Time to act on recycling

Key to reducing carbon footprint

Jaafar Shubber
Jaafar Shubber

It may not have the gravitas of billion dollar solar panel farms or skyscrapers with the latest reflective cladding, but anyone serious about sustainability in the Gulf knows that waste management is key to reducing the region’s carbon footprint.

Not least in Dubai, where Dubai Municipality last year committed to a target of zero landfill by 2030 through the development of alternative disposal techniques and additional waste streams in the emirate – the proportion of waste that goes into the ground currently is around 90%.

The issue of waste management in the Gulf and in the Middle East generally is a serious one – largely because it remains cheap in the region to bury and forget our waste.

A recent report by CBRE claimed that while the cost of landfill has risen nine-fold in the UK since 1996, from around AED45 to AED410 per ton, in the UAE it still ranges from AED12 to AED38. Moreover, while real estate owners in Britain are given incentives to recycle a range of waste, no such system exists here.

While the UAE does pay recyclers to donate plastics, paper, aluminium and cooking oil, the rates paid are far below that of the UK and, unlike countries with more developed policy, the UAE does not include a range of other items such as computers, batteries and clothing.

Alongside the CBRE claims came research from facilities management company Imdaad, which claimed that only 13.6% of the waste it collects is recyclable in Dubai.

Its research was published to mark World FM Day this year. Commenting alongside the report, the company said that more education was needed to ensure not only that residents recycled, but that they chose recyclable products.

Also, it isn’t enough for people to buy recyclable products if there are no companies willing to collect and recycle them, and it is unlikely that companies will enter this market if the right incentives are not put in place.

In light of these issues, a new show is to be launched this year by the organisers of The Big 5. Middle East Waste & Recycling is due to be launched alongside FM EXPO and Commercial Cleaning & Hygiene, and will bring together the major players in the sustainability and recycling arena from across the region.

If the above research by both Imdaad and CBRE tell us anything, it is that the FM industry – as well as the government and end users – need to work together if Dubai, and other cities like it, are going to hit their ambitious targets on sustainability. In support of this, DM’s director general Hussain Nasser Lootah’s said that Dubai was aiming to be one of the world’s top sustainable cities by the time of the 2020 Expo.

As well as tougher green building regulations, he targeted lighting, water use and electricity wastage as key areas where changes had to be made – all areas that the FM industry is guaranteed to play a vital role.

Lootah announced the formation of a special committee to look at the initiative – titled Rethinking Sustainability, demonstrating that the government is ready to step up its efforts to push the green agenda forward.

Indeed, the world is watching. Dubai’s successful bid for the Expo 2020 and Qatar’s ongoing preparation for the FIFA World Cup 2022 have ensured that the eyes of millions will be on the region for the next two decades at least. Plenty of those involved outside of the region will be sceptical that the Gulf – with its air-conditioned football stadiums and looming glass edifices – can truly be sustainable: let’s prove them wrong.

About the author
Jaafar Shubber is the senior project manager for FM EXPO.

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