How Saadiyat salvage project saves money - and the environment

Massive diggers and excavators are sifting and sorting through piles of rocks and waste to reduce the damage caused by the huge construction developments on Saadiyat Island.

Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // In the centre of what will become the capital's cultural district, massive diggers and excavators are sifting and sorting through piles of pebbles, rocks and waste to reduce the environmental damage caused by the huge construction developments on Saadiyat Island. Normally the blocks of wood, the paper and plastic and slabs of grey stone would be left to bake in the sun or degrade in landfills.

Instead, the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) has found a way to tease paydirt from rubbish and become more environmentally sustainable in the process. The 30,000-square-metre Waste Management Facility began sorting through the massive piles of building waste from the developments on the island in April. Since then, it has recovered 199,163 cubic metres of reusable materials, such as stone aggregate, cardboard and aluminium, from 215,000 cubic metres of waste.

Much of the salvaged matter is sent back to the building sites of what will soon become the Louvre and Guggenheim museums, and to the roads and bridges that will connect the island to the city. More than half the construction waste has been diverted from the landfill two hours away in Al Gharbia, according to Richard Naylor, the operations manager at Thiess Services, the company that helped establish the facility.

Now it is recycled, reused or sold. For example, limestone pulled from the ground during the early phases of construction would historically have been sent to rubbish dumps, he said. "Then the TDIC would have had to bring in new, processed material to the island to build the foundation." It was an inefficient process. "Now what comes out of the ground gets crushed, processed and put back into the ground."

A similar process has been put in place for cement. "This reduces our consumption of raw materials. We don't have to buy [stone] from Ras al Khaimah and Fujairah," said Nadia Ford, the environmental manager with Saadiyat. "This reduces our transport costs and our carbon footprint." Paper, cardboard, glass, wood and plastics the remnants of construction and demolition are collected in skips, sent to a processing plant and then sold as raw material.

"We are not aware of any other developments in the country doing this," Ms Ford said. "Hopefully having us use this system will encourage more people to do so." The position of the facility in the centre of the island has also helped prevent drivers from dumping their landfill-bound cargo on the side of the road. The recycling programme has resulted in "significant savings", the TDIC said, but it would not give specific figures.

The company said it has a mandate to create buildings that are environmentally sustainable. The construction on Saadiyat must adhere to international standards of water and energy use, responsible land use, ecological protection and pollution prevention. The Saadiyat Beach Golf Course, the signature course of Gary Player, was designed to be eco-conscious. A section has been cordoned off to protect the hatching spots for hawksbill turtles. Native grasses and drought-resistant plants are being used, while a computer-controlled irrigation system will minimise water loss.

The TDIC has also established a mangrove nursery on Saadiyat to help replenish the forests depleted by the capital's rapid development. Almost 300,000 saplings are being grown. The island is being developed as a haven for cultural and tourism projects at a cost of Dh5.5 billion (US$1.5bn) infrastructure, with hopes of attracting Dh100 billion in investments.