Separation and education
As waste continues to mount in the region's landfills, concerned authorities and the general public should be doing more to combat the problem.
Reduce, reuse and recycle are the three aspects of waste management according to Mark Siddorn and this is the message he and Holger Franke want to get across to the region's business and consumer world.
"In Dubai, everyone's perception of waste management is that you transport a skip of waste from A to B and you tip it in a landfill. That's not waste management," states Siddorn.
As stated in facilities management Middle East's two part recycling feature, Dubai is one of the largest producers of waste in the world with around 7,000 tonnes of waste being collected every day.
But where does the waste go? Are people actually aware of the places they can take their waste to? What is the solution to this growing problem?
At its current state, the region is experiencing overflowing landfills that are slowly encroaching on industrial and residential sites. There is no legislation to control them and as a result, waste that could be recycled is being left.
Many businesses and consumers are implementing their own recycling and waste management, which could become a problem. Sending all waste to landfills is not a good option.
"You have the municipality that handles all the old areas that goes into landfills and then you have the private developments where they lease out contracts for the waste management transportation.
"It's not a unified approach as the different developers have their own way of doing it. The municipality or government need to give people a process to follow so they can send their waste to designated places," states Siddorn.
The landfills also emit harmful gases into the environment, something Franke knows all about. "Waste contains various types and quantities of both harmful and biologically degradable substances, which react biologically and chemically in a landfill as they would in a reactor.
"As a result, rainwater permeating the landfill body turns into potentially groundwater-polluting leachate, contaminated with the many organic and inorganic substances in the landfill."
One area of the Middle East that is actively managing and controlling its landfills is Sharjah. The municipality has increased the rates from 10 dirhams a load to 50 dirhams a tonne. "However, this causes problems because Dubai is still 10 dirhams a load so you now have people bringing waste from Sharjah to Dubai. We need a unified approach," stresses Siddorn.
To date, there has been no campaign push relating to recycling and waste management from any of the municipalities or governments. In a region where education is the key to the economy's successful development, providing people with a platform to accessible information is vital.
"The biggest problem is the lack of information from the government or municipality. If there were awareness campaigns all the time, then people would eventually fall into a recycling mind set.
"But because there is no information and because there is no legislation forcing people to recycle or dispose of their waste in the right way, people are not taking any notice," Siddorn explains.
Technological advancements are set to play an important role within waste management, with the possibility of Dubai building its own waste incineration plant that turns waste into energy.
An event held by Dulsco last month, Waste to Energy, was aimed at the municipalities and generated a lot of interest among the many representatives from the different municipalities that were present.
But seeing isn't necessarily believing and even though the event was well attended, the Dubai Municipality has been looking at their waste problem for over two years now and don't seem any further forward.
Are they acting too late? "It's difficult to say. They (the DM) have been looking at technology for a couple of years now, they knew the problem was coming and they saw the volumes increasing. But I think they were taken by surprise and were shocked at how quickly the volumes increased.
"The other thing you have to realise is that the technology we're talking about (waste to energy) is relatively new. It's difficult to make a judgement call on what is best for the city. The best way to do it is to look at a track record of somewhere like Germany and think, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“right, how do we apply that to Dubai and how can we improve on that model?' explains Siddorn.
There are many solutions to the region's waste problems but both Siddorn and Franke feel the government needs to stand firm and implement charges to help subsidise waste incineration plants and raise awareness through campaigns.
"If we all want to live in a beautiful city, we have to have effective waste management - a hole in the ground is not the answer," states Siddorn.
Both waste management experts believe that the Middle East needs to take a European model and adapt it to fit the region's wants and needs.
Franke is from Germany - a country where recycling is taken extremely seriously. Presently, 55% of German household waste is recycled. This includes bio-waste, paper, glass and packaging.
"In 2005, the landfilling of untreated biodegradable matter and municipal waste containing organics, ceased. At the same time, 200 landfills which failed to comply with the new standard were closed, marking the end of centuries of waste management by burying and forgetting," says Franke.
"We think that there is an opportunity here to change things by creating regulations, laws and technology because the waste mountains are rising so fast and so rapidly, there will be problems in two to three years time if nothing is done," says Franke.
"Developers could different shoots in the design so people can segregate at source. With fantastic developments like the Burj Dubai, that's what they should be doing. If this is not done, people occupying the building have to be educated and told they are not allowed to put everything down the shoot. They have to segregate at source and do it themselves," Siddorn adds.