x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Goodbye smells and scavengers

Khalidiya is the first area to get a new system that uses underground machines to compact household waste, allowing for fewer pick-ups.

Men use a new rubbish bin located off Airport Road at Zayed the First Street.
Men use a new rubbish bin located off Airport Road at Zayed the First Street.

ABU DHABI // Smelly, overflowing rubbish bins blighted by scavengers will soon be disappearing in some parts of Abu Dhabi. High-tech underground waste systems will eliminate the need for large rubbish bins in some of the most densely populated areas of the capital. By the end of this week, homeowners in parts of Khalidiya will be able to drop their rubbish into shiny boxes instead of the old bins. The waste falls into machines underground that compact it. The Centre of Waste Management - Abu Dhabi said each machine could hold 20 cubic metres of waste. "Each one of the new bins has storage capacity equivalent to that of 40 of the old rubbish skips," said Majid al Mansouri, the centre's managing director. The new system is expected to reduce the number of skips and the problems of odour, litter and scavengers such as rats and cats, while cutting the number of journeys made by collection lorries. Another 12 systems will be fitted by the end of June and more than 100 will be installed throughout the city by 2010. The underground containers have sensors that send alerts to a central database when they are full. They can then be lifted out of the ground and emptied into collection lorries. Because the waste is compacted, rubbish collection lorries will eventually make fewer trips around the city. At present waste is collected three times daily. Once the new system is implemented, only one trip every two days will be necessary. "This is not new technology," said Mr al Mansouri, explaining that the system has been successfully used in Spain, Portugal, France and the UK. The waste management centre has introduced some improvements to the system, including fitting it so that recyclables can be collected separately in future. The city's first three bins are expected to be in operation by the end of this week. Altogether 15 of them will be installed as part of the project's pilot phase, costing Dh14 million (US$3.8m). These should all be in place by the end of June. From the end of this month, the system will be installed at another 91 densely populated locations throughout the city. "The centre is working on designing a new collection system for areas with low population density, which will be implemented in future phases," said Mr al Mansouri. In the city's densely populated midtown, a trio of the old-style bins sits near the Garden Coffee Shop. Leizl Gustilo, 28, a cashier there, said any improvement in hygiene and decrease in smells would be welcome. "It's a problem because this is a coffee shop. Sometimes there are cockroaches," she said. "This [the new bins] will be better." Initiatives to encourage the recycling of waste are to be introduced later. A sorting plant, which will separate recyclables from household waste, is on the cards, said Mr al Mansouri. He was not able to offer more details about when the new facility will come online. With the absence of a recycling programme, Abu Dhabi's waste has been ending up in landfills - wasting valuable resources that could be reused and taking up ever larger stretches of desert. There are more than nine landfills in the emirate, with the biggest, Al Dhafra, serving Abu Dhabi, receiving an estimated minimum of 20,000 tons of waste a day. The facility covers about 16 square kilometres and has been in use for 25 years. On average, each UAE resident produces around 1.75kg of household waste daily, higher than most European countries. The German average is 1.6kg. However, through recycling and projects that convert solid waste to energy, Germany reduces the amount that goes to landfill by 40 per cent. Recycling, besides helping to save landfill space and raw materials, often helps to save energy. This is especially the case with materials such as steel and aluminium, which can be recycled hundreds of times without losing quality. Recycling an item made of aluminium saves 90 per cent of the water and 60 per cent of the electricity it takes to make a new one. Recycling paper can cut energy usage in half, while a ton of recycled glass saves the equivalent of nine gallons of fuel oil. vtodorova@thenational.ae