Why is waste a problem?
There are approximately 8 Billion people who currently call Earth home and that number is only going to grow. As a species, we generate a whopping 2 Billion tonnes per year of household waste. We see the evidence of that waste in our oceans and our natural environments with our own eyes and on our screens every day. We all instinctively know that more change is needed and that we will all benefit from a cleaner planet.
The average person in the UAE generates between 1.9kg to 2.5kg per day of household waste. With a constantly growing population, it’s easy to see how this can start to cause problems and why it’s important for everyone to take steps to reduce this figure.
With this in mind, the UAE Government has an objective to reduce or reuse 75% of all household waste. It is an ambitious but achievable target that we can all take part in reaching.
With this guide, we aim to show you what steps we can all take to reduce our impact and how organizations in Dubai can support you when you want to recycle your household waste.
What steps can I take to reduce waste? - 3Rs
The single biggest positive impact we as individuals can have on the growing problem of waste is to make small changes to our habits that reduce the amount of household waste that end up in landfill.
An easy way to remember the impact you can have is to keep in mind the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Let’s take a minute to look at each of these in more detail.
This is by far the most impactful of the 3 Rs because if you think about it, If you don’t use something in the first place, then it cannot go to waste. Here are 3 important examples. You will likely be familiar with these because they are talked about a great deal but it’s certainly a message that bears repeating.
Single Use Water Bottles
Single-use water bottles are easy, convenient, and cheap but cause huge amounts of waste because they can only be used once. If we each carry our own reusable bottle, we can make a huge, personal impact on this problem.
How many times do we all go on a trip to the mall and end up carrying loads of shopping bags back to the car? Each shop will give you a new bag because you act as a walking advert as you carry your purchases around the mall. But in reality, one or two bags would be easier to carry and reduce a lot of waste. Simply by saying ‘no bag thank you’ you will be saving a huge amount of waste. Many countries, including the UAE, now have bans on single-use shopping bags – A policy that is already reaping huge rewards.
Take Away Cutlery
Very few things are better than a night on the sofa, watching a movie, and having your favorite comfort food delivered straight to your front door. The problem is, most will come with little ‘extras’ that you don’t really need and that will end up straight in the bin (and eventually landfill) think about it; if you are eating at home, why do you need plastic cutlery? Most delivery apps will have a special request box where you can just mention that you don’t want cutlery and with that simple action you have reduced waste.
These 3 may seem easy and obvious but they do require a change in our habits, which is actually one of the most difficult things for people to do.
This is wisdom that all our parents and grandparents knew and grew up with but we have somehow forgotten in the rush for convenience.
If something is broken, look into getting it fixed rather than buying a new one
When you’ve finished a jar of food, think about whether you can store something else in it
When kids have grown out of their clothes, think about whether you know anyone else with younger kids that you can pass them on to.
Again, simple, easy things that we forget to do because we are all too busy. But they can and do make a difference and save a bit of money
When the first two ‘R’s are not possible, we come to the final one. Recycling is the process by which material is retrieved from ‘waste’ and turned back into a clean material that can be remade into other useful products. It still takes energy, effort, and resources to complete this process which is why the first 2 R’s are preferable, but waste is unavoidable in many circumstances so recycling has a vital role to play in reducing environmental impact.
What Household Waste can I recycle
Empty Food Tins
Takeaway food bags
Takeaway food boxes
Jars, lids and bottles
Dos and Don’ts
We are very lucky in Dubai that we have world class, large scale recycling plants that take much of the work out of our hands. There are still a few common sense guidelines to follow though. Don’t worry, they are not difficult!
Do’s and Don’ts of Recycling in Dubai
DON’T – Put any food or gardening waste in the recycling bin – much better to compost your food waste if possible.
DO – Flatten any cardboard boxes. It’s a more efficient use of space and means less driving around for the collection vehicles
DO – Clean/rinse your recyclables before you put it in the recycling bin. Leaving remnants of food on packaging is unpleasant for whoever has to process the material and at worst risks contaminating the whole batch, meaning it cannot be recycled.
DON’T – Separate paper, Glass and plastic into separate bins – state-of-the-art recycling plants in the UAE are able to separate in the processing facility, saving you time and effort! Simply put all your cleaned recycling into the same bin for collection.
DON’T – Put e-waste into your recycling bin. Wires plugs, old electrical equipment and kitchen appliances can be recycled but require a more specialized process. Save up all your e-waste and take to a specialist e-waste recycling drop-off point.
DO – Keep used batteries aside and take them to one of our collection areas listed here or even better…Use rechargeable batteries instead!
DON’T – Put used pizza or burger boxes in the recycling. The grease and cheese remnants makes it impossible to recycle. Put these in the regular bin instead.
What Happens to my waste when it’s recycled
- Unloading and manual sorting
- Truck unloads in the depot where a manual sorting takes place, separating out larger items like wood, white goods, domestic appliances etc from the items that can proceed through the machines.
- 2 massive shredding machines work around the clock to break up the material into bite-sized chunks that can proceed to the trommels for sorting
- These big spinning drums help to separate the shredded waste by size; allowing fragments of up to 30cm to pass through to the next stage while bigger pieces are sent for more manual sorting
- The material now passes under several huge magnets that attract all the magnetic (ferrous) metals and allow everything else to pass through for further sorting. The ferrous material is removed categorized and packaged for re-use
- Optical separators
- Everything not captured by the magnets is now scanned by optical separators that use infra-red technology to first identify the plastic material and then separate out the different types of usable plastic (HDPE, PET)
- Ballistic Separators
- The next stage captures all the flat fragments (paper, cardboard, film etc) from the 3D franments. (like bottle tops, plastic containers and cans)
- Packing and dispatching
- After a final visual check, 4 conveyors take the different streams of sorted materials to a compressor where they are pressed into uniform blocks that can be sent to other factories to be made into brand new items!