fmME takes a grand tour of the Bee'ah Waste Management Centre in Sharjah
The four R’s – reduce, re-use, recycle, recover. This is the approach that environmental management company Bee’ah has adopted in their approach to waste management.
From its 4km2 site, the Waste Management Centre (WMC) located off Al Dhaid Road in the Al Saj’ah area of Sharjah, the company reported a productive 2014, processing over 2.4mn tonnes of waste.
With a 15 to 20% year-on-year increase expected over the next two years, the WMC team, numbering over 600, has its work cut out. The truth is however, that waste management is quickly becoming a walk in the park for Bee’ah.
When the collection of recyclable and municipal solid waste arrives from across Sharjah’s transfer stations, their first stop is to the WMC’s material recovery facility (MRF). Boasting an annual capacity of 500,000 tonnes, the MRF currently processes over 1,000 tonnes daily, with an estimated 67% diversion rate, the term classified as the amount of material recovered from waste and diverted away from landfills.
As the collector trucks roll in, they simply dump their cargo on the ‘tipping floor’, which is then inspected before being fed directly to the sorting line.
“Here we start the actual sorting process…we start the recovery, reclaiming the recyclables and ‘big’ items at this station—the cardboard, plastic film and big bags,” explains Daker El-Rabaya, director of waste recovery and waste processing facilities.
“This stage [we call] a pre-sorting stage. We do everything we can at this point, to make sure that mechanical sorting will go smoothly.”
Moving forward, the next step typically involves segregating food waste, metals such as steel, plastics and paper. This is done through mechanical processing that sends reclaimed items into separate bunkers, each containing a specific kind of material. When the bunker is full, the automated system then dumps the recyclables in one of two baling presses within the facility.
While paper, aluminium and steel are the easiest to pack away, plastics are slightly more challenging to sort, as they have to be organised by polymer type. Once formed into stackable bales, the recycled materials are then stored in temporary storage before being loaded onto trucks and sold for re-use in society.
Any organic or vegetation waste recovered by the MRF is shared with the Compost Plant, also located on site. The plant converts the waste into fertiliser and compost, both utilised in irrigation and farming, as well as enhancing the greenery of Sharjah.
Just across from the MRF is Bee’ah’s Car and Metal Shredding and Recycling Facility, one of the more ‘active’ projects in the waste management centre. The facility’s main function is the recovery of metals, glass and plastics from old cars.
The first step of the process is surprisingly a simple one that involves inspecting the vehicle. Occasionally, the facility receives a car that has enough a case for restoration. To date, the company has restored more than 50 vehicles and successfully resold on the used-car market.
The next step involves stripping the car of all its parts, such as the engine, gearbox and transmission, which is sold back to the market if still usable. Otherwise, along with the leather seating, plastics, rubber and glass, all the recovered materials are distributed across WMC for recycling.
Once down to its bare frame, the car is then sent to the shredding unit, which Bee’ah claims to be one of the world’s most powerful shredders. Operating on a mobile crawler track, the unit weighs roughly 44 tonnes and can process 60 tonnes of car bodies per hour. In no more than 60 seconds, the shredder can break down an entire car frame.
“We have a process that can dismantle around a hundred cars a day. Processing the car frames can then be done at triple, maybe even four times that number. So this machine is never fully occupied. To do that, we would need to shred everything here,” comments WMC’s director, pointing to a yard filled with hundreds of car frames.
Once shredded into more manageable pieces, the steel, which is of a low-carbon value and typically thin, is sent to the steel recyclers. They can be reused to produce another car body, or simply to create normal steel products, such as rebar sheets. Bee’ah has a host of clientele from across the UAE, Oman, India and China, who are consistently buying the recycled steel.
Tyres that are recovered from the car shredding process are sent over to WMC’s tyre recycling facility (TRF). Joining thousands that are delivered on a daily basis, the TRF boasts the capability of recycling 4,000 tyres over a regular eight-hour shift—9,000 in a full-day.
Fed into a rotating drum, the tyres undergo a cryogenic flash freezing process at minus 200°C. They are then smashed by heavy-duty cracking mills, which can only be described as giant-sized, machine-powered hammers. The end result is a granular mix of crumb rubber that can be utilised to create running tracks, artificial flooring and landscaping. The material can also be combined with asphalt to produce rubberised roads.
