Abu Dhabi has announced plans for moving towards a 90 per cent waste diversion rate by 2018, with plans of achieving zero waste in the next 25 years. But will their ambition be their key to success, or their ultimate undoing?
Abu Dhabi has set an ambitious target of diverting over 90 per cent of its waste from landfill by 2018. The efforts comes to try and deal with the 10M tonnes of waste generated in the emirate each year.
As reported in Gulf News, "the figures hold a grim reflection of the future of the environment as we see it today," said Hamad Al Ameri, General Manager of the Centre for Waste Management (CWM) at the second Annual Waste Management Middle East Forum.
Proper waste diversion is critical a country as small as the United Arab Emirates, where land is in short supply. Over 1,800 hectares of land has been lost to landfills in the UAE, which is sizable in a country of only 32,000 square miles.
Abu Dhabi itself generates over 33,000 tonnes of waste each day, and the amount of material recycled is negligible. A major part of the drive towards 90 per cent diversion is having the necessary infrastructure in place to deal effectively with the waste generated. In Abu Dhabi, this means building more recycling centres and materials recovery facilities.
But with the average recycling facility taking one to two years to come into operation, moving towards such an ambitious target in only seven years could be challenging.
In order to be successful, Abu Dhabi will need the support not only of the citizenry, but business as well. To this end, the city has rolled out a tough incentive program for businesses which are able to reduce their waste by 80 per cent in the first year, and a further 20 per cent in the following year.
But the carrot also comes with the stick. Rami Abu Hayah, general manager of Nadafa Program at CWM, has indicated that "if [businesses] reduce waste, their annual fee under the tariff regime will be reduced by 20 per cent. Otherwise they have to pay 20 per cent more," he told Gulf News.
There are also the economics of improper waste management to consider. As municipalities are discovering the world over, waste should not be seen simply as an expensive problem to deal with, but as a potential revenue generator. As the Gulf News reports, "the UAE economy is losing Dh1.5 billion every year due to inadequate recycling of waste."
Abu Dhabi is wise to take control of their waste stream and move towards better diversion targets before the problem becomes too large to sort out. The ambition of the program can either be the key to its success, or the source of its undoing. But they have until 2018 to show the world what they can do.