Integrated Waste Management In The UAE

Keith-White-HuntProfessor Keith White-Hunt, a Fellow of CIWM, and Dr Tie Xu are assessing the challenges faced in developing an integrated waste management solution in the United Arab Emirates
CIWM Journal Online Exclusive


Waste management has become an issue of increasingly critical importance during the last few decades mainly due to steadily growing waste generation; natural and regulatory restrictions both reducing the availability and increasing the cost of disposal sites; and the complexity of waste streams.

A dump site in Abu Dhabi

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a small country (made up of seven emirates) bordering Saudi Arabia on the western shore of the Arab Gulf with a population of just over 5 million of which only around 20 percent being Emirati. However, the UAE is one of the world’s major oil producers with access to the fourth largest proven reserves. As such, raw figures for GDP per capita rank the UAE among the top 10 richest countries in the World, even when including the majority non-Emirati population. The resulting fast-paced industrial and socio-economic growth, increasing population, rapid urbanization, changing life style towards a disposable society and unsustainable consumption patterns has witnessed high waste generation in recent years and posed a serious challenge to the government at both central and municipal levels.

UAE had long been regarded as one of the world’s largest producers of waste per capita, with a daily generation which tallies to over 2,400 tons of municipal solid waste daily. This translates to around 2.4kg of waste per person per day, in comparison to 2.1kg in the USA, 2kg in Canada and almost double the level of the UK.

The challenge of municipal solid waste [MSW] is particularly acute in the UAE, where the combination of a dense population living in high-rise accommodation, a climate having extremely high temperatures during most of the year and very limited space for landfill, exacerbates the situation.

Forming Partnerships

Dr Tie Xu

To tackle this challenge, since 2007 in two of the northern emirates – Dubai and neighboring Sharjah Municipality – have forged strategic partnerships with the private sector to achieve improved performance through integrated waste management programs. By 2012, Dubai and Sharjah had achieved a 52 percent diversion from landfill – the highest diversion rate achieved in both the UAE and the wider the GCC Region (comprising Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain) setting Dubai and Sharjah apart in the area of contemporary integrated waste management (IWM) practices.

IWM has emerged as a holistic approach to managing waste by combining and applying a range of suitable techniques, technologies and management programs to achieve specific objectives and goals (McDougall et al, 2001). The concept of IWM arose out of recognition that waste management systems are comprised of several interconnected systems and functions which cover the full spectrum of the waste management hierarchy. El-Haggar (2007) proposed that to achieve sustainable waste management, a ‘7Rs’ integrated methodology should be adopted: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover, Rethinking Renovation, and Regulation. This has come to be known as a framework of reference for designing and implementing new waste management systems and for analyzing and optimizing existing systems.

The authors plan to present a longer paper based on their on-going studies of Dubai and Sharjah Municipality in which they will apply this 7Rs framework to exam the integrated waste management practices currently employed in the UAE. Successes achieved by the Dubai and Sharjah Municipality in waste recycling will be evaluated for lessons of good practice with a focus on benefits of strategic partnerships with private sector service providers.

Challenges faced by the Municipality in waste prevention will also be identified with a focus on packaging waste in particular. Operational logistics also play an important role in designing and implementing efficient and sustainable waste collection program (McDougall et al., 2001). The authors will apply the reverse distribution channels concept to exam the logistics integration at the collection level, transfer level and processing level in relation to waste collection strategies currently implemented. This will help gain an understanding of the context-embedded operational trade-offs between segregation and postponement.

A full report will follow later in the year. The authors/researchers would be very pleased to hear from colleagues who are involved in wastes management in the UAE and/or GCC countries or have relevant knowledge of and/or experience from this part of the World and are interested in collaboration. Please email


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