Dubai malls given May deadline to recycle waste

The plan aims to ensure that 75 per cent of waste generated by shopping malls is recycled in the emirate by 2018.

DUBAI // Malls have been given until the end of May to comply with official recycling regulations or face fines.

The move, which requires shopping centres to segregate recycleable plastic, paper, metals and glass, from non-recycleable items, is part of a plan that aims to ensure as much as 75 per cent of Dubai’s waste is recycled by 2018. It is one of the first steps in the strategy which will also see the creation of a new unit to process food waste in the emirate.

The recycling guidelines for malls were first announced in 2012 with all malls expected to comply by the end of last year. The guideline says that malls should install at least two separate colour-coded bins per location to ensure waste is segregated.

About a third of shopping centres are still facing difficulties complying with the scheme, said Abdulmajeed Saifaie, director of the waste management department of Dubai Municipality.

“We have sent out a letter to all malls, thanking the ones who are already doing this,” he said. “For the others – we have given them until the end of May. After that we will issue fines for the malls that do not put out separate bins.”

Recycling companies have said that while initiative has helped drive some business for them, it is still difficult to tell whether the new recycling bins are helping increase volumes besides the ones already there to recycle packaging waste at the back of the malls.

“I will know the difference if I see an increase in the number of plastic bottles and metal cans, which would clearly come from inside the mall,” said Huzaifa Rangwala, manager, marketing and contracts at Union Paper Mills, which services several large malls.

The increase so far is “not appreciable”, he said.

Mr Rangwala also said that because of cost concerns, some malls are not putting out sufficient numbers of recycling bins.

Another issue is awareness, even if recycling infrastructure is available, if customers do not observe the distinctions and mix the waste, it is not possible to recycle it afterwards, he said.

“People have to be educated,” he said.

Jeroen Vincent, chief operating officer of waste management company, Averda, agreed.

“It is not only about providing a separate box or a bin but a whole communication of how important it is to recycle,” he said.

Both Mr Vincent and Mr Rangwala said food courts are among the largest generators of waste within malls and should participate in the recycling effort. This is now the case in some malls but not others.

Failing to separate organic waste from plastic plates, beverage cans and other items makes recycling them “almost impossible” due to the contamination, said Mr Vincent. Mr Rangwala said one way to separate waste in food courts will be to train cleaning staff and offer them incentives.

Mr Saifaie said Dubai Municipality will be paying more attention what happens to organic waste in the near future as a plant to process it into useful fertiliser is currently being planned for the city.

“Step one was to recycle the general waste,” he said. “Step two should be the organic waste, it should be separated.”

Within a year and half, Dubai should have a plant to process the organic waste, he said, explaining that a tender to select the private company to build and operate the facility is already under way. The plant is initially expected to be able to handle 500 tonnes of organic waste per day with provisions to double the capacity in the future, said Mr Saifaie.

vtodorova@thenational.ae