x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Fall in demand halts recycling plant

Work at a plant that recycles construction debris into material for building roads and other infrastructure has come to a halt because of a lack of demand for the end product.

Sajidh Sabasivan, an operator at the plant in Al Dhafra, watches the recycling process.
Sajidh Sabasivan, an operator at the plant in Al Dhafra, watches the recycling process.

ABU DHABI // Work has come to a halt at the only recycling centre in the capital that processes construction and demolition waste.

The Dh45 million plant near Abu Dhabi's main landfill in Al Dhafra has been out of action since the end of November because of low demand for its end product - material used for road construction and other infrastructure projects.

Meanwhile, thousands of tonnes of waste concrete and asphalt are being stockpiled every day until recycling starts up again. At 9,000 tonnes a day, construction and demolition debris is the largest source of waste in Abu Dhabi.

"All we have done is adjust our operations to suit the current market conditions," said Tim Harwood, the general manager of Thiess Services Middle East, the private company that operates the plant.

A spokesman at the Centre for Waste Management - Abu Dhabi said the stoppage was temporary, and the facility would resume operations when there was a greater demand for its product.

"We are still waiting on a lot of entities like the municipality and others to make a decision regarding buying the material," the spokesman said. "This is still part of the initial process of acceptance for the material. It is just a question of adapting to it."

Since May 2010, Thiess Services Middle East has been operating the recycling facility on behalf of the Centre for Waste Management - Abu Dhabi.

The plant stopped processing the waste because of large stockpiles of finished product, Mr Harwood said.

The facility has the capacity to process more than 5,000 tonnes of concrete and 1,200 tonnes of asphalt every day. At the time it was launched in 2010, officials had planned to upgrade this amount to 15,000 tonnes per day.

Back then, Mr Harwood was confident the project would be a success, even though construction in Abu Dhabi was already slowing down because of the global economic downturn.

"There is a lot of infrastructure development still in Abu Dhabi," he said at the time.

The reduced demand for recycled material is believed to be due to delays in infrastructure projects planned for the capital.

Formed in 2008, Thiess Services Middle East 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.

Recycling construction and demolition waste carries significant environmental benefits.

It reduces the need for landfill space, an issue of particular significance in the UAE, which has one of the highest per capita waste generation rates in the world. Using recycled material also reduces the need for fresh rock.

There is a substantial environmental cost to extracting fresh rock for construction. It is 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.

While lorries are being directed to a location within the landfill, the waste is being stockpiled and will be recycled at a later stage, a Government official said.

Mr Harwood said he remains optimistic, despite the glitch.

"This is the biggest recycling facility in the Middle East, we sold more than 600,000 tonnes of recycled product that would otherwise have come from virgin material," he said.

"There is a number of projects we think will start in 2012 where our material will be used."

It is not yet known when the plant will resume operations.

"It is hard to say, but I am hopeful early this year," Mr Harwood said.

vtodorova@thenational.ae