AL AIN // In late December, two polite volunteers knocked on Um Butti's door and told her she should start recycling her rubbish. The Emirati housewife was a little unclear on the concept until her daughter explained it to her. "In the beginning we didn't really understand the programme," said Um Butti, 35, who lives in the Garden City's Falaj Hazza district, "especially knowing what was recyclable and what was not, and [finding] that we had to empty the plastic bottles and crush the cans.
"Then my daughter explained things to me because her school has a recycling programme. She also explained things to the nanny, so now our household does recycle." Two months after Al Ain launched one of the country's first household recycling schemes, managers are cautiously declaring initial success, saying participation has been "better than expected". Volunteers went door-to-door to explain the scheme, and distributed some 1,000 recycling bins in the Al Masoudi and Falaj Hazza districts.
The Centre of Waste Management-Abu Dhabi, which is overseeing the programme, says there is still work to do. It hopes people will sort their rubbish more carefully; will rinse bottles before placing them in the bins, break down cardboard boxes and crush cans; and will keep bins off the street, except during collection times, to maintain the city's appearance. The centre has the power to levy fines and impose other penalties but has yet to do so.
"Composition analysis of the waste has been done on a progressive basis and people are starting to get the message, but there is still a long way to go," said a spokesman for the Centre of Waste Management-Abu Dhabi. "We are receiving reports on which families are not recycling and which are. We are dispatching teams to further discuss with residents who are not complying, the benefits of recycling, urging them to separate their trash from recyclables and to use the bins for what they were intended for."
The Muharram family, from Egypt, said they were not recycling, but wanted more information. The family moved to Al Masoudi after the waste management volunteers had visited the neighbourhood. "I did arrive here to find the two bins, and I thought they were just for trash," said Um Sameer Muharram, 42. "I didn't know that the green one was for recyclables. In Egypt we didn't have a programme like this. All I was told was that the bins should be put outside every evening to be collected."