Tech the way forward for GCC waste management

The scope to invest and innovate in the Middle East’s waste management sector is consistently growing, Neha Bhatia finds

Segregation practices must evolve in the GCC to encourage waste-to-value programmes.
Segregation practices must evolve in the GCC to encourage waste-to-value programmes.

It would be fair to say that the waste management industry is on a high across the Middle East.

In August 2016, research advisory Frost & Sullivan stated that total waste generated in the GCC is likely to increase from 94 million tonnes in 2015 to 120 million tonnes by 2020.

The firm’s findings state this spike is “significant, as municipalities in the GCC are not equipped to handle this level of waste generation through the existing landfilling strategies”. Consequently, the region’s waste management sector will present ‘untapped opportunities’ in the years to come.

Municipal waste is expected to drive the regional waste management industry, with generation expected to increase in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Frost & Sullivan said in a statement that the waste management industry could also face ‘disruption’, having historically focused primarily on collection and transportation.

The innovation to disrupt traditional waste management techniques in the region appears to be led by Dubai Municipality’s effort, announced this March.

The municipal body’s Waste Management Department announced earlier in the year that it has installed electronic gates and smart weigh bridges in all its waste disposal sites in Dubai, so as to make them smart and sustainable.

The weigh bridges are linked with the authority’s computer database, ensuring that registration processes and report preparation proceed quickly.

These weigh bridges will be linked to the smart gate system – Nafidh – at the sites, and the fees for waste disposal will be collected electronically.

Carriers would be provided digital details about the use of their vehicles to these sites and the amount of waste that has been moved and disposed of.

Eng Abdul Majeed Sifai, director of the Waste Management Department, said the weigh bridges may also be used to compile an inventory and classification of the sources of waste.

Frost & Sullivan’s August 2016 report states that segregation processes at source and material recovery facilities “require more attention if waste diversion to landfills must be reduced”.

Waste composition, which in the GCC has “predominantly been construction, demolition, and municipal”, is also likely to evolve in the years to come, the researcher stated.

Abhay Bhargava, associate director and regional head for Frost & Sullivan’s energy and environment practice in the Middle East, added: “The GCC will have to make a radical move towards integrated waste management, with emphasis on waste-to-value methods such as recycling and waste-to-energy coming into the picture.”

Private sector outfits in the region are also driving growth in waste management across the Middle East, led by the UAE. In January 2017, it was revealed that Sharjah-headquartered waste management company Bee’ah has teamed up with three partners to develop an electronic recycling (e-recycling) facility in the emirate.

Bee’ah will be joined by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), Gulf Islamic Investments (GII), and Attero Recycling India (AT-E) in the development of the project, which will be based within Bee’ah’s waste management complex. The venture has been named Attero-Tadwir-E.

AT-E, with GII’s support, will implement integrated recycling, refurbishment, and refining facilities across the GCC, of which the one in Sharjah will be the first. Remarking on the project’s significance, Nitin Gupta, CEO of AT-E, said: “Computer and electronic recycling is a preventative measure as well as a lucrative investment opportunity.”

AT-E intends to establish between six and eight plants over the next three years through an investment worth $200m, it added at the time.

Indeed, technological evolution underway across the world is paving the way for smarter and more cost-efficient waste management practices, and if estimates such as Frost & Sullivan’s prove to be accurate, then the Middle East cannot afford to miss the bandwagon.

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