Lina Chabaan

Eco Manager of TadweerWe have pollution, air pollution, water: unfortunately we are the highest water consumers in Dubai. We have a lot of construction waste and the construction creates pollution too, there are a lot of problems we are trying to tackle in Dubai.

In 2006 Dubai generated 7000 tones of waste daily and this was projected to grow by 16%. How do you assess the current situation in Dubai in 2008 and beyond?

The amount of waste in Dubai has been increasing tremendously because in 2006 we were at 7000 tones and in January 2008 we reached 10,000 tones per day and this means we are facing a huge problem with waste in Dubai.

So it is increasing even more rapidly than expected?

Yes, its increasing very rapidly.

Could a cause be demographic growth?

It’s not only the growth in population even though this has been a large factor with people being attracted to this area. The consumer habits have changed, technology and the quality of consumer items have changed. If we’re talking about Dubai it’s a city of attractions where we’re receiving millions of tourists a year, there is a freezone for loading and unloading so there are a lot of things that makes the waste increase tremendously in Dubai.

You mentioned that one of the large components of waste is the packaging, about 30%.

Yes, about one third of our waste that we dump is from packaging. That means we have a huge amount of waste that’s coming from packaging, freezone, loading and unloading of materials.

What are the main environmental concerns besides the waste?

We have pollution, air pollution, water: unfortunately we are the highest water consumers in Dubai. We have a lot of construction waste and the construction creates pollution too, there are a lot of problems we are trying to tackle in Dubai.

And one of the major ones or the most problematic would be?

In my opinion the waste in general weather it is solid waste including construction waste, medical waste or liquid waste is one of the major problems we are facing in Dubai.

You also mentioned that concerning the interstate operations everyone is working as individuals, they don’t know about each other and we don’t know what is going on in other emirates. I heard for the first time today that they have a recycling program in Sharjah. How do you assess the waste treatment and recycling at the current level?

Unfortunately I have to say that each emirate operates by itself, there are some joined hands we have a union environmental federation but at the level of how to operate and how to manage for example your waste or other subjects it is done emirate by emirate and yes Sharjah is actually doing well in the recycling activities, they have a company I think whom are private who work on recycling there like we at Tadweer are trying to do in Dubai and in Abu Dhabi there is a sorting plant for domestic waste which is on the way. So there are some activities here and in each emirate but they belong to the emirate itself, each emirate operates by itself and they manage their own issues by themselves.

Is this counterproductive?

It is but if you were going to be united as the whole UAE it would be difficult, sometimes if you are divided especially if you are trying to introduce a new concept sometimes if you are divided and you start to do it area by area it could be more successful than just going and doing it as a mass project.

So there isn’t any long term national strategy?

Well, that could be coming as as a whole UAE. Now each emirate is trying to find and struggle with solutions and trying to find a solution that suits each emirate and later on defiantly there will be something like this, when I don’t know but I think there will be.

So you could see some hints that it’s coming?

Yes because for example on the individual level we receive calls from Dubai, from the Northern emirates saying: we heard you’re doing something about recycling, can we share? Can we just sit together and see? And we do sometimes share and see what we can do as we can implement things. So we hope it can happen.

Tadweer and Dubai municipality as a strategic partner took the lead in setting up a comprehensive waste management plant. So what’s the relationship between Tadweer and Dubai municipality?

Tadweer is a private company the investments are purely private however we have a long term contract with Dubai municipality to receive 4000 tones of waste a day. So that might make us partners with Dubai municipality because the land belongs to Dubai municipality and our project is BOOT project which is Build, On, Operate, Transfer after 20 years back to Dubai municipality now Tadweer belongs to us but we have a 20 year contract with Dubai municipality to receive the 4000 tones of waste a day and if you’re going to ask me why 4000 tones a day it is because when we started to negotiate with Dubai municipality in early 2005 Dubai was generating that amount of waste per day, so the idea is to deal and treat all of Dubai’s waste but now Dubai is almost generating 10,000 tones of waste a day so what we have to deal with is our contract which is 4000 tones a day.

Are you going to increase this amount?

Well, for us we earned a lot of experience from our sorting lines because we have fully automated sorting lines. So we learnt from line number 1 and we put line number 2 in order and when I say lines it is because each lines capacity takes about 1000 to 1500 tonnes per day. So for us now it’s a matter of building more lines and we keep studying our quality of waste because we designed our lines based on our type of waste because no one here is doing any sorting of the waste that’s why we needed to design the line to what we had in terms of waste composition. So for us we can increase it but it depends on how we negotiate with Dubai municipality and we build more lines.

So you need at least 10 lines to reach this level?

Well by the time we finish 10 lines I don’t know how much waste there will be to sort!

What is Tadweer’s main responsibility in the development of Dubai?

Definitely one of our main responsibilities and tasks is to try and minimize the impact of landfills, now land becomes a problem in Dubai with all these projects coming Dubai will face a problem in designating land for landfills and because of the increased amount of waste the lifetime of the landfill is becoming very short. So our main target now and our main responsibility and aim is to minimize sending to landfills as possible, the second thing is what we’re working and that’s part of our social responsibility which is to promote the concept of sorting at source, we want the people to know how to manage their waste and start sorting it what we are doing is a post-sorting and now we want Dubai to do Pre-sorting of the waste.

Is it very challenging to create awareness?

It is, it is very challenging I mean I think it’s much more challenging than managing the sorting lines because you are dealing with more than 160 nationalities different cultures, different backgrounds and with the absence of any legislation from the government which means you really have to rely on how environmentally conscious the people are and that’s where you have to educate and create awareness.

Can you tell us about some more specific programmes?

