Pupils at 20 schools around Dubai will soon be able to put environmental teaching into practice by recycling their drink boxes and containers. The effort, launched yesterday by the Emirates Environment Group (EEG), is the first such campaign of this scope in the region, said Habiba al Marashi, EEG's founder and chairwoman. She said she hopes the effort can be expanded to other emirates next year.
By weight, beverage cartons are around 75 per cent paper, 22 per cent plastic and three per cent aluminium. Due to their mixed composition, the cartons can take decades to disintegrate in local landfills. "The cardboard breaks down quicker, but plastic takes hundreds of years to break down," said Mohammed Angawi, environment manager at Tetra Pak Arabia, which is working with EEG on the project. The impact is significant, considering an estimated 6,000 tonnes of beverages from various retailers are consumed each year in the UAE, he said.
Dubai Gem Private School, which will participate in recycling the beverage containers, has already teamed up with EEG to collect paper and cans, according to Laxmy Mohanraj, an English teacher at the school. "This is one more initiative to educate our children," she said. One of the challenges in recycling the drink boxes is their light weight, which adds to transportation costs. So pupils at Al Khaleej National School, the American Academy for Girls and Dubai English Speaking School, among others, will be required to fold out the corners of the boxes and flatten each one before depositing them into two bins provided to each school.
That way each bin of boxes can accommodate up to 25kg, making the process more cost-effective. The beverage containers will be sent to a factory at Union Paper Mills, where they will be separated. For now, only the paper portion of the boxes will be recycled into new items, including egg cartons. The three top-performing schools will receive awards during World Environment celebrations in June, said Mrs al Marashi.