x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Recycling effort being wasted in Abu Dhabi

Rsidents say they find elements of the recycling programme unclear, while others claim the collectors throw garbage from green and black bins into the same truck.

The recycling responsibilities in Abu Dhabi are divided up on opposing sides of Airport road, and are handled by two separate waste management Abu Dhabi authorities. (Silvia Razgova / The National)
The recycling responsibilities in Abu Dhabi are divided up on opposing sides of Airport road, and are handled by two separate waste management Abu Dhabi authorities. (Silvia Razgova / The National)

ABU DHABI // Julie Claterbaugh wants to recycle. When green and black bins appeared in front of her family's villa about six weeks ago, she was keen to do her part to reduce the average 2 kilograms a day of waste each person generates in Abu Dhabi.

But Mrs Claterbaugh's family and neighbours in Khalifa City A did not receive any information on which items were recyclable.

"The neighbours just put trash in all the bins," she said. "Green, black, it doesn't matter. Until we get some sort of direction on what we're supposed to do, I just keep putting it all together."

New recycling programmes to encourage residents to go green at home have so far had mixed success.

The Centre of Waste Management (CWM), the authority responsible for overseeing recycling in the emirate, estimates that between 10 and 15 per cent of waste is recycled.

In the past six months nearly all of the villas serviced by Lavajet, one of two contractors hired by the CWM last year to handle the city's waste management, have received 240-litre bins for recycling.

But more public awareness is needed to teach residents about the importance of recycling.

"Recycling in Abu Dhabi has not been very successful so far," one waste management expert said. "Very few people are recycling. It's not part of the culture and we need more public awareness."

Abu Dhabi emirate produces about 4.7 million tonnes of waste annually, or about 13,000 tonnes a day, making it one of the world's largest per-capita waste producers.

That could rise to 31 million tonnes a year by 2030 if more environmentally friendly practices are not put in place.

Landfills cover about 1,800 hectares in the emirate. Most of the waste is now taken to a special area at the Al Dhafra landfill, says Saif Al Shamsi, a senior manager of the CWM centre of excellence.

"The centre has plans to build a full sorting and recycling plant in Abu Dhabi in the future," Mr Al Shamsi said.

CWM and the waste-management companies have launched awareness campaigns, including house visits, workshops and brochures.

"We believe it is our responsibility to educate the public on the importance of recycling," said Oussama Natour, the project director for Averda, which oversees waste management east of Airport Road.

Diane Brennan, a Briton who has lived in the capital for two months, said she has been horrified by the amount of waste. "The Government has to be concerned about the scale of the problem here," she said.

CWM's programmes encourage people to separate waste and recycling, but residents have reported seeing both bins dumped into the same truck.

"I feel like, what's the point?" Mrs Claterbaugh said. "I'm not going to spend my time separating it when they're just going to dump it in the same truck."

Lavajet has introduced recycling containers for high-rise buildings, and Averda has begun to offer on-site confidential document shredding and recycling services.

Averda also plans to expand its "reverse vending machine scheme", which gives residents gift vouchers for depositing glass and plastic bottles and aluminium cans.

"It is an acquired behaviour or trait to drop the aluminium cans, plastics and bottles into recycling bins," said Elie Salem, the area operations manager for Lavajet.

"However, following public-awareness programmes, the public are getting more acquainted with separating waste at the source for recycling."

Lavajet and Averda officials said campaigns launched to "change mindsets" would continue this year, and CWM also planned to organise an awareness programme for schoolchildren.