x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Underground bins spread across capital

The plan to put nearly 500 rubbish bins underground should be completed by year's end.

ABU DHABI //Hundreds of underground rubbish bins are being installed in residential areas in the capital.

Under this third and final phase of the underground waste management project, more than 100 hydraulic bins are already in use across Abu Dhabi. Another 100 are under construction and nearly 120 have been proposed.

These are in addition to 130 bins that have been in use since last year in primarily business areas, mainly in the Khalidiya and Tourist Club neighbourhoods.

The municipality launched the subterranean waste project more than two years ago.

"The new underground system removes many of the hazards associated with waste left outside premises, such as foraging by streets cats," said a specialist from the Centre of Waste Management (CWM), the agency overseeing the project.

"It is part of efforts to create a better environment for residents, visitors and the business community in the emirate," he said.

Access to the underground bins is via a small aboveground rubbish chute. The bins are fitted with compactors and a built-in sensor that detects when they need to be emptied. The containers come in two sizes: "Bigtainers", with a capacity of 20 cubic metres, and "Sidetainers", with a capacity of seven cubic metres.

When the bins are full, specially adapted lorries, which come approximately every other day, lift them out of the ground and empty them.

"The new system will reduce the number of daily trips, which will reduce cost, fuel consumption and the carbon footprint," the specialist said.

In some parts of the city, all aboveground bins have already been removed.

During the programme's pilot phase, some residents complained that the access chutes on the bins were not large enough, prompting users to leave oversized bags and bulky items on the pavement.

"The openings are too small. I can't put the bigger bags in it," said Manaf Mustafa, a clerk at Dream Pharmacy in Khalidiya. "With bigger bags, we have to stuff and squish and make them smaller."

The CWM specialist said the design flaws have been corrected in the second and third stages of the project.

"In each stage, we have worked hard on the improvement of the system, including the openings, and now it's in better shape," the specialist said.

As the programme expands in residential neighbourhoods after focusing on business-dominated areas in its two earlier phases, CWM will launch a door-to-door awareness campaign.

"We will hire a group of volunteers to do site visits and create awareness among the public about the importance of this project, how to use it, and the benefits of it," he said.

Sally McCormick, a British resident of the Tourist Club, said she was not aware of the bins because her building's maintenance team took care of the rubbish, but she said she supported the effort.

"I think it's a good idea, especially considering how much rubbish bins can ruin the appearance of the neighbourhood," she said.

Most of Abu Dhabi's rubbish is deposited into landfills, at a rate of about 4.7 million tonnes a year, or about 13,000 tonnes a day. Eventually, the underground bins might be able to accept recyclables too.

jthomas@thenational.ae