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Sustainable efforts within GCC waste management

In light of the ever-increasing amount of waste being generated in the GCC, industry experts are in agreement that sustainable waste management is the need of the hour. Fatima de la Cerna reports

James Cassin is vice president for health, safety, security, and environment at SNC-Lavalin.
James Cassin is vice president for health, safety, security, and environment at SNC-Lavalin.

Three years from now, the GCC will be generating around 120 million tonnes of waste – or at least that’s the forecast put forward by Frost & Sullivan in a report it released last year.

The number represents a 26-million-tonne increase from 2015, when the region’s total waste generated was at 94 million.

Naming Saudi Arabia and the UAE as the region’s biggest waste producers, Frost & Sullivan notes that the increase is significant because “municipalities in the GCC are not equipped to handle this level of waste generation through existing landfilling strategies”.

The global research and consulting firm further predicts that market potential for waste will rise in the coming years – a development that will reportedly disrupt a waste management industry that has traditionally focussed on collection and transportation, by opening up opportunities for companies that offer services that go beyond landfilling.

Substantiating Frost & Sullivan’s observations and projections, the director for waste and environment solutions at Dulsco, S Madhumohan, says that GCC member states are becoming more committed to sustainably managing their waste, leading to a boost in demand for the kind of services that firms like Dulsco offer.

Madhumohan reveals that, while the company landfills more than 2,000t of municipal solid waste (MSW) on a daily basis in Dubai alone, it is turning its focus – across the UAE and Qatar – to services like source segregation, recycling, gasification, and incineration, as well as the management of construction and demolition (C&D), and hazardous waste.

Elaborating, he says: “The recycling projects that Dulsco has been driving in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the other emirates have succeeded in meeting the targets set by Dubai Municipality in its ‘My City, My Environment’ programme.”

The programme was launched by Dubai Municipality in 2014, and aims to reduce landfill waste and advance the emirate’s goal of becoming a green city.

He adds that the company has also been coordinating with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) to establish waste facilities in Umm Al Quwain, Ajman, and Fujairah.

“That, as well as Dulsco’s participation in government initiatives like Dubai Municipality’s waste-to-energy tenders and its certification as a MARPOL (marine pollution)-approved facility demonstrate a clear alignment with the region’s sustainability goals,” he says.

According to Madhumohan, with waste management a growing industry in the Gulf, the rest of 2017 will see Dulsco ramping up its recycling initiatives. It will soon be laying the foundation for a new sorting facility in Dubai, as well as commencing construction work on C&D waste recycling plants in Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, and Fujairah.

Other priorities for the company include strengthening marine pollution abatement and management efforts through MARPOL accreditation for all waste, and expanding into other GCC markets.

Growth is also on the horizon for Bee’ah, with Mohammed Al Hosani, managing director for Bee’ah’s Tandeef division, revealing that the Sharjah-headquartered company is looking to expand, both operationally and geographically.

In addition to this expansion, Al Hosani says that the company is working towards positioning Sharjah as the environmental capital of the Middle East, having succeeded in making the emirate the first in the region to divert 70% of its waste through recycling and conversion.

“Only a few cities in the world have achieved this recycling rate,” he says.

Speaking about the UAE in particular, Al Hosani states that demand for waste management and environmental services is “growing exponentially”.

Demand is particularly high for smart waste management systems, he says, adding: “Our smart bins, for example, have sensors that detect when the bins are full and send an alert to our control room. These, in addition to the company’s smart eco-fleet, which operates on compressed natural gas (CNG), reduce the carbon footprint of Bee’ah’s operational activities.”

Like Dulsco, Bee’ah works in close coordination with MOCCAE, regularly sharing data with the ministry.

Giving more details on the company’s working relationship with other stakeholders, he says: “Our philosophy has always been customer-oriented. We build trust and strong relations with government entities, private enterprises, and the community at large.

“Bee’ah believes in transparency, providing top services while sharing the data collected with our clients. This includes statistics for waste management generation, recycling levels, processing levels, and more.”

Delving into the topic of opportunities in the sector, Al Hosanin notes: “Other than scaling up the processing of recyclables and general waste, and reducing waste-to-landfill, it is crucial to invest in long-term solutions to reduce costs and ensure economic sustainability. After that point, diversifying services through partnerships with public and private entities allows for limitless possibilities.”

The GCC’s shift towards sustainable waste management and the resultant opportunities in the market are evident not only to waste management companies like Bee’ah and Dulsco, but also to construction companies like SNC-Lavalin.

The Canada-based contractor says that it has seen an uptick in interest in waste management projects from international oil companies in the region, and has designed a number of waste-handling facilities, including a commercial incinerator that can handle hazardous waste.

Those projects, however, have not yet gone forward, owing to the slide in oil prices.

The suspended projects notwithstanding, the company believes that governments in the region are “responding to the growing requirement of waste management and waste reduction through several dedicated initiatives and projects, which include segregation of recyclable waste at source, thus reducing waste-to-landfill”.

According to James Cassin, SNC-Lavalin’s vice president for health, safety, security, and environment, the UAE specifically has an ambitious recycling plan that could be used as a template by other GCC countries.

When it comes to the private sector, meanwhile, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has more of an influence on the supply chain than on actual construction, Cassin states, adding: “There is a lot to be done in terms of regulation and enforcement in recycling and waste reduction, in addition to the development of adequate infrastructure for the treatment, disposal, and recovery of waste material.”

As a global contracting company, SNC-Lavalin operates in a large number of sites, and is directed by its clients on specific recycling procedures.

Cassin expounds: “Our clients have local framework agreements with service providers, and waste collection and waste management handling is one of these.  At the sites, areas are demarcated to safely collect timber, plastic, metal, or chemical waste for recycling.”

Despite clients typically engaging the services of waste management companies, Cassin points out that construction firms like SNC-Lavalin can still contribute to the region’s waste management efforts by embedding sustainability in their operations.

He explains that sustainability at work is about “understanding and maximising how, through our engineering expertise and services, we can make a difference”.

That includes reducing energy consumption, resource use, and carbon emissions, he adds, concluding: “Our goal is to embed economic, social, and environmental perspectives in our approach to everything we do.” 

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