Environmental research projects given go-ahead

Innovations in recycling, waste management and water purification are to be given the go-ahead this autumn at Sharjah’s Gulf Ecosystem Research Centre.

The main purpose of the metal shredding machine, seen in background, is the separation of car bodies and other metal scrap from other materials at the Bee’ah waste management facility in Sharjah. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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Innovations in recycling, waste management and water purification are to be given the go-ahead this autumn at Sharjah’s Gulf Ecosystem Research Centre.

Founded in 2012, the centre was created through a collaboration between Bee’ah, a waste management company, and the American University of Sharjah (AUS), with the company granting Dh30 million over five years to support scientific research that could bring immediate improvements in the way waste is managed as well as other environmental issues.

“This is an example of how industry and academia can develop a strong partnership to benefit the environment and society,” said Meera Taryam, director of environmental services and education at Bee’ah.

The centre would fill data gaps in the field of environmental research, said Ms Taryam, who added that the funding would be used to benefit projects that could have immediate practical applications, although work to answer broader scientific questions might be supported later.

The collaboration is under the patronage of Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council member, Ruler of Sharjah and president of the university.

About 13 bids for research were received after the centre’s first call for proposals opened in spring this year, said Ms Taryam.

She said that the research centre’s advisory board was likely to give final approval to selected proposals at the start of the new academic year in September. The advisory board is made up of six members representing Bee’ah and AUS.

Dr Nabil Jabbar, director of the Gulf Ecosystem Research Centre and a professor of chemical engineering at the university, said recycling, water treatment and air pollution control would be the main issues for the centre.

Among the projects under review is research into the treatment of water containing oily residues left over by industry. Another will look at developing concrete from recycled construction and demolition waste aggregate.

“These projects are important in terms of waste treatment and also finding an end product that can minimise the use of raw materials,” said Dr Jabbar.

The faculty involved in the projects had already received initial feedback, related to the scientific merits and the timelines and budgets of the works, and some of the projects have been augmented, he said. “We hope that by autumn 2014 we will be able to kick off these projects.”

While the university funds faculty research, the new centre would allow for more focused work on environmental issues, said Dr Jabbar.

“We have this done already in the university, but now our centre is taking on research that is directly targeting the environment,” he said.

Bee’ah was established in 2007 with the support of the Sharjah government in a move to improve waste management in the emirate.

Since its formation, the company has organised emirate-wide recycling schemes. It has facilities to process construction and demolition waste, old tyres and, since February, scrap cars.

The company is working on building a waste-to-energy facility where rubbish collected from Sharjah that could not be recycled will be burnt, with the heat collected used to produce power.

The UAE has one of the highest rates of waste generation in the world.

Figures from 2010 compiled by the Centre of Waste Management – Abu Dhabi show that residents in that emirate produced between 1.8 and 2.4 kilograms of waste per day – almost half of that produced in the United Kingdom in the same time. The figures are representative for the rest of the UAE.