Dubai's neat streets as rubbish is swept under the concrete

Dubai launches its first sub-street waste storage in Deira, with eight more to follow, to battle overflowing bins in crowded areas

DUBAI // The city's first system to store waste underground has been opened in Al Naif area.

Eight more sites are to open by the end of next year in a scheme Dubai Municipality hopes will put an end to overflowing bins in parts of the city's crowded Deira and Bur Dubai districts.

The first is at a plaza next to Al Naif souq. The system's opening is so small that the space once taken up by large waste skips now has a little garden and benches for residents to enjoy.

The Naif site features two underground bins that can be opened with the push of a pedal.

"Before it was like this," said Harri Salomaa, pointing to a picture of the same area where traditional skips were full of waste, with some debris on the ground. "It was a big mess."

Mr Salomaa is managing director of the Finnish company Ecomp, which supplies the underground systems.

Yaqoob Al Ali, head of specialised cleaning at the municipality's waste management department, said the narrow streets in Deira and Bur Dubai, and the large number of people there, made waste collection challenging.

Add the areas' lively trading to the equation and it all adds up to a lot of waste.

Too much rubbish was accumulating on the streets, even though trucks were removing it three times a day, Mr Al Ali said.

"We had the ordinary bins, which hold between one and five cubic metres, but because there is a lot of garbage generated here you could see waste overflow from the bins," he said.

"There was a bad smell and traffic jams as the trucks were emptying the waste."

Despite their compact, above-ground openings, the bins can hold so much rubbish underground that they can reduce the number of trips by collectors to about twice a week.

Rubbish is stored in a large steel box buried five metres underground. Each waste system has a volume of 20 cubic metres but is fitted with a compactor that crushes the waste and allows it to store up to five times more.

The underground bins are fitted with sensors that alert the collection team when a bin is 80 per cent full.

The next site to open will be near Al Faheidi souq, Mr Al Ali said. Others will be close to Al Sabkha bus station and Ali bin Ali Talib Street, running along the Bur Dubai side of the Creek.

Installing the bins requires coordination with telecommunications and water and electricity authorities. The municipality is studying a second phase of the project for more underground bins in Deira and Bur Dubai.

The systems are gaining popularity in Europe, with cities such as Stockholm, Helsinki and Zurich using them extensively.

Abu Dhabi installed 17 underground bins in Khalidiya and the Tourist Club area in 2009.

A visit to Khalidiya last year showed the bins were overflowing with rubbish. A grocery shop owner said rubbish collections that used to be daily were down to three or four days a week.

Expansions plans for the underground waste bins in the capital have been put on hold, and the project is under evaluation, authorities said this week.