Green initiative. Many buildings have dedicated bins for dumping paper, cans, glass and other recyclable material Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Old habits die hard, at least where segregating waste at home is concerned.

While the authorities in the capital are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that waste generated by residents drastically comes down in line with Abu Dhabi’s Waste Master Plan, residents are yet to go the whole hog.

By 2017, 29 million tonnes of waste is expected to be generated in the country. But according to official estimates, only 20 per cent of this is recycled.

The problem invariably begins at the source. Blame it on lack of awareness, or plain laziness and callousness, many residents still discard everything from organic waste to plastic and glass, even electronic items in the same dustbins.

“I know the landfills are flooded with plastic and cans we use. But I guess we are prisoners to our old habits. I just happen to dump all the waste together,” admitted Sunitha, an Indian housewife.

Mounting problem

An Abu Dhabi resident since 2001, the mother of three said she feels guilty about contributing to the mounting waste problem in the UAE. “I really wish I could do it differently. Believe me, I have kept aside plastic bottles and cans to discard in a recycling bin and have even done it a few times. But I have been unable to sustain the practice,” she said.

Another resident who did not want to be named chose to blame the housemaid for not segregating waste at their home. “I work in the Khalidiya area and there are recycling bins near my office. My wife tried teaching our housemaid to segregate waste, so I could deposit the recyclable stuff in these bins, but the maid never does it and we get too caught up with our work to do it ourselves,” said the Asian resident.

Some residents who spoke with XPRESS claimed they could not easily find recycling bins or collection points in their neighbourhood.

“I live in a high-rise in the Corniche area and my building does not have any facility to dump plastic, paper and cans separately. So I throw everything together in to the chute,” said an Arab expat.

A Briton claimed he did not segregate waste at home as he was told waste management companies do it after collection.

“When we came here from the UK, the first thing we wanted to find out was where we could recycle waste. Now we do not segregate waste at home not because we do not want to but because we believe it is being done anyway,” said the resident.

“Many people, especially those who live in high-rises, don’t segregate waste as it is difficult to hoard and then transport it to a collection points at regular intervals,” said the resident.

There is no excuse for the lack of effort but experts said that is the biggest reason why recycling is not catching up at the pace it should.

Tadweer’s response

In a statement issued to XPRESS, Eisa Saif Al Qubaisi, General Manager of Tadweer (The Waste Management Authority in Abu Dhabi) said Abu Dhabi is striving to maximize recycling of waste, and in order to achieve the targets set out in Abu Dhabi Vison 2020, recyclables are to be segregated at source.

“Engaging members of society is the most integral part of the approach. Tadweer has been reaching out public to disseminate information about the importance of waste segregation at home or in the workplace,” said Al Qubaisi.

“Tadweer has developed a fully-fledged public awareness program which includes a host of educative campaigns, seminars, workshops, site visits to events, activities for school children, educational seminars for government and private sector employees.

Additionally, by participating with family development foundations in Abu Dhabi, Tadweer aims to reach out to the wider community, engage them through a number of initiatives aimed at women and families to further teach them about waste segregation at home,” he said.

For waste producers in the private sector, Tadweer promotes sustainable waste management by targeting entities producing over 250 tons of waste a year. But Al Qubaisi said Tadweer is not responsible for waste segregation bins in buildings, and hence residents are encouraged to use the clearly marked green and black bins provided in collaboration with Musanada.

As of first Quarter in 2016, waste generation per capita, per day in Abu Dhabi is 1.73kg, which amounts to about 1.67 million tons of municipal solid waste per annum. Also as of the first Quarter in 2016, about 32 per cent of waste is being recycled in Abu Dhabi.

Residents’ responsibility

Waste management companies said residents play a crucial role in the recycling chain. “We are conducting year-round awareness campaigns, competitions and lectures throughout the country to educate people about the importance of recycling,” said a senior official from Beeah, an environmental management company.

“Recycling definitely begins at home though companies like Beeah are segregating waste after collection. Residents are encouraged to segregate waste at home and deposit them in the colour-coded bins placed in public places,” said the official.

According to Beeah, the UAE government’s efforts to encourage recycling is getting its biggest push at schools.

Organisations like the Emirates Environmental Group also conduct campaigns to raise awareness and collect recyclable material. On the issue of people callously discarding e-waste, the group’s chairperson Habiba Al Marashi, had told XPRESS, earlier, “Most people here want the latest electronic products at all times. As they buy new ones, most of them do not know what to do with their old products and end up disposing them off irresponsibly. When these electronic products end up in a landfill, they cause grave environmental damage.”

Experts said recycling, which is the process of converting waste materials into reusable objects, is key to ensuring a sustainable environment.

Convenient collection points in Abu Dhabi:

1. Behind the ADCO gate on Khaleej Al Arabi Street near the Corniche road

Recycle bins: Plastic and aluminum

2. In front of Spinneys supermarket in Khalidiya

Recycling Bins: Paper, aluminum, plastic and glass

3. American International School, Airport Road, Opposite Pepsi Cola Plant

Recycle Bins: Paper, aluminum, plastic, glass

4. Al Mamoura,Tower in Mamoura near Jones the Grocer

Recycle Bins: Paper, plastic, cans

5. ADMA-OPCO Building behind Fatima Bint Mubarak Street

Recycle bins for : Paper, Plastic and Aluminum

6. Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society, Electra Street, next to ADCB building

Recycle bins for: Paper

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