x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dubai transport department leaves nothing to waste

Humaid Saeed Al Marri, director of Dubai Municipality's department of transport, and his team pride themselves on giving new life to used car parts.

Recycled barrels have been turned into a sofa at the Dubai Municipality's transport department.
Recycled barrels have been turned into a sofa at the Dubai Municipality's transport department.

Tyres turned into benches, signboards made from radiators, a lorry's transmission transformed into a table, clocks made from clutches, light fixtures that were once air filters.

No, it's not the latest line of car merchandising, these have all been made by the employees of Dubai Municipality's transport department.

The project was the brainchild of Humaid Saeed Al Marri, the department's director.

"This is not just environmental. Yes that is a big part of it, but it also aims at improving the moral of the staff and at the same time getting their creative skills flowing and sharing ideas," said Mr Al Marri.

Mr Al Marri has always had a knack when it came to working with his hands.

"I went to do my masters in the UK. They had us choose a new language and a vocational craft to learn, I chose German and carpentry."

Since then, Mr Al Marri has become an avid carpenter, setting up his own workshop at home where he builds all manner of furniture for his family and friends as well as toys for his children.

"It has become a real passion for me; I really enjoy working with my hands, it teaches you patience and helps clear your mind."

Mr Al Marri has been the director of four separate departments at Dubai Municipality, but he has found a home at the transport department.

"I was not really enjoying my work when I was head of Human Resources. I wanted something tangible, something I could get my hands on. This I feel was the best suited position for my skills."

Mr Al Marri came up with the idea of repurposing used vehicle parts almost by accident a year ago.

The first item he made was a table built out of a 10-cylinder Ford engine block. "We had a big Ford van that broke down and we were forced to replace its engine. I told the crew to keep the old engine, and I would figure out what to do with it later."

He spent days thinking about it. "One day we wanted to replace some of the furniture in the office and it just popped in my head, I'll make it into a table. It would look nice and be a conversation piece."

Mr Al Marri had the engine cleaned, painted and fitted with a glass top. He used the pistons as brackets to hold the glass. "I knew the block would be very heavy and impractical, so I had it fitted with tyres so it would be easier to move."

That one table sparked an idea that would see the department's staff create more than 60 pieces of furniture, decorations and art.

Mr Al Marri and his team pride themselves on being able to come up with ideas to repurpose any item they come across, and everyone is welcome to contribute suggestions.

"We accept ideas from all our employees," said Taleb Mohammed Ali, senior support officer at the department and a member of the repurposing team.

"Each member of the team brings their own set of skills to the table, from designers, to welders and painters. We have a board in our workshop where we plan each project and brainstorm the best use of these items.

"One of our colleagues came up with the idea of using all the carton boxes, in which we get parts shipped, to make handbags. She went to a lot of trouble to get them decorated; nobody would ever guess they were made from cardboard boxes," said Mr Ali.

"We asked her to join the team, but she declined."

The newly opened Customer Service Centre, which Mr Ali runs, is furnished with repurposed chairs, tables, light fixtures and even a propane cylinder flower pot.

"I think we have saved more than Dh200,000 in scrap so far," he said.

The department plans to sell these items once it has built a large enough collection. Proceeds from the sale will go the municipality's Takaful Box, a fund that offers financial aid to employees.

malkhan@thenational.ae