Yes, we started with the private schools doing sorting, placing bins and giving presentations for the kids on what is meant by waste? You have to go to the level of the kids to explain to them what is meant by waste and why we are doing this. We are doing it to a lot of governmental ministries and organizations, we started this year and with the private sector mainly with offices, companies and hopefully in a very short time we will be able to move to the communities.

You mentioned that the relationship between the private sector among the developers is very problematic.

The problem is that communities owned by developers means you have to talk to so many developers, so many different people, different entities and again there is no legislation for waste yet you have to rely on the conscience of the people and how much they want to go environmentally friendly and implement waste sorting and source programs within their facilities. So where we are now this is a challenge because some people will listen to you some people won’t because it’s not mandatory, we are relying on people that would love to implement and be environmentally friendly and use natural resources wisely, reduce the waste, implement recycling, that’s what comes from the environmental background.

Is the government helping in any way towards these programmes?

Well whenever we need the support of Dubai municipality they are there for support but having all these initiatives is purely from our social commitments, 2 years back I went from door to door talking to people, requesting appointments and I have to say this year is much better as people have started to hear about us, they want to do something, I receive a lot of calls from either small enterprises or big companies, schools saying that they want to implement this sorting at source and they are asking where can we recycle? What can we do? So it’s picking up.

What would you say has caused this change?

Climate change, one of the things that everyone is talking about now. Waste has a big influence and a big contribution to climate change and because the media is now concentrating on that part that is why the people start to think about it and try to take action.

So it’s general issues?

It’s general, I mean everything coming together as one makes a change.

You also mentioned state of the art facilities that are witnesses nowhere else in the world.

Yes, I’m very proud of it, it’s actually a piece of art. When I talk about waste people think I’m very passionate about it, it’s not just waste, it’s a resource, it’s a material that we can reuse and benefit from it instead of just sending it to the landfill where it just like dumping good resources plus you are polluting your environment because so many people now know that for example plastic bags may stay in the land for years and years without decomposing and some material when they decompose they release methane gas and carbon dioxide which is very harmful. Yes, the investors and managers of Tadweer wanted to build a state of the art sorting plant, it would be fully automated and we have a lot of machines that sort 9 categories of the total waste and it uses a lot of modern machines like IR, eddy-currents and plastic separators to sort the mixed waste.

Do you have a lot of people coming to see your facility?

Yes, we do. We receive a lot of requests from people locally and others abroad saying that they would like to come and see our facility because beside the domestic waste we also recycle green waste, we convert green waste into a compost which has no smell and is 100% good for the soil and for plants because its naturally made from plants, grass and trees and we have a yard for it so a lot of people would like to come and see that one. With our sorting lines too they can follow the waste to the end and see how things are sorted in the plant.

Are you setting up some strategic partnerships with some European or American companies?

No actually the design of our plant is French/ Italian and our machines are from different countries around the world but no we don’t have any partnerships except we had this company that designed our plant at the beginning other than that our company is a purely national one.

Are you considering some expansion?

Yes, actually one of our very near future projects is to deal with plastic bags, we want to convert these plastic bags into granules using washing lines and make it ready for the plastic industries. We are also thinking of now and studying to use the rest of the waste because when you recycle you only recycle and remove around 20-25% of the total waste you still have a large quantity of waste as a recyclable, organic waste, trash so we are thinking of converting this into electricity and that’s what we call waste to energy. We are still studying this project, we visited a lot of plants in Sweden, Denmark and the UK for waste to energy plants, mainly the plants in Sweden and Demark convert it into heat because they need the heat and part of it electricity but here we want to use this waste to energy to make electricity.

So you could add this to Dubai’s electricity?

Yes, actually we need this electricity for our plant and then the rest yes we can sell it to DEWA as electricity and the main reason is we will have less waste at landfills and we hope to reach zero waste because with the technology that we are thinking about we can use any type of waste, sometimes you can only use waste with high calorific values but now we are studying a technology where we can use any type of waste so hopefully we can reach zero waste in the near future.

So if this prototype plant is successful you may be considering building similar plants?

Yes, yes why not. We are going to start with this one here, with our waste because we still have at least 3000 tones of waste that we have to deal with and we don’t want to send it to the landfill so that would be a very promising project, we’ll have electricity and we’ll solve the problem of the landfill and why not move it to other areas.

What are your major successes to date?

We are dealing with 2500 tones of waste daily, we managed to build 2 sorting lines and we are running them very successfully, also the echo of the sorting at source group running in Dubai has started to sound like its picking up well and I’m very proud of these steps being taken, it’s a beginning but it’s very promising.

You have been in the environmental industry for a number of years in Abu Dhabi, what particular experience do you bring to this company?

Well when I joined the company no one had heard of all the waste and no one was dealing with the waste even me myself, I had all this environmental concern that I learnt from working with a consultancy firm but with waste, when I started with Tadweer it was a learning curve even for myself but with the support of the management with a lot of studying and research we came up now to become an expert in waste management in this part of the region especially since we have been studying the waste in Dubai by having a small pilot plant here in Dubai so we get experience even in the type of waste and the environmental consciousness is very important that’s what I brought with me: how to communicate with the people, what messages you need to give the people is very important.

Is there any particular message you would like to address our viewers with?

I would like to encourage them to encourage them to invest in Dubai, Dubai is a very beautiful city and we started as I mentioned become an environmentally friendly city and all people are working towards the CSR, it is very high here especially from the government that they want to establish corporate social responsibility. It is a very safe city and there are a lot of opportunities in this part of the world. I would really like people to see us as we are.

If you could picture your company 10 years ahead, how would it look?

I hope that we will be able to manage all of Dubai’s waste regardless of how much waste there is and to spread environmental awareness everywhere in Dubai and especially the future generation and to have our waste to energy plant running successfully.

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