x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Dubai looks at burning waste as power source

Searching for a way to handle its mounting waste problem, and with its main landfill nearing capacity, Dubai may adopt a simple solution: burn it and produce energy.

Searching for a way to handle its mounting waste problem, and with its main landfill nearing capacity, Dubai may adopt a simple solution: burn it and produce energy. The municipality is searching for international partners to help build an incinerator to deal with the more than 3 million tonnes of solid waste collected each year, officials said. The facility, said Rashed Mohammed Karkain of the municipality's waste management department, "is going to resolve a lot of environmental issues and waste management issues". It was unclear what technology would be used or how much energy it could produce, officials said.

While tender documents for the facility are not to be expected before the end of the year, the municipality hopes to have qualification guidelines for interested firms within two months. That pre-qualification document will require companies to present their experience in building similar facilities elsewhere, ensuring that "only serious players are considered", Mr Karkain said. "Once we have the pre-qualified technology providers, we will go for tender," Mr Karkain said.

In 2007, a total of 3.4 million tonnes of solid waste was collected in Dubai. That works out at about 9,000 tonnes per day. In most developed countries there are initiatives to recycle waste. Germans, for instance, produce an average of 1.6kg of waste per day, similar to the 1.75kg of a UAE resident. But through recycling and waste-to-energy projects, Germany reduces the amount of waste going to landfills by 40 per cent. In Denmark more than half of the municipal solid waste is burnt. The heat produced is most often utilised to provide central heating for homes.

Some environmentalists have criticised incineration because it could discourage waste reduction and recycling. Incinerators are expensive to build, and once a facility is functioning, it needs a constant stream of waste. And some of the emissions generated by incineration have been linked to cancer. Supporters of incineration point to advances in technology, which have reduced emissions, and note that it diverts waste from landfills, the least environmentally friendly option. Landfills are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases.

Most of the UAE's landfills were built when there were no regulations ensuring that toxic substances did not leak into the surrounding soil and groundwater. @Email:vtodorova@thenational.ae