Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan and Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber during the MoU signing ceremony A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The UAE is set to get its first food-grade plastic recycling facility in Abu Dhabi that will be able to process 12,000 tons of plastic a year.

The plant will recycle polyethylene terephthalate or PET, a plastic material that is used in food packaging and water bottles. The 40,000 square-metre facility in the capital could also create 100 jobs, and save 18,000 metric tons of carbon emissions each year when fully operational.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), and overseen by the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology (MoIAT). The agreement involves resource management company Veolia’s Middle East Repeet subsidiary, UAE-based sustainability pioneer BEEAH Group, and food and beverage conglomerate Agthia, and was signed in the presence of Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, executive director of the UAE Independent Climate Change Accelerators, Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of State for Industry and Advanced Technology, and Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment.

Local production

“Collaboration is the key driver behind the shift towards a more sustainable industrial sector and a greener economy. Accordingly, the MoIAT focuses on facilitating partnerships between stakeholders, including financial institutions, national industrial companies, and global corporations, with the aim of supporting GDP growth as well as the UAE’s Net Zero strategic initiative. As we approach COP28, the MoIAT will continue to amplify the important initiatives that fall under the national industrial strategy. For instance, we will utilise Make it in the Emirates to attract international investors and companies to engage with the UAE’s industrial sector to help us unlock the opportunities associated with industrial transformation, and circular economy. These opportunities will ultimately help to build a more sustainable, efficient and competitive industrial sector, supporting not only the national economy, but also the global climate agenda,” said Omar Al Suwaidi, undersecretary at the MoIAT.

Growth of recyclables

Plastic pollution causes major damage to the environment, and in particular to ocean ecosystems. But by managing plastics effectively, countries can protect the environment while also supporting economic growth and the development of a local circular economy.

The recycled plastics market is expected to grow significantly as companies pivot towards using recycled materials in their products. The market for recycled materials is expected to top $46 billion by 2025.

Set roles

In the project, Repeet would operate the recycling plant, while BEEAH Group would supply a seven-year feedstock of plastics. Meanwhile, Agthia would provide a seven-year offtake for products. The feedstock will be post-consumed PET bottle bales, while the offtakes will be food grade recycled PET resin.

“The MoIAT played an essential role to create a favourable environment for the development of circular economy projects in the UAE. The PET recycling plant is a part of this momentum as it follows 2 years of fruitful cooperation with the UAE public sector. The project is now ready to welcome more partners to help take it to the next level. We are proud of being part of this exciting journey towards ecological transformation,” said Pascal Grante, chief executive officer at Veolia Near and Middle East.

“The new ministerial decree that has enabled this partnership is a positive step towards the transition from a linear to a circular economy and we welcome the foresight and commitment of the UAE’s leadership to this important agenda. Reducing waste to an absolute minimum, better managing the planet’s resources and designing all our products with a more sustainable future in mind is at the heart of Agthia’s strategy for long-term growth. Our previous endeavours with Veolia have laid solid foundations and achieved good results in this regard and we believe that this new collaboration further demonstrates our long term commitment to initiatives that are for the better of the environment, the economy and our consumers,” said Alan Smith, chief executive officer at Agthia Group.

“Aligning closely with the national vision and contributing to the UAE’s sustainability targets have been the driving force for our organisation as we develop and implement circular economy solutions through our waste management business. Through this agreement, we can now further support the UAE’s sustainability agenda and accelerate the circular economy. We are honoured to partner with MoIAT, Repeet and Veolia to tackle the important issue of plastic pollution and make a positive impact together on a larger scale,” added Khaled Al Huraimel, Beeah Group chief executive officer.

Water bottle decree

This partnership comes in line with MoIAT’s recent ministerial decree regulating the trade of recycled plastic water bottles. The move aims to facilitate the manufacturing of water bottles using recycled plastic in line with top public health and food safety standards. With time, more local water bottling companies are expected to embrace this circular economy journey and introduce more and more recycled plastic to produce their packaging. This is projected to reduce avoid 50,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, to enhance the national in-country value by Dh150 million annually, and to create more than 1,000 jobs.

MoIAT works closely with industrial stakeholders, including financial institutions, to leverage incentives and enablers that lead to a business-friendly environment that is attractive to investors.

The MoIAT has a sizeable presence at ADSW, which takes place this week in the run up to COP28. ADSW provides an opportunity for the global community to turn ambition into action, by forging partnerships, committing investment, and launching technologies and solutions that can accelerate sustainable development around the world.