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Recycling revolution can’t shun grassroots

Paper and Plastics Recycling Middle East Conference focuses on awareness, education

Image Credit: Gulf News Archive
A recycling facility at Jabel Ali free zone.
Gulf News

Dubai: Leading environmental experts have called for more awareness and educational programmes to bring about a decisive change in mindsets on the issue of recycling.

Speaking at the Paper and Plastics Recycling Middle East Conference yesterday, Saeed Bin Gobash, Director of Enpark, pointed out that the two main challenges of recycling in the UAE were encouraging businesses to take up the practice, besides educating the public.

Enpark is a Business Park based in Dubai facilitating the growth of the energy and environment businesses in the Middle East.

“Businesses at first may think that they are not financially benefiting from recycling but that is not the truth as using renewable energy and recycling paper and plastic can reduce operational expenditures,” Bin Gobash said.

“The trickier task is to change the public’s perception and encourage them to reduce the number of solid waste they generate. We can promote change through schools, government departments and the media working together because the public do not know enough about the motive and objective of recycling,” he said.

As part of Enpark’s commitment to preserving the environment, it has partnered with Averdet, a company based in Tecom, and has already set up 15 vending machines for residents to recycle their aluminium cans in return for air miles. During 2013, Enpark will be carrying out a survey on the effectiveness of the vending machine campaign and will roll out more machines in the Tecom area based on the results.

In 2011, the United Nations recorded an average of over 38.5 million kg of plastic electronic waste generated worldwide per year.

“The Gulf region has rapidly grown in the last 10 years and is at a tremendous advantage because it can leapfrog and adopt the best practices from around the world, including the US and Japan,” said Jim Keefe, publisher of Recycling Today magazine and organiser of the conference.

Traders in the plastic and paper recycling industry also noted that the potential to use such waste is growing in global markets, and that the trend of recycling has boomed in the last few years.

As a result of a large quantity of plastic waste entering the UAE, new regulations were implemented in August 2012 to prohibit the exports of metal, plastic and paper scrap from the European Union into the country.

However, one expert stressed that this rule was detrimental to the UAE as it deprives itself from resources.

“Plastic waste should not be regarded as waste but as a resource, but many people in the Middle East and South East Asia still consider it as scrap. Instead of banning the scrap, pre-inspections should be carried out to prevent low quality materials being imported, [which in turn] will encourage more products to be made from recyclable plastic,” said Surendra Borad, Chairman, BIR Plastics Committee.