x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Ajman fights back against a mountain of waste

Emirate sends rubbish to Sharjah, but burning it at Dh200m plant will generate 15 megawatts of electricity and could also release toxins.

A man covers his nose because of the odour coming from the rubbish dump in the neighbourhood of Al Jaraf in Ajman.
A man covers his nose because of the odour coming from the rubbish dump in the neighbourhood of Al Jaraf in Ajman.

Ajman must resort to building a landfill and spending millions on an incineration plant as part of its efforts to cope with the mountains of waste generated by its residents, a Government official said yesterday.

The emirate is moving ahead with plans to open the landfill - its first. And during an address to an audience of experts yesterday at the Middle East Waste Summit 2010, Yaser Kayed, the head of environmental protection at Ajman Municipality, filled in details on a plan to burn its waste and turn at least some of it into energy. The landfill will be built next to the incinerator, filling in a major gap for the emirate, which currently ships its waste to Sharjah.

"At the moment we do not have a sanitary landfill," he said. The incinerator, estimated to cost Dh200 million (US$54m), will be capable of burning 500 tonnes of waste per day. Mr Kayed said the decision to proceed with an incinerator was made after a study showed the amount of waste produced in the emirate was to grow rapidly. Ajman's 230,000 residents, as well as industry, hospital and construction sites, generate almost 160,000 tonnes of solid waste per year. The amount is to grow to 541,873 tonnes in 2013 and more than two million tonnes in 2030, Mr Kayed said.

Although the figures do not account for a reduction expected because of the current economic crisis, the overall trend is still up, he said. The incinerator will be capable of producing 15 megawatts of electricity. "We have to go for a waste-to-energy plant to reduce the amounts of waste to the levels we need," he said. Incinerators are controversial methods of dealing with waste because of the harmful emissions released as waste is burned.

The most controversial are dioxins, which have been linked to cancer. Dubai has also chosen incineration to deal with its waste problems and work is progressing on finding a private company to build a facility for the emirate. However, incineration is considered a better alternative than dumping waste at landfills, which is how the UAE deals with most of its waste. A study released at the waste summit found that the UAE generated 22 per cent of the 22.2 million tonnes produced in Gulf countries last year, coming in second only to Saudi Arabia.

In Sharjah, despite efforts to recycle, waste is still piling up in the main landfill, said Jeremy Byatt, the director for environmental responsibility at Bee'ah, the company charged with overseeing the emirate's environmental affairs. "Sharjah's landfill is growing with the equivalent of a football field of garbage, 60 centimetres thick, every day," said Mr Byatt. "This is unsustainable." Like many emirates, Ajman is taking steps to process some household waste so that recyclable materials such as plastics, paper and metal are retrieved. Around 100 tonnes of plastic and up to 80 tonnes of metal are retrieved every month. But since the rubbish that reaches that treatment facility is mixed, it is hard to retrieve large amounts, Mr Kayed said.

Next month, Ajman will see its first rubbish bins allowing for the separate collection of recyclable materials. The bins will be installed at three locations in the central part of Ajman city in co-operation with Bee'ah. In June, Ajman will also begin enforcing a ban on the use of shopping and garbage bags made of normal plastic. Only bags with additives that allow the plastic to break down easily will be allowed into the emirate.

The rules will also apply to plastic manufacturing within Ajman, Mr Kayed said. Last month the emirate ordered 12 oil and petrochemical plants without private waste-management systems to cease operations. Sixteen companies vying to build the Ajman incinerator have been narrowed to three; the final candidate will also run the facility, turning it over to the Government after 20 years. @Email:vtodorova@thenational.ae