A greener mindset

How waste management companies are trying to change people's attitudes

Lessons on the environment: The Bee'ah School of Environment has been put into place at over 200 schools in Sharjah.
Lessons on the environment: The Bee'ah School of Environment has been put into place at over 200 schools in Sharjah.

A look at how waste management companies in the Middle East are trying to change people’s attitudes towards the environment

At Construction Week’s Building Sustainability conference held in November last year, Edwin Young, Estidama program 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.

The 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 zero waste to landfill in Sharjah by 2015.

Bee’ah, well known for using cutting-edge technology and state-of-the-art infrastructure in its waste management facilities, has also been very 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 twelfth 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, which led to the collection of 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 7000 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.”

The 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.

“Employee training programme 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. “Metito training programmes have covered various subjects including environmental impact and aspect identification, integrated waste management plans, etc.”

Given that Metito is in the business of “treating” water, Halabi said that the intelligent water solutions provider has made sure to tailor its initiatives to spread awareness about the core issues of the water management industry.

“Driving awareness and educational campaigns is a very vital tool in reducing water consumption of costly desalinated water,” Halabi explained. “The only way to change people’s habits is to make them aware of the problem, and 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 awareness campaigns are now of vital importance 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,” Al Huraimel explained. “Being at the forefront of positive environmental change, it is our responsibility to work with the community.”

Averda CEO Malek Sukkar on how technology can help improve the waste management industry
According to you, what role does technology play with respect to the waste management industry?
In order to address a broad range of environmental needs, the quicker the technological uptake across companies and government entities, the better. Waste is generated by activities in all industries and sectors, and each material has its own characteristics, environmental impact, recycle and re-use options.

An integrated system would be the most efficient and sustainable, relying heavily on technology to facilitate reuse, recycling, composting, incineration with energy recovery, and safe and ethical disposal. The core idea behind an integrated waste management program is that it operates with the objective to recover the maximum recovery of matter and energy and the minimum impact on the environment.

Led by a vision to transform the global waste management landscape, from public perception to government policies, averda is also at the forefront of technological innovation.

Averda’s engineering arm, Leeds, acts as a research and development center, focused on improving the company’s engineering, design, manufacture and assembly processes. The machines and technologies we use across all our operations are delivered by Leeds, where research and development are second nature, and efficiency is the goal.

In an interview with fmME, averda COO Jeroen Vincent had talked about how averda is transforming itself from being traditional waste collectors to a more integrated waste solutions provider. Can you explain how technology has helped this transition?

In waste management, taking advantage of technological advances can make otherwise cumbersome processes much smoother. IT enables us to grow beyond a collect-and-transport role, to become an integrated waste solutions provider by giving us access to vast amounts of usable data, which allows for quality control.

Firstly, an integrated IT system gives our workforce and customers a high level of mobility. All our trucks, drivers, workers, and supervisors are connected, either by handheld devices, or by computer terminals and kiosks at every site across every market.

Secondly, we manage our fleet through vehicle tracking, which gives us specific details on the location, speed and the behavior of drivers. Dynamic weighing on lifters relays data on the volume and weight of the collected waste. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology on our bins, trucks, and sites keeps us updates on waste management activity in residential, commercial and municipal areas in real time.

This data is also centrally available, allowing averda and its partners to keep track of the volume, type of waste and, how this is being managed for both quality control, and as a platform to build awareness.

Data that was once inaccessible is now readily available through an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which allows us to monitor our operations, while analyzing patterns and trends in waste generation and public perception, allowing us to react appropriately in each market.

Finally, a look to the future—what does averda see as the next major development for the waste management industry?
One of averda’s key goals is championing environmental awareness within the communities it serves. In the future, corporations and municipalities will need to take on leadership roles in promoting public awareness on waste avoidance as well as how to reduce, reuse and recycle. It’s time for corporations, governments and the general public to rethink waste.

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