Oil-rich UAE to burn waste to make power


SHARJAH: With rubbish piling up in the desert, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has found a new way to get rid of its trash – incinerators that will turn it into electricity.

The UAE, one of the world’s top oil exporters, is building the Gulf region’s first waste-to-power plants to ease its chronic trash problem and, at the same time, its reliance on gas-fuelled electricity stations.

Green groups are unconvinced. They say advanced recycling, composting and changing habits amid grossly wasteful rates of consumption would be better for the environment, warning of pollution risks from the greenhouse gas-intensive incinerators too.

But engineer Nouf Wazir, from waste management company Bee’ah, argues they are a way to make use of refuse that cannot be recycled.

“Not everyone knows that waste has value,” said Wazir, a senior engineer on the project. The Sharjah facility is expected to launch this year, burning more than 300,000 tonnes of waste per year to power up to 28,000 homes.

In the neighbouring emirate of Dubai, another plant is being developed at a cost of US$1.2bil (RM4.98bil), according to Hitachi Zosen Inova, one of the partner companies.

When it is completed in 2024, the Dubai plant will be one of the largest in the world, capable of gobbling up 1.9 million tonnes of waste per year – about 45% of the household waste currently produced in the emirate.

As the UAE has mushroomed from a desert outpost to a thriving business hub, waste has multiplied.

So has power use, which has soared 750% since 1990 according to the International Energy Agency.

Now with about 10 million people, five times the population of 30 years ago, the wealthy UAE uses more electricity and creates more waste per head than almost any other country.

Authorities put waste production at 1.8 kg per person per day.

In the UAE, “people consume a lot, and they throw away a lot”, said Riad Bestani, founder of ECOsquare, a Dubai-based consultancy specialising in eco-friendly waste management.

Landfills are strewn across the country. In Dubai alone, six cover an area of about 1.6 million sq m (395 acres), according to the municipality.

In the absence of other solutions, it estimates that landfills will occupy 5.8 million sq m of the emirate by 2041, an area the size of more than 800 football pitches. — AFP

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