Resource management: Education & raising awareness

How waste management firms are changing attitudes to the environment

ANALYSIS, Projects

At Construction Week’s Building Sustainability conference held in November last year, Edwin Young, Estidama programme manager for the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council, said that while there have been many favourable changes in the Middle East region’s treatment of the environment, there still exists a need for a major paradigm shift, in what is still a first-generation green society.

“Without a doubt, our biggest change—our hardest change—is yet to come, and that is behavioural change,” Young said.

Bringing about this transformation in the way people think about sustainability and the environment is the goal behind several awareness campaigns being run by waste management companies in the region. From launching educational initiatives in schools and colleges to running recycling drives within their own offices, these organisations are trying hard to both promote and inculcate eco-friendly practices in people’s everyday lives.

Sharjah-based Bee’ah has been a role model of sorts in this arena, with the environmental and waste management solutions company making it a priority to educate and include the public in its run-up to reaching its goal of sending zero waste to landfill in the Emirate by the year 2015.

Bee’ah, well known for using cutting-edge technology and state-of-the-art infrastructure in its waste management facilities, has also been innovative in the various environmental educational schemes it has launched.

“Bee’ah has set in place various initiatives to involve our community, and encourage their contribution to improving the environment,” said Khaled Al Huraimel, group CEO, Bee’ah.

“Education is key to leading an environmental movement. By educating residents on the waste management system we have put into place, they can help contribute to improving our environment by practising the four R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle and redeem.”

One of Bee’ah’s most notable ventures in this regard has been its launch of the Bee’ah School of Environment (BSOE), a comprehensive, bilingual environmental educational program aimed at school students from nursery to the 12th grade.

Accessible via an online portal, the program, which consists of a variety of environmental activities and lesson plans, has successfully educated over 160,000 students in more than 200 schools across Sharjah.

Dulsco is another waste management company that has targeted students in its environmental awareness programs. The company’s “Recycle to Regain (R2R)” initiative, which it launched in 2009, has seen young minds play a major part in implementing its various green initiatives. In 2013, for instance, more than 23,000 students from the UAE and Qatar participated in Dulsco’s R2R program and collected 6.68 tonnes of recyclable material in a span of just six days.

“We work around the clock to educate people and institutions throughout the year on the essentials of recycling,” said S. Balakumar, managing director, Dulsco. “One of our key target groups are students, as they are very passionate about green goals and they are the best brand ambassadors. By reaching out to school students, we have been able to indirectly influence whole families on understanding the importance of such environmental initiatives.”

But the younger generation isn’t the only one needing a change in its attitude to the environment in this region. “We ‘walk the talk’,” Balakumar said. “The R2R campaign has an inward focused element as well, which aims to improve recycling practices amongst the more than 7,000 employees of Dulsco. Apart from regular training sessions, awareness programs and poster campaigns, there are many interesting initiatives launched at Dulsco, which include paper recycling, home recycling and recycling at work.”

UAE-based water management company, Metito, is another company which, in adherence to the age old principle of ‘charity begins at home’, has invested a lot of time and effort into educating its own employees on various environmental best practices. Given that its business is to treat water, the intelligent water solution provider has tailored its initiatives in this regard to target the core of the water management industry.

“Employee training programmes are of paramount importance to Metito, and our commitment, as a responsible company, is to continuously maintain and improve their environmental awareness about the latest issues and regulations to meet international standards,” said Bassem Halabi, group business development director.

“Metito training programmes have covered various subjects including environmental impact and aspect identification and integrated waste management plans among others.”

“Driving awareness and educational campaigns is a very vital tool in reducing water consumption of costly desalinated water,” Halabi added. “The only way to change people’s habits is to make them aware of the problem, and to help them become part of the solution. Campaigns must focus on the key alarming issues such as water scarcity, food safety, and waste management, which require each and every person to play a role to make a positive mark.”

According to Al Huraimel, such educational and awareness campaigns have now become vital to the communities and businesses that waste management companies have traditionally served. “Our business has never been more relevant to the world we live in and the challenges our customers face than it is today,” he said.

“Being at the forefront of positive environmental change, it is our responsibility to work with the community.”

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