to reduce the size of our collective environmental footprint.

This is exactly what has been emerging in recent weeks, whether it is the accelerated roll-out of the My City, My Environment programme in parts of Dubai, allowing residents to separate recyclables from material that ought to go to a landfill, or the scheme to harness methane from existing landfills and sewerage-treatment plants and using it to generate electricity or power cars, or even awareness-raising initiatives like switching lights off for Earth Hour on March 29.

The My City, My Environment programme began as a pilot scheme in Nad Al Hamar and Al Mizhar 1 and 2 districts in 2012, where the neighbourhood’s central skips were replaced with two wheelie bins provided to each home, one of them designated for recyclables. The scheme was rolled out to six communities in the Jumeirah area a year ago and was due to go to six more communities next month but Dubai Municipality announced that it would accelerate the roll-out, doubling the number of new communities where it will apply.

Streaming waste early is the simplest way of making recycling viable and the person who generated the refuse is usually best placed to allocate it to the right category. But it is hardly a glamorous activity or one that appeals at the end of a long and tiring day, so Dubai’s scheme involves both carrot and stick. Residents will have the chance to do the right thing, but will also be fined if they do not separate their waste.

Similarly promising is the initiative to harness methane and other bio-gas produced by existing landfills and by Dubai’s sewerage treatment system. The latter is currently flared off but could be used, once cleaned of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide, to power vehicles in a way that runs cleaner than petrol. Methane from the Al Qusais landfill has been collected for more than a year and the scheme is being considered for Jebel Ali landfill.

These kind of smart and simple solutions will be key to the UAE’s goal of reducing its environmental footprint, and we all have a part to play.