Why waste-to-energy will revolutionise both our waste management and alternative energy strategies?
One thing that has always made me proud of the UAE is that we view problems as opportunities. This positive approach has helped our nation develop, innovate and diversify – and I believe it is the perfect description for waste to energy technologies.
Before we talk about its role as a solution to our waste management and alternative energy requirements, we should outline the scale of the challenge in front of us. Across the world, population growth, increased urbanisation and accelerated economic activities have led to high waste generation rates. This is of particular significance in the UAE where residents produce between 1.2kg to 1.3kg of waste daily, with 77 percent of that refuse being sent to landfills.
Tackling this issue is a key part of the UAE Vision 2021, which seeks to divert 75 percent of solid waste away from landfills by 2021. Mindful of the global shift towards renewables, our nation has also set a clean energy target of 27 percent; a commitment that is underscored in the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 goal, which seeks to double the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix and reduce the carbon footprint of its power generation processes by 70 percent.
Turning waste into opportunity
Waste-to-energy is a waste management solution and an alternative energy source that will contribute greatly to these admirable objectives. It was perhaps inevitable that Bee’ah would enter this space. Our company was founded in 2007 as a pioneering force for sustainable solutions in the Middle East, with a strategy rooted in the twin pillars of sustainability and digitalisation. Through a holistic approach towards waste management and our advanced recycling facilities, Bee’ah has been able to achieve a 76 percent waste diversion from landfill rate in the Emirate of Sharjah. But to reach our goal of zero waste to landfills, we recognised that we needed to a strategy for nonrecyclable waste.
To this end, we partnered with Masdar in 2017 to form the Emirates Waste to Energy Company (EWTE). The joint venture leverages synergies from both entities, with Bee’ah as the UAE leader in waste management and Masdar as the UAE pioneer for renewable energy.
We are nearing the completion of the EWTE’s first plant, the Sharjah Waste to Energy Facility, which will be the first in the UAE. Located within Bee’ah’s Waste Management Complex in Sharjah, the facility spans an area of 80,000 sqm, and meets the strictest European Union environmental standards to ensure that the Sharjah Waste to Energy facility is compliant, environmentally safe, and efficient.
Upon completion next year, the plant will process 300,000 tonnes of nonrecyclable solid waste per year, at a rate of 37.5 tonnes per hour. In doing so, it will displace almost 450,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year and generate up to 30 megawatts of energy, which will be supplied to the Sharjah electricity grid to power up to 28,000 homes.
With these benefits in mind, the immense potential of the Sharjah Waste to Energy facility can be easily replicated across the wider region. The problems of waste generation, overfilled landfills and lack of awareness around recycling are found across the region, and our proven waste management track record in the UAE is gaining wider attention.
To return to my opening words, nothing captures the idea of a problem turned into an opportunity more than our plan for Al Saja’a landfill in Sharjah. Once the Sharjah Waste to Energy facility opens and we reach our zero-waste target, this landfill will become redundant. Our plan is to convert the landfill, once it has been capped, into a solar energy facility that can generate over 42 megawatts of energy per year. This project will help Sharjah attain its renewable energy targets, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and help improve the quality of life for communities.
It is the perfect example of a truth we at Bee’ah hold dear: sustainability is not a cost but rather an investment that reaps multiple dividends.