Dubai running out of landfill space to dump its rubbish

Al Qusais landfill is one of two sites where Dubai stores its domestic waste, and it is almost full.
A municipal landfill in Dubai, officials warn the emirate is running out of space to bury rubbish.
A municipal landfill in Dubai, officials warn the emirate is running out of space to bury rubbish.

DUBAI // The emirate is running out of room to dump its rubbish.

One of Dubai's two landfill sites is full and will be soon be closed, and the other will reach capacity in less than seven years.

Now waste management officials at the municipality are on a drive to cut the city's domestic waste by 15 to 20 per cent a year.

"We want to have almost zero waste output by 2030," said Adbulmajeed Saifaie, director of the waste management department. "The only way to achieve that is through recycling.

"Our biggest challenge is changing people's mentality and attitude towards it. People have to understand that a modern city cannot rely on landfills to manage its waste. This is just not feasible - financially or environmentally.

"Every person in Dubai has a part in this. Many people don't think about where their rubbish goes after it leaves their home. So long as somebody collects it, they don't care."

Al Qusais landfill, just off Emirates Road at the border between Dubai and Sharjah, is a two kilometre-square, 20 metre-high layer cake of rubbish that is growing by two to three metres a year.

The only other landfill, in Jebel Ali, will soon be closed. "It has already reached its limit capacity," said Mr Saifaie. "We have yet to decide where to allocate a new landfill site."

Half of Al Qusais landfill has already reached its height limit. In less than seven years it will have reached capacity.

Every Dubai resident sends 2.8 kilograms of waste to the landfill every day. Bulldozers and compactors try to crush the day's supply of domestic waste into a more manageable size before covering the whole thing under a 10cm blanket of sand.

Among several recycling campaigns implemented by the waste department, its home-recycling initiative - My City, My Environment - has had the most success.

The project involves equipping each home with two bins: one for organic waste and one for recyclables. The municipality collects and separates all recyclable waste, meaning very little effort is required on the part of residents to adopt a green attitude.

My City, My Environment was first tested in Nad Al Hammar, and Al Mizhar 1 and 2 in March. In three months, the programme saved 500 tonnes of waste in those areas.

The department plans to expand the programme to Al Warqa and Al Barsha 1, 2, and 3 communities by January.

"This initiative will eventually cover the whole of Dubai," said Mr Saifaie.

"We are all part of the same society and we all have to do our part. A small improvement in each person's daily habits with regard to waste can have a huge positive effect on our environment."

A second waste-related initiative from Mr Saifaie's department is to tap the methane gas created by decomposing organic matter in the landfills.

"Methane gas is much more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide," said Mr Saifaie.

Though still in its initial stages the system has the potential to use the gas to fuel generators that can be use to power nearby residential areas.

Once the Jebel Ali and Al Qusais landfills are closed the municipality will, over a number of years, convert the areas into a public parks.

This is the case with the old Al Warqa landfill, which contains construction waste and was closed in 2006.

The new and improved Dubai Zoo, tentatively dubbed Safari Dubai and featuring bigger enclosures for the animals, will be built on that site.

Published: September 23, 2012 04:00 AM


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