Specialised waste collection services across the UAE help residents dispose of bulky waste in a safe and eco-friendly manner Image Credit: Shutterstock

Whether you are moving, sprucing up your home or simply decluttering (thanks to the Marie Kondo wave that has taken over the planet), it can be hard to know how to dispose of large, unwanted items. The old couch, that chipped cupboard, the coffee table you got as a housewarming gift but always secretly hated; can you just throw them out to the curb and expect it to disappear by some miracle?

What most residents in the UAE don’t realise is that when you throw something away, there really is no ‘away’. Discarded sofas, tables and other old stuff dumped near garbage bins in residential areas are quite a common sight across the UAE.

So what can you do about it?

In their ongoing bid to keep the city of Dubai clean, the waste management department of Dubai Municipality urges residents to make use of its free service to directly remove bulk home waste from their premises and neighbourhoods.

Abdul Majeed Saifaie, director of the Waste Management Department, Dubai Municipality, says that residents need to only call them to get rid of bulky waste that cannot be disposed of in normal-sized waste containers.

The bulky waste collection service helps residents dispose of waste that includes used furniture, electronic and electrical used devices. Any Dubai resident can avail this free service by contacting the Dubai Municipality Call Centre (800900) or via the Dubai 24/7 Application. This service is unavailable in freehold or investment areas such as Palm Jumeirah, Discovery Gardens, among others.

According to Municipality records, the average waste collection last year was 3 tonnes/day and it has increased by 5 per cent. Majority of the waste collected by this service comprises furniture.

According to Saifee, the bulky waste is categorised depending on its condition and only the most deteriorated ones are sent to the landfill. The rest are repurposed and recycled as per their use.

‘Dubai has achieved the status of a global city with a high position in many aspects of the international community. Perhaps the most important of these aspects would be its cleanliness. Its reputation has been associated with the sustainable cleanliness of streets, neighbourhoods, parks, beaches and even desert areas,’ he says.

‘We request the general public to dispose of all waste properly in designated areas as per Dubai Municipality’s instructions. Any community member can contact us for free removal of bulky waste, which cannot be disposed of in standard waste containers.’

Dubai Municipality is not the only organisation that is helping clear waste products and keep the country clean.

Another free haul service is ‘You Call We Haul’ provided by Bee’ah, Sharjah’s leading environmental management company. It scientifically disposes of unwanted materials and recycles them in an eco-friendly way. Sharjah residents can avail of this service by calling Bee’ah’s customer service department or contacting them through their website.

Once the furniture is collected, materials — including wood, foam, steel, textiles, copper and aluminium — are recycled. The rest goes to a landfill.

Residents of Abu Dhabi too have an option to have their used furniture collected and disposed off in an eco-safe way. The ‘Share our Blessings’ programme by Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Red Crescent (ERC) is a charity project that collects used furniture from residents and distributes it among needy families. Hotels and other establishments are also encouraged to donate used furniture.

Operating mainly through Whatsapp, suitable furniture changes hands merely by the click of a button. Residents who wish to donate used furniture can call up the ERC’s toll-free number — 800 5011. The programme staff will contact the donors and check the details of the furniture. The donors will then be asked to send pictures of the furniture using the Whatsapp number 050 561 2815.

Once ERC is satisfied with the quality of furniture in the picture, it will give donors a date and time when it will collect the furniture from their homes.

Those in need of a particular piece of furniture can send ERC a message and images of available furniture are sent to them.

Since its launch in Febraury 2016, the programme has been collecting around 300 pieces of furniture every month.

Major furniture establishments are also keen in their endeavour to drastically reduce the pieces that end up in the landfill.

2XL Furniture & Home Décor, one of the leading luxury brands in the UAE, encounters very minimal wastage of its furniture. ‘All items of our furniture have a three-month cycle,’ explains Amit Yadav, head of marketing at 2XL. ‘We buy around 20 pieces of a particular type of furniture, which are displayed in our nine showrooms across Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah and Al Ain. We are witnessing a growing trend of people refreshing their homes faster than they used to — similar on the lines of the fashion industry.

Once the furniture is collected, materials such as wood, foam, steel, textiles, copper and aluminium are recycled. The rest goes to a landfill Image Credit: Getty

‘More and more people are becoming design conscious and like their homes to be more engaging with seasonal upgrades. Since we serve a niche segment of the market catering to premium buyers, most of our furniture is sold out,’ he says.

The few remaining pieces are kept on a discount sale. ‘After this, hardly around 3 per cent of the furniture remains unsold. If those are still in good condition, we try to spruce it up with a facelift. Our team of technicians is highly skilled and often comes up with interesting modifications, repairing any damaged items to make them usable. They are then refurbished and remodelled. Hardly anything ever ends up in the landfill,’ says Amit.

