Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cash from trash

by R. Ramesh

Recyling waste is big business across the globe and the UAE, which has one of the world's highest per capita waste generation rates — an estimated 750 kilogrammes a year — has unveiled grand plans that are likely to change the face of the country.
A key concept of modern waste management, recycling, by definition, is the reprocessing of materials into new products. Recylable materials from both home and industries may include a range of items from paper, glass, aluminium, textiles, plastics to biodegradable waste and even printer ink cartridges.

Recycling also helps cut the demand for new materials. For example, a tonne of recycled paper saves around 17 full-grown trees from being cut. Tackling over 500,000 tonnes per day of solid wastes including commercial, household, industrial and agricultural is no easy task. Experts point out that 40 per cent of t Cash from trash by he UAE municipal solid waste can be recycled as well as reused. The government is in the process of privatising some services or even opting for public/private partnership. In fact, the Abu Dhabi government earlier privatised a section of the municipal solid waste collection and transportation services.

Dubai scenario

Though Dubai has gained the distinction of being one of the most rapidly growing cities in the world, it also has to contend with the fact that waste in the emirate has tripled in the last six years to three million tonnes in 2006. Dubai generated one million tonnes of waste in 2000 and it went up to almost three million tonnes in 2006, according to Dubai Municipality's Acting Director General Nasser Lootah. Industrial and construction waste also increased from three million tonnes to 10.5 million tonnes during the same period. Waste is dumped in different landfills located at Al Qusaid, Jebel Ali, Lehbab, and Hatta.

The Al Qusais landfill receives 77 per cent of Dubai's total waste and remains the largest. Dubai Municipality started the Middle East's largest material recovery facility, Tadweer, which went into operation at Warsan in March and could recycle 4,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day. Tadweer helps minimise waste by recycling paper, plastic, metal and glass objects for reuse as raw material to manufacture other things, such as plastic balls and synthetic boards. The residues from sorting and recycling will be treated further, using better technology to produce enough electrical power to cover the requirements of the project. The corporation has spent AED 500 million (US$27.2 million) in building the facility.

C & D waste

About 30,000, or 24 per cent of the world's 125,000 construction cranes, are said to be currently operating in Dubai and it is not hard to imagine the negative impact of construction waste on the environment. In March this year, Dubai-based Al Rostamani Group, established the Emirates Recycling Facility (ERF) aimed at recycling and recovery of the city's construction and demolition (C&D) waste.

The Emirates Recycling plant, built at a cost of over AED 65 million and located in the Al Lusaily area on the Al Ain-Jebel Ali road, has a capacity to convert the more than eight million tonnes of construction waste material generated in Dubai annually into usable road and construction base aggregate. The Dubai Municipality had to handle 10.5 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste in 2006.

In fact, C&D waste makes up 75 per cent of the total waste generated in Dubai every year, according to municipality officials. The ERF project is being portrayed by the authorities as a perfect example of civic partnership between public and private sectors with the common goal of improving the living standards and wellbeing of the community. The plant is designed to receive, sort, separate, crush, sieve and process the city's concrete, asphalt and cement C&D debris and turn it into aggregate materials of three different sizes for use in road-base construction, as base material for ready-mixed concrete elements and for landfill. C&D recovery is considered global best practice, and is in place in nations around the world from Japan to the entire North American continent.

Recycling Park

As well as the above initiatives, a Dubai Recycling Park, which is expected to be the first fully integrated waste management and recycling park in the Middle East, will be developed on a site measuring 1,500,000 square feet with a 49-year lease agreement with Dubai Industrial City and a capital investment of up to US$150 million. Construction is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2008 and will be fully completed within the following 18 months.

Capital move

The Abu Dhabi government last September awarded Al Qudra Holding a recycling project for home solid wastes for the emirate valued at AED 1.27 billion. Abu Dhabi generates some 2,300 tonnes of solid waste per day. The project aims at preserving the environment by recycling home solid wastes including plastic and paper, aluminium, metals, glass as well as greenery.

Sharjah plans

The proximity with Dubai and rapid growth has led to solid waste production in Sharjah rising at the rate of 13 per cent per annum while waste dumping sites have already received stuff to their capacity. Sharjah produces a total of 1.1 million tonnes of waste per year. Realising the need for drastic action, the Sharjah Municipality launched a large waste recycling company that is flaunted as "the biggest in the Arab region."

Bee’ah is a limited liability joint stock company of the Sharjah Municipality, the JMS Property Development LLC and the Tactical Connections Canada. At the first stage, the “Bee’ah” will collect, sort out and classify waste within the following categories: Aluminium materials, plastic materials, paper, glass and ceramic, building materials, iron and organic materials. These will be sent to the recycling factory, which will be operational by late 2008.

A waste-recycling factory is being set up in Al Saj'ah area and will depend on the latest international technology in the recycling industry under the supervision of specialists and technicians. The company will also set up branches in all other municipalities of the Emirate of Sharjah.

The authorities see Bee'ah as a practical solution to tackling waste, particularly as 65 per cent of waste is convertible and can be recycled.

Aluminium advantage

With a view to encourage companies and institutions to reduce their waste, the Emirates Environmental Group has been organising several events, including annual recycling competitions in the UAE. The EEG collected 644,000 kilogrammes of recycling materials last year with Dubai and Abu Dhabi as hubs.

The collection of these materials is done by the private sector. Once collected, the paper, glass, aluminium cans and plastic are either sold to local factories or exported. While paper and cartons form the chunk of favourable items for recycling, aluminium is not far behind. The main drivers that favour recycling of aluminium scrap has been low capital requirement, low gestation period and low cost of conversion.

Globalisation and competition have prompted the secondary aluminium industry to assure quality of secondary metal. Besides, an environment friendly process makes the option of aluminium recycling attractive. A wide choice of technology and design is available to process aluminium scrap. Another key to successful aluminium recycling industry is access to segregated and identified alloys, reveals C. Ramasamy, presently working as a technical advisor for a Nigerian-based company.

The numerous opportunities for design and creativity which aluminium offers architects are a prerequisite for putting new and lasting ideas into practice. The fact that there is practically no need for any maintenance is a contributing economic factor. Aluminium protects foodstuffs and medicines against deterioration. Aluminium packaging offers maximum packaging performance with minimum use of material. The high potential energy savings during the life of aluminium products often exceed the actual energy consumed during all the stage from extraction to finished product. Aluminium recycling offers several attractions: It saves around 93% of the energy needed to primary metal.

The energy required to produce 1 metric tonne of aluminium in a modern smelter will be around 15,500 units of electricity, where as the energy required for melting scrap is only around 1,200 units of thermal energy. The benefits are too many: Aluminium scrap can be recycled again and again without any loss in property. Using recycled metal is cheaper. Modern recycling is eco-friendly. By recycling, around 600,000 tonnes of bauxite per annum can be preserved for the future for around 100,000 tonne of aluminium. Recycled aluminium in Europe, USA and Japan is used for making aluminium sheets and coils which, in turn, are used in beverage cans, building, transport and cookware. Similarly, most extruded and cast aluminium products are made from the recycled metal. This leads to the most economical application of primary (therefore purer) aluminium.

Commercial opportunities

Coping with huge mounds of solid and municipal wastes poses a formidable challenge, but the UAE has geared up well for the task. Though millions of dollars have already been pumped into various projects, opportunities remain for more international companies that offer sophisticated technologies in the field to join the waste-tackling battle. With the authorities keeping an open mind on involving the private sector, the opportunity is indeed greener.
(Published in GRC bulletin)

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