x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Hi-tech advance in processing toxic waste

Medical waste will be major part of material that large new facility will treat, and it should handle the needs of a growing city, officials say.

The new waste incineration plant at Jebel Ali is the largest in the region.
The new waste incineration plant at Jebel Ali is the largest in the region.

DUBAI // The largest medical waste treatment plant in the region opened yesterday in what officials said was a major step towards coping with hazardous materials. The plant at Dubai Municipality's waste-treatment complex in Jebel Ali cost Dh24 million (US$6.5m) to build and is capable of processing up to 19.2 tonnes of waste per day, including syringes and dressings.

Although hospitals and medical clinics in Dubai generate only six tonnes of infectious medical waste each day, that figure is expected to increase as more healthcare facilities open. Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, the Minister for Environment and Water, said: "This plant is a good example set by Dubai, and it should be followed by other emirates. There are some projects in Abu Dhabi and also plans to have to operations in the northern emirates to deal with solid and hazardous waste."

The vertical medical incinerator, built in Japan, is the latest technology for the environmentally friendly destruction of infectious medical waste. "This shows that the UAE Government is doing its best for the environment," Mr bin Fahad said. Experts warned yesterday, however, that medical waste could double in Dubai in the near future as Dubai Healthcare City works to build itself into a hub for the healthcare industry.

Hussain Nasser Lootah, the director general of Dubai Municipality, said: "The UAE healthcare sector is among the most dynamic areas of the economy. There has never been a better time to introduce this treatment facility, given the steady increase in the number of healthcare facilities in Dubai." The facility's spare capacity would be utilised to treat industrial waste and municipal solid waste. Previously, most medical waste was treated in a smaller plant, while some went straight to landfills. Mr Lootah said the small plant could not cope with the increase in toxic waste generated from factories and healthcare facilities in the emirate.

"We had to set up a highly advanced new facility to treat this hazardous waste, as waste generated from hospitals should be handled in the right way," he said. The old treatment plant is in Jebel Ali, near the new facility. It can be used only to burn medical waste. However, with development and a growing population in the area, officials wanted a plant that would not just incinerate the waste but also treat the toxic gases released. The new incinerator meets these stricter emission regulations.

The Ministry of Health recently warned hospitals that were not disposing of waste safely. Residents of Sharjah complained that medical waste such as needles and bloodstained dressings was being dumped in public rubbish bins. Sharjah's incinerator has been out of action since November. The emirate's consultative council was told in April that a private company had been hired to establish a "green" waste disposal plant by this summer.

Those dumping dangerous waste could face fines of up to Dh100,000 if caught. And Dr Najwa Kamalboor, of the Preventive Medicine Department of the Ministry of Health, said hospitals could face fines or temporary closure if they do not adhere to health regulations. Inspectors across the emirates regularly assess whether health facilities dispose of medical waste as required. Dr Mansour al Zarouni, chairman of infection control at Al Qassimi Hospital in Sharjah, said smaller establishments generally were more careless about disposing of waste.

pmenon@thenational.ae