Clearly, 2XL takes its role of protecting the environment very seriously. The brand is working on a community initiative where a few such pieces will be donated to organisations serving the society. ‘Details of this are yet to be finalised,’ says Amit.

Apart from government initiatives and companies, individuals too are taking the lead in recycling big pre-loved stuff.

Take My Junk UAE (TMJ) is an Ajman-based free-of-cost junk collection company that has staunchly put the famous saying ‘One man’s junk is another man’s treasure’ into practice. With over 200 employees and a fleet of 35 trucks, they cover over 300 homes a day and have helped more than one million households in the past decade.

‘That’s about 250 million kilograms of unwanted massive items,’ says Faisal Khan, CEO of TMJ. ‘Our trucks are on the road 365 days a year, and our main concern and vision is that the items should not end up in the landfill.’

It all started 10 years ago when Faisal saw a void in the disposal of bulky goods and unwanted items.

They set out as a two-man team; Faisal, who assumed the role of the owner, customer service representative and driver rolled into one, along with Karim, his helper. ‘We would pick the items up in a small trolley at the back of my car and bring it to my house where people would come and buy/take whatever they wanted,’ remembers Faisal.

In those days, they did between 5-10 collections a day. But their growth has been steady and organic and is now considered to be the best and most highly rated junk collection service across UAE.

‘Although we collect almost anything, furniture is our most collected, refurbished, and sold item,’ says Faisal. ‘Once we get them, we look at the condition and grade them into A, B, or C — A being good or repairable, B moderate and C bad. The repair process may include anything from painting, adding missing screws, refurbishing, or re-clothing. We strive to prevent anything from being thrown into landfills,’ he says.

Faisal believes his establishment is a real life treasure hunt where people always seem to find exactly what they are looking for. ‘I am overwhelmed by the support I have received in these years. (It is due to) firstly, because we sell at very low bargainable prices, and secondly, we refurbish furniture — such as damaged garden furniture and sofa sets. We fix them up to make them look almost brand new. Apart from furniture, we receive many rare and unique items that people love. Our four warehouses in Ajman span over 75,000 square feet and are visited by thousands of people daily. Our mission is to expand the organisation with better services across the emirates and to grow into a leading recycling hub,’ he says.

Gina Dillon is an American expat based in Abu Dhabi who has turned the power of social media into a compelling recycling medium. A quick post on her Freecycle Abu Dhabi Facebook group could be all it takes to get items you have always wanted or to give away something you don’t need. From clothes, toys, furniture and gadgets, thousands of items have swapped hands in this group, absolutely free of cost, for the past five years.

FreeCycle Abu Dhabi (FCAD) was created in April 2014. Currently it has 57,500 members, 30,000 posts per month and a six-member moderator team.

‘The UAE’s multinational community and altruistic streak is what helped FreeCycle Abu Dhabi grow into such a large and successful group,’ she says. The tremendous success of the group also prompted Gina to start a Dubai version called Free Cycle Dubai.

‘My motive to create the group was dual purpose; humanitarian and environmental. I decided to go ahead with the decision when I read that St. Andrews Church in Abu Dhabi was closing their thrift shop. Growing up during an economic recession I understood the role thrift shops play in communities. Freecycling was a very common concept there but the advent of social media has made it possible on a large scale,’ she says.

The real impetus came when someone repatriating posted in an online second-hand shop that if a sofa doesn’t sell ‘it’s going in the landfill’. ‘This was something that pricked my conscience. Then there was the trash littering the Abu Dhabi vacant lots. As a child in the US, I remember seeing trash on the side of the roads, refrigerators, furniture and cars in streams and rivers. I clearly remember the difference the Make America Beautiful campaign made on my country and wanted to do something similar here,’ says Gina.

After strollers and car seats, used furniture is the most frequent and popular post in FCAD. Gina attributes this to the fact that people are keeping a closer watch on their disposable income.

‘Our members seem to love used furniture. Double decker beds, mattresses and dining room tables/chairs are the most popular posts and requests. I am finding that it’s not just the lower income group but others also who participate, especially for outdoor furniture,’ she says.

Gina proudly states that over the years FCAD has been able to ‘walk the talk’. ‘The amount of items that we divert from landfill every month and into the homes of people who need it amazes me. FCAD continues to keep the subject of recycling/repurposing in the daily conversation across its platforms. We keep the focus on educating the public on the need for environmental consciousness and encourage members to share their own recycling/up-cycling ideas and efforts. I’m so very proud of our members and the hard work my moderator team contributes,’ she says Gina.

For more info visit takemyjunkuae.com, or call 800junk, facebook.com/groups/freecycleabudhabi.