UAE officials urge public to place trash in right garbage bins
Dubai - Residents must do their part in recycling through correctly using the public containers dedicated for general waste and recyclable materials
With the country aiming to reduce waste reaching landfill by 75 per cent by 2021, officials are urging the public to correctly allocate their waste in the right containers.
While the government has been investing in smart waste segregation and collection systems, residents must do their part in recycling through correctly using the public containers dedicated for general waste and recyclable materials (paper, glass, cans, plastic, etc).
Abdulmajeed Saifaie, director of the waste management department at the Dubai Municipality, said when waste is properly segregated at source, it helps waste collection companies to recover recyclable materials.
"A vehicle picks up the general waste daily, while a different vehicle picks up recyclable materials every few days," said Saifaie. "While waste collection companies send one truck to pick up the general waste to avoid extra costs, the waste in green and blue bins - for recyclables vs general waste - is segregated at the offloading location before going to landfills."
Saifaie added that when residents segregate their waste in the right container, it guides companies to separate recyclables in a quicker and cheaper manner.
While Waste to Energy techniques have been widely followed across the world, Saifaie said the waste collected is either recycled or burned to produce energy.
"When the waste is mixed, it is burned to generate energy. Otherwise, it is segregated and recycled." Currently, little of the waste is burnt and the rate of municipal waste recycling has been rapidly rising.
The UAE has one of the highest waste generation rates, with each person estimated to produce from 1.9kg to 2.5kg of waste every day. In 2016, for example, Dubai generated 8,200 tonnes of solid municipal waste per day. Yet, only about 10 per cent of residents in the country actively recycle their waste.
Saifaie said while the government provides the right facilities for people to segregate waste, it goes back to people's efforts in recycling. The 13 Smart Sustainability Oasis centres that the civic body had set up across public parks and municipality centres contributed in recycling 168,580kg of materials in 2017, and 61,470kg in the first quarter of 2018.
The smart centres allow residents to deposit 18 types of recyclable materials.
"There are people who feel environmentally more responsible than others. We set up these smart centres in accessible places for people eager to recycle green trash. Otherwise, smart littering containers are deployed on the streets to guide the public into segregation," said Saifaie.
The Dubai Municipality recently distributed 150 environment-friendly smart containers to help residents separate waste easily through two categories of general waste and recyclable materials on Second of December street and both sides of Sheikh Zayed Road. The containers automatically compress general waste to avoid accumulation with a sensor that reports full container to control centres.
As for residential communities, smart collection system to assist communities in waste segregation, recently introduced in Al Mamzar, is set to replace the current door-to-door household recycling of green and blue bins placed in densely populated areas as part of "My City, My Environment" campaign.
Meanwhile, Sharjah's Bee'ah has been replacing the single stream bins with green and blue bins since 2012. Their door-to-door residential recycling programme has educated housekeepers and residents on recycling instructions in over seven languages and distributed bio-degradable blue and green bags which make it easier for them to sort and dispose of their waste.
Awareness is there, but more care needed
Fahad Shehail, group chief of staff at Bee'ah, said people's rising efforts are apparent when the collected waste is examined in the transfer stations. "We have noticed that residents are indeed taking an effort to put their waste in a bin corresponding to that particular type of waste. However, given the high waste generation rates in the country, greater efforts must be made by the public to meet the UAE's sustainability goals."
By segregating the waste at the source, Shehail said, there is less likelihood of contamination from other materials, organic waste and liquids. "For mixed waste streams, time and energy has to be spent on separation and even then, the resources might not be in a state to be recycled. By separating waste, we can achieve 100 per cent recovery for recyclable materials, but this percentage drops to 15 in the case of mixed waste."
Abdullah Al Hussam, environmentalist who owns a recycling factory in Al Ain, stressed that placing waste in bins is the most important step that determines whether waste will end up in landfills or be recycled cheaply and easily.
"We face the issue of mixed waste all the time, with mostly organic waste placed with recyclables. People's commitment to segregating waste will make recycling much more effective, easy and cheap, while saving the planet resources. We will not need to clean and wash recyclable from organic waste anymore," said Al Hussam.
He urged issuing an environmental licence or test for domestic workers before they work in the country. "A main factor that contributes to the lack of waste segregation in homes is that most domestic workers are unaware of recycling, so there's no motivation to segregate waste in the right bin," said Al Hussam.
While the government has laid out the basis by placing the right bins, technologies and waste management centres, more awareness is needed. "The process starts from homes. The young generation is now aware, thanks to the multiple school awareness campaigns.
Meanwhile, Habiba Al Marashi, chairperson of Emirates Environmental Group (EEG), urged introducing a penalty and reward system that would push residents to segregate waste. "Incentivising recycling and encouraging awareness goes hand in hand with penalising accountability to help people understand the seriousness of the situation," said Al Marashi.
She added that the EEG awareness programmes are dedicated towards to youth to shape a better generation. "You mould them at a young age and educate them that difference starts at home. We hope this joint effort spreads into the wider society," said Al Marashi.
Tips to recycle
> Know what you can and can't recycle
> Segregate waste into the black and green bins provided
> Keep two bins at your house, one for general waste and another for recyclables