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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

RAK launches initiative to cut waste by 75 per cent by 2021

The first large-scale recycling programme for Ras Al Khaimah residents begins on Wednesday, when green and brown recycling bags are delivered to households outside the capital city.

The RAK Recycles initiative is expected to reduce landfill waste by 75 per cent by 2021, in line with the federal target.

It launches in the predominantly Emirati communities of Al Rams, Al Dhait and the southern region, where there has been a positive response from community outreach programmes in schools.

“In the south region we don’t see a lot of littering like we do in the city because people really think it’s their community,” said Sonia Nasser, the executive director of RAK Waste Management Agency. “It’s their home. It’s a very tight knit community and they’re very close to the environment.”

The programme will extend to the areas of Rafai, Al Hamra and Mina Al Arab in early 2018.

Households will be taught how to set up a simple Scandinavian recycling system so that rubbish is cleaned and separated before it goes in the bin. Green bags are for mixed clean recyclables, including bottles, glass, cans, dry plastics and paper. Brown bags are for food waste. “It has to start in the kitchen,” said Ms Nasser.

Ras Al Khaimah public services department processes 550 tonnes of municipality waste a day. That's about 1.5 kilograms per person per day and although it's lower than the national average of 2.7 kilogrammes, it can be easily reduced further, said Ms Nasser.

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Much of it is recyclable but due to contamination, many products are damaged and end up in landfill. Currently, all rubbish is sorted by hand at a centre in Qusaidat, collected into bales and sold by the tonne. Much of this will be automated by the end of the year.

The public services department has put out a bid for a compositing plant. “Eventually all the clean food waste can be composted,” said Ms Nasser. “We think it’s going to be about a year before everybody gets the hang of it, so they have to start now.”

Recycling food waste, which currently comprise a third of the emirate’s rubbish, will reduce the country’s carbon footprint.

Businesses like Carrefour, malls and hotels will expand their current waste separation programmes.

Currently, all rubbish is sorted by hand at a centre in Qusaidat, collected into bales and sold by the tonne. RAK Waste Management Agency.
Currently, all rubbish is sorted by hand at a centre in Qusaidat, collected into bales and sold by the tonne. RAK Waste Management Agency.

RAK Education Zone will implement a school recycling programme in 82 schools this academic year.

“As we roll out to the residential areas, we believe it’s kids and housekeepers that will drive the programme,” said Ms Nasser. “For kids, it’s very black and white. You recycle or you don’t.”

An estimated 14.6 per cent of waste in RAK is currently recycled and this will increase to 20 per cent with the first phase of the initiative. “We're being conservative because what we think we’re really missing out of our recyclables are plastic bottles," said Ms Nasser. "Everybody is drinking water.” Some 17 per cent of RAK waste is from plastics.

Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr, the Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, has voiced his support for the programme on Sunday.

“I encourage all those in Ras Al Khaimah to think about the sustainable lives we led in the past and to start living for a more sustainable future,” said Sheikh Saud, in a statement. “By using this new system, Ras Al Khaimah residents are also showing that they care deeply about a sustainable future. Together we can make our Emirate clean and green now and for future generations.”

The UAE had one of the highest rates of food waste in the world in 2013, which constituted almost a fifth of landfill rubbish, according to the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi.

Jasem Al Tenaiji, 37, is raising awareness in his hometown of Al Rams, both amongst the Emirati community and the workers who live near the fishing harbour. He and his friends have gone door to door to introduce the initiative.

“We should work together,” said Mr Al Tenaiji, a government employee. “I care about this because I want our city to be clean. People always say, ‘don’t worry about it, why do you care?’ But I say you have to start it yourself.”

Mr Al Tenaiji was part of the town’s National Day committee, which organised clean ups at Al Rams old town and beach. He has used WhatsApp and Instagram to introduce the recycling campaign. “It will take time,” he said. “In Ras Al Khaimah and Al Rams people will throw away anything and we need to work with people to teach them. People agree with the idea and they say, ‘k, good, let’s start. We are with you'."

It also makes economic sense. Waste disposal is third highest municipal expenditure in the emirate.