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Dr. Salem Al Kaabi

UAE, UAE, ABU DHABI - Green Economy

The right kind of segregation

General Manager, Abu Dhabi Waste Management Center (Tadweer)


Dr. Salem Al Kaabi is the General Manager of Tadweer. Prior to this role, he was director of the Public Health Department at Al Ain Municipality between 2008 and 2012. He earned a doctorate in environmental engineering from Carleton University in 2007, where he specialized in the extraction of methane gas from waste and its application in arid and semi-arid areas. During his tenure at Al Ain Municipality, Al Kaabi contributed to the development of a strategic waste management plan for the city which covered the collection, transportation, treatment, and landfilling of waste. The plan also aimed at educating the public about proper waste management to achieve sustainability.

Segregation of waste at its source is one of the biggest priorities to streamline the efficiency of the sector.

How would you assess the current level of adoption to sustainable waste practices by both the public and by businesses in Abu Dhabi?
Tadweer is building momentum and expanding sustainable practices throughout Abu Dhabi by opening further facilities that can treat special types of waste. We are in the final process of opening licensing for electronic waste recycling, with the next phase being plastic and wood recycling. Moreover, we have been awarded three hazardous and medical waste treatment incinerators, one in Al Ain and two in Abu Dhabi, which helps to attract the private sector to waste management, besides its impact on the safety and sustainability of the Emirate. To raise public awareness of sustainable waste management, we have a dedicated awareness section to communicate our messages in different languages. Our winter campaign involves raising awareness about littering in the desert. We also send awareness representatives to livestock farmers to educate them on better waste practices, such as providing simple and understandable awareness materials. We also engage with schools, households, government entities, and farms. Consequently, we have observed increased awareness among the public. There has also been an increase in the number of people calling our hotline to request services, with 80,000 requests registered in 2018.

What is the significance of the new waste management efforts in Al Dafrah?
Recently, we opened a mobile crusher plant in Ghayathi that diverts around 90,000 tons of construction and demolition waste whose recycled products are used for infrastructure projects. In Al Dafrah, we reached almost 1 million tons of waste. Our strategy is to increase the diversion of waste across the emirate of Abu Dhabi. It currently stands around 34%, with the goal of increasing this to 85%. The main challenge in reaching this target is that the waste is not collected separately due to a lack of segregation at the source by producers. Even on construction sites, many workers do not separate food waste, and everything ends up in one container. Therefore, we need to enforce the segregation of waste at the source. We are hopeful that increased awareness will inevitably help change behavioral practices as we look ahead, which will ultimately assist us in achieving our strategic goals of diversion of waste from landfills.

What outreach initiatives are you engaged with that specifically target younger people, and how can we create further youth awareness of sustainable waste practices?
Tadweer initiated a school’s program five years ago, and we present a prize and certificate every year for the schools with the best recycling footprint. Schools are a particularly critical area, as we wish to foster environmentally sound waste practices at an early age. We are working with schools that have internal waste segregation by providing them with waste bins for plastics. There is a new initiative in the pipeline to have an application specifically for schools. This would require every individual school to register students, and annually we will calculate the best school based on their recycling footprint per student volume.

What digital and technological solutions are you currently pursuing?
Interestingly, we are developing a control room that uses GPS to track contractors with a monthly service plan. With a set KPI per contractor, and the GPS tracks if targets are being met based on routes and collection times. There is an additional plan for street sweeping. Placing cameras in trucks helps us monitor waste to determine if it is bulky, green, or illegal; however, as we cover all routes in the Emirates, this will be expensive. Finally, we would like to have onboard weighing per truck, radio-frequency identification (RFID), and a database where we know how much waste comes from each house.



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