A self-sustaining, carbon-neutral landfill in Dubai that doesn’t stink

A self-sustaining, carbon-neutral landfill in Dubai that doesn’t stink

Al Qusais landfill is self-sustaining, carbon-neutral and the only one in the region that generates power from landfill gas.


Nivriti Butalia

Published: Wed 19 Mar 2014, 12:46 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:41 PM

Landfills tend to stink. That’s a universal truth. So when you visit the largest landfill in the Middle East — Al Qusais landfill — and the road leading up to it doesn’t reek of garbage rotting in the sun, you know someone is doing something right.

Anita Nouri is the woman behind this magic. She is a speaker at this year’s Middle East Waste and Recycling Conference happening in May.

Even though the Al Qusais landfill belongs to the Dubai Municipality, it is a private-public partnership, and a flagship project of Green Energy Solutions and Sustainability, which is owned by Nouri.

The non-stinking landfill — over 42m high — is the only one in the region to produce power from landfill gas. The project in Qusais has a fully functional waste-to-energy system that most impressively collects methane to power the site office.

With earth hour around the corner (March 29), the region could well do with replicating this model. This waste-to-energy landfill mitigates over 3,50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. The landfill generates 1 megawatt (MW) of power that meets all the requirements of the site spread over an area of about 3.5 square kilometres. And this is not even tapping its full potential.

A thousand trucks that belong to the Dubai Municipality loaded with organic waste — stuff we throw out of our kitchens — enter the gates of this landfill daily.

The garbage is segregated by hand and compressed. No plastic bottles contribute to the methane production; it’s all organic waste. And even though on the site you see plenty of crushed, dirt-laden empty plastic bottles, that once contained fizzy drinks and rested in your fridge door, they are the result of previous carelessness, in years before this project started.

Anita Nouri

The landfill itself is close to 29-years-old. Plastic bottles, weather-worn remnants of jute hats … there’s a whole lot of peculiar, possibly decades-old waste sticking out from the ground.

Yet, as Anita’s husband Zak says, “See — no smell, no scavengers.” And there is nothing that offers any evidence to the contrary.

Nouri explains, “Even if 2 per cent oxygen comes in, the alarms go off, and with 3 per cent, the plant will shut down.”

The site is one of the largest for municipal waste collection in Dubai, receiving about 5,000 tonnes daily. The gas collection system implemented by Green Energy Solutions and Sustainability collects landfill gas through a network of horizontal and vertical pipes. The collected gas is flared with a small portion utilised for power in the initial phase.

The high efficiency flare safely disposes the flammable constituents of landfill gas, particularly methane. The design and construction implemented on the Al Qusais landfill manages odours, and reduces health risks, fire and adverse environmental impacts.

It doesn’t stink because the whole place is covered and layered with a clay-like substance called Sabhka.

Nouri’s future plans include the development of the closed Jebel Ali landfill and the ramping up of power at the Al Qusais site to reach a 12MW capacity.

And this is but the tip of the iceberg. Anita and Zak have even had school kids come over and plant 150 trees at the site. Fast growing stumps of Damas are thriving on the periphery. Birds zip about the trees as yet another garbage-laden truck enters the gates. Till someone points out where you are, you’d never guess you were standing atop a self-sustaining, carbon-neutral, power-generating landfill.


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