Dh45m recycling facility opens and Abu Dhabi's waste now diverted from landfills, helping emirate sustain its growth, officials say.
Demolished buildings turned into new roads
ABU DHABI // A plant capable of recycling all the concrete and asphalt left from demolished buildings has opened, diverting hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste from Al Dharfa landfill. Officials say the Dh45million (US$12m) facility, next to the landfill, will help to make the emirate's growth sustainable.
"To me, waste is a resource," said Majid al Mansouri, the secretary general of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD), during a tour of the facility. By recycling concrete and asphalt, the new facility could potentially reduce demand for freshly quarried rock and other materials, he said. There is a substantial environmental cost to extracting fresh rock for construction, usually quarried from the mountains of Ras al Khaimah and Fujairah. Quarrying disturbs wildlife, sends dust clouds into the air that raise concerns for public health in surrounding towns and villages and can disrupt mountain wadis.
The new plant can process more than 5,000 tonnes of concrete and 1,200 tonnes of asphalt every day, producing aggregate for road construction. It was now compulsory for construction companies and those transporting construction waste to deposit loads at the new facility, Mr al Mansouri said during Monday's tour. A system would be put in place in the next three to four months for tracking waste disposal vehicles to monitor compliance, he said.
Previously, construction and demolition debris was dumped at increasingly overburdened landfills. Al Dharfa is Abu Dhabi's largest site, covering 16 square kilometres. The site receives various types of waste including household rubbish, medical waste and hazardous materials, with construction and demolition debris representing a significant portion. Despite the benefits, recycling facilities of this kind use large amounts of water - about 50,000 litres per day - to suppress dust created during the recycling process.
Questions remain regarding how the plant would be affected by a construction slowdown in Abu Dhabi, although, officials said the business case for the plant was solid. "We are confident there is a market for this material," said Tim Harwood, the general manager of Thiess Services Middle East, the private company behind the project. "There is a lot of infrastructure development still in Abu Dhabi."
The company, formed in 2008, is a joint venture between Australia's Thiess Services and Dubai-based Al Habtoor Engineering Enterprises. Thiess will operate the plant for 15 years before transferring it to the Government. The company was already selling the plant's end product to a contractor in the UAE, said Mr Harwood. Dr Bader al Harahsheh, the general manager of the Center of Waste Management Abu Dhabi, said the emirate produced 9,000 tonnes of construction and demolition waste per day.
The plant was equipped to eventually process up to 15,000 tonnes, he said. "The capacity will increase according to our needs," said Dr al Harahsheh. One way of encouraging recycling schemes is to increase the cost of disposing of waste at landfills. In Abu Dhabi, the rate is Dh10 per load, which is too low to encourage recycling companies to move in. Mr al Mansouri and Dr al Harahsheh said the Government was considering increasing these fees.
"There is a tariff system, we have not applied it yet," said Dr al Harahsheh. "That is something we are in the process of implementing." In addition to Abu Dhabi, Al Ain is also getting its own recycling plant for construction and demolition waste. The facility, said Mr al Mansouri, would be operating within three months. Mr al Mansouri said plans for tyre recycling facilities in Al Ain and Abu Dhabi were taking shape and the one in Al Ain was already under construction, he said.