Dubai: When the first Clean Up UAE campaign began in 2002 with 4,500 volunteers, hosts Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) never dreamt 15 years later it would be expecting the annual event to attract more than 100,000 volunteers across the country.
With the 15th annual clean-up event set to launch on December 6 for 10 days, EEG organisers say they are expecting as many as 130,000 eco-minded volunteers in seven emirates to pitch in for the single largest environmental event of its kind in the UAE.
A non-governmental organisation now celebrating its 25th anniversary, EEG has marked this year’s campaign with the theme, ‘A United Cause for a Cleaner UAE’.
Habiba Al Marashi, EEG chairwoman, told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday that the campaign is getting a little help from its friends, a throng of corporations, students and families. In 2015, 68 per cent of volunteers came from the corporate sector, 19 per cent from schools and a further 13 per cent represented families across the UAE, she said.
As much as “27.5 metric tonnes of waste is generated in the UAE every year”, Al Marashia said. “Only 12 per cent of this is recycled.”
Flanked by municipal officials at the press conference from Sharjah and Ajman to Al Ain and Dibba Al Hisn, Al Marashi noted that “hands-on environmental action” through the annual campaign has collected a massive amount of waste in recent years, including last year when volunteers worked to divert 79 tonnes of waste away from landfills.
In the same year, 26,000 kilograms of aluminium cans were recycled by EEG volunteers.
In a EEG video presentation shown to reporters, volunteers were depicted at various locations throughout the UAE clutching large white garbage bags while cleaning up the desert.
Everything from plastic water bottles and containers to old used tyres formed small mountains of waste collected after a day of cleaning in each emirate.
“Our public spaces are for everyone to enjoy and we have been advocating and influencing change in the litter-dropping habits of the population of the country with the support of the government partners through this campaign and we are working diligently towards improving the quality of life for both residents and wildlife,” she said.
By the numbers
In 2015, EEG volunteers collected discarded materials in seven emirates resulting in a lot of recyclables being diverted from the landfill.
According to the EEG’s 2015 annual report the materials collected were:
• 1,217, 646kg of paper
• 92,693kg of plastic
• 26,000kg of aluminium cans
• 297,850 pieces of glass
• 7,708 pieces of toner cartridges
• 9,216 mobile phones
Waste collected by EEG
• 2004: 54,000kg
• 2008: 140,000kg
• 2012: 193,851kg
• 2015: 79,000kg