The process can be automated through a template for mass production, or it can be completed manually, while limiting the number of units produced, allowing for more customisation with different shapes and colours.
Possibly the WMC’s biggest operation on site is its construction and demolition waste recycling facility (CDW). Overseeing roughly 60% of the total waste that is brought in, the CDW receives an estimated 1,500 tonnes daily.
Processing construction waste returns aggregates of varying grades, which are resold as materials for road basing, sub-basing for construction, or even filling material. The facility also recovers a variety of metals including steel, wood and plastics.
“The diversion rate here is around 97.5% to 98%. Which means out of a hundred tonnes going in, only two to two and a half tonnes end up at the landfill. Everything goes back to the lifecycle,” explains El-Rabaya.
Also located on site is Bee’ah’s medical waste facility Wekaya, which is run in partnership with Green Planet. Though access to the facility was restricted during fmME’s site visit, Wekaya reportedly uses a system called ‘Auto Clave’ in its treatment of hazardous medical waste. The system sterilises biomedical waste through hot steam at approximately 143 degrees Celsius.
The WMC also holds an E-waste dismantling and processing facility, which focuses on disposing hazardous consumer goods, and a liquid waste recycling, specialising in separating oil and waste from water.
Of course not everything that is brought to the waste management centre can be processed to produce recoverable material.
The sizeable amount of waste that is left over is immediately sent to the landfill. While this may conjure up images of a pile of trash slowly accumulating in size in the middle of the desert, Bee’ah’s Waste Disposal & Landfill Management division has devised a way to dispose of the waste in a more appealing manner.
Termed engineered landfills, the process involves reshaping the land filling area to appear more natural and to minimise hazardous exposure to atmosphere. This is accomplished by layering unrecoverable waste into separate tiers, which are then covered with soil.
The end result is almost indistinguishable from the rest of the environment. The Sharjah waste management company has also made great strides towards masking the odour of waste from the surrounding areas.
“We have [everywhere], ventilation systems with special filters on the exhaust fans…and where we have water recycling, we have added some special additives we purchased from the US that are specifically designed to kill bacteria,” explains El-Rabaya.
While the waste management centre is already an extensive operation, there is always room for improvement. Bee’ah has already planned to expand the centre with 12 additional facilities, which include a used cooking oil recycling facility, PET plastic recycling and wood waste recycling.
The waste management company is also exploring the implemention of a solar energy project that will built over its engineered landfills. Bee’ah’s significant addition however, lies with the upcoming waste-to-energy facility that is set to complete its first phase by 2016.
Part of an AED1.3bn ($353.8mn) joint cooperation agreement with US-based Chinook Sciences, Bee’ah aims to build one of the world’s largest waste-to-energy plants at the WMC. The facility will produce energy through gasification, a process that converts waste to energy by exposing materials to high temperatures with steam. As a result, waste is broken down at a molecular level and produces a gas mixture called syngas, which can be then utilised by turbines to produce electricity.
Upon completion of the first phase, the plant will have the capacity to convert 240,000 tonnes of waste annually, generating 32 megawatts per hour. Ultimately, Bee’ah’s waste-to-energy project will boast a total capacity of 480,000 tonnes of waste annually, generating 80 megawatts per hour. Feeding into the grid of the Sharjah Electric Water Authority, the facility is expected to generate enough energy to power over 150,000 homes for a year.
In addition to its power generation capabilities, Bee’ah has high hopes for the plant to help drive up the diversion rate of the Material Recovery Facility, which currently stands at 67%. While smaller initiatives, such as the segregation of waste at the source may help the rate to climb up by a few points, the environmental management company will need the deployment of the waste-to-energy plant to reach the 100% mark.
Facilities at Bee’ah’s Waste Management Centre
- Material recovery facility
- Tyre recycling facility
- Construction and demolition waste recycling facility
- Liquid waste recycling
- Compost plant
- E-waste dismantling & processing facility
- The car and metal shredding and recycling facility
- Waste disposal and engineered landfill
By the numbers
- 2.4mn: Number of tonnes of waste processed by WMC in 2014.
- 60 seconds: Amount of time needed for Bee’ah’s shredder to process one car.
- 9,000: Number of tyres that can be processed on a daily basis.
- 98%: Diversion rate for construction and demolition waste recycling facility.
- 150,000: Number of homes Bee’ah upcoming waste-to-energy plant will be able to power.