ABU DHABI // The Government has funded two projects to tackle mountains of construction waste and giant piles of old tyres. A contract, for Dh1.1 billion (US$300 million), has been awarded to Thiess Services Middle East to build and operate a demolition waste facility in Abu Dhabi. Another to rebuild and operate an Al Ain recycling plant that is already capable of processing 20,000 tonnes of old tyres a year, went to Omnix Group. The two projects will be handed back to the Government at some point in the future. It is not clear when work on either project will be finished.
When they are, they will divert large amounts of waste from landfills and disposal sites that have filled under the strain of a rapidly growing population. Millions of tyres have been dumped at nine locations in the emirate, creating a major environmental hazard. Old tyres are highly flammable and hard to put out when they catch fire. Left at dump sites, where large amounts of methane gas are created by decomposing trash, they create even more of a hazard, said Majid al Mansouri, the secretary general of the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi.
"The lifespan of the rubber that tyres are made of is hundreds or thousands of years," he said. Omnix Group, a company with offices in Canada, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE, specialises in computer-aided design, information technology, networking and security solutions. When the Al Ain facility is finished, the recovered rubber will be used to make a range of products for use in the UAE including irrigation pipes, insulation and flooring solutions, and heat-resistant plastics for traffic signs. The 2005 State of the Environment Report estimated that up to 940 tonnes of construction waste was being dropped each day at Abu Dhabi's largest disposal site at Al Dhafra, which covers 16square kilometres. Another site in Moqatra, Al Gharbia, received 5,000 tonnes a day.
Both amounts will increase significantly as Abu Dhabi continues to develop. Thiess Services Middle East, a joint venture formed last year by Australia's Thiess Services and Al Habtoor Engineering Enterprises in Dubai, will build and manage a recycling plant for some of this waste. Concrete, gravel and sand will be used in new construction. The company has a 15-year concession agreement with the Centre of Waste Management Abu Dhabi for the project, which will take about a year to build and will also separate demolition debris including plastics, wood, ceramics and metals.
Most construction and demolition waste ends up in landfills, although other emirates have been taking steps to deal with the issue. Emirates Environmental Technology, an Austrian company, has been operating a construction waste recycling facility in Sharjah since November 2007. The plant cost Dh40 million to build and processes 9,000 tonnes of waste per shift, producing a construction aggregate that can be used to pave roads and make bricks and cement.
The Dh65 million Emirates Recycling Plant began operating early last year in Dubai, where the construction industry was responsible for 27.7 million tonnes of waste in 2007. The two Abu Dhabi projects are part of a strategy to reform waste management services in the emirate. Last year the Centre for Waste Management Abu Dhabi announced a scheme to rehabilitate six major disposal sites that for years were receiving waste from the capital's households, industries and hospitals.