Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

Abu Dhabi’s growing waste problem

A lack of social awareness, poor data collection, inadequate recycling and a population which is expected to double over the next 25 years are all contributing to the capital’s growing waste problem.

ABU DHABI // A lack of social awareness, poor data collection, inadequate recycling and a population which is expected to double over the next 25 years are all contributing to the capital’s growing waste problem.

In its second update to the Waste Master Plan 2040 on Wednesday Abu Dhabi’s waste management company, Tadweer, highlighted the challenges faced and what needed to be done to improve the situation.

Eamon Timoney, a consultant working on the master plan, said the waste collection system in Abu Dhabi was one of the best in the world, so good in fact that it might be contributing to the problem of social awareness.

“It’s amazing one of the first things you notice when you walk around the city, just how immaculately clean it is – not only that but also the countryside,” he said.

“In a way though, the success of the collection system, and the cleanliness of the streets would give an impression to the general public that waste was not an issue,” he said.

One of the social aspects that was presented at the workshop in Bab Al Bahar Abu Dhabi was a failure to raise enough awareness on recycling due to the transient nature of the UAE’s population, which was 80 per cent expatriate.

“That expat population has a very high turnover rate, normally in a two-year cycle, so it is extremely difficult for the public awareness team to reach out continuously to that transient population,” Mr Timoney said.

Tadweer intended to redirect 85 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s landfill-bound waste to management facilities to either be recycled or turned into energy.

Landfills are the capital’s main method of waste disposal and sites such as Al Dhafra in Abu Dhabi receive approximately 2,000 lorries worth of trash every day.

That number, however, was expected to rise. Historically, a higher gross domestic product has been linked with more waste, and with GDP in Abu Dhabi expected to double the capital must begin to utilise the waste as a resource.

“That is why we need action today, not tomorrow, next week, or next month – today,” said general manager of Tadweer, Eissa Al Qubaisi.

He said working with various organisations, including the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, Tadweer would tailor the master plan to tackle several aspects of waste management, including legislation, technical and social aspects.

According to Tadweer, a more troubling concern was the need for improved data collection.

Mr Timoney said there was a grey area in terms of legislation that allowed the commercial sector to go through loopholes. Furthermore, the lack of stringent enforcement allowed for a significant portion of waste to be dumped illegally without being reported.

Working on improving the data collection processes, Mr Timoney said that implementing a proper monitoring and evaluation system could be a shock. “I have no doubt when more robust reporting systems are put in place you are going to see a jump in waste numbers immediately,” he said. “Even some of [the current] reported waste is by estimation.”

Setting benchmarks for change was difficult, however. Both Mr Timoney and the various parties involved said that by highlighting the challenges over the next two decades, the master plan could better address solutions.

nalwasmi@thenational.ae

Updated: November 18, 2015 04:00 AM

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