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In the recent years, it was brought to everyones notice that one in two camels are dying in the desert from consuming plastic bags (Attwood, 2008). Camels being an important part of the culture of the UAE gained significant conservation programs one of which were to reduce plastic bags and eventually ban their usage by the year 2013. Wastes like these are discarded by inhabitants which not only damages the environment, threatens biodiversity, but also causes societal issues. UAE is subjected to a rapid growth in population and an immense development to its environment. These two consistent factors result in generation of excess waste. Throughout the developing phase, UAE has faced the adverse effects of uncontrolled waste dumping. Moreover, the recycling techniques were yet at par, pended with no serious thought. Introduction to a few new waste management practices were laid but they did not seem to be effective due to scarcity of modern techniques (State of the Environment, Abu Dhabi, 2011). To have it recorded for improvement; an official centre for Waste Management activities was opened in different emirates and made responsible for controlling and coordinating waste. Concluding from the report, the UAE has been ranked second in generating massive amount of household waste. The very next items consisted mainly of the construction waste, accounting for dominating the waste mass (Todorova, 2010). The amount of waste per person generated rises with consumption. The waste, however, is not limited to domestic waste but includes the by-products leaving the factories and organizations, as well. The electronic waste (e-waste), medical waste, hazardous waste, demolition and construction waste, marine waste, etc. all are different categories of the general term waste that need to be taken care of. The increase in the UAE population and economic growth has made it more mandatory to overcome the environmental problem with intelligent and safe techniques. Excess of waste disposal in UAE has always been termed as a very groovy task which results in greater effect to the environment. This result in affecting the overall improving living standards of the UAE and international recommendations of the land for quality living. An important thing to note here is that proper disposal of waste is very essential. It is a cycle in which humans use and produce waste; however, the waste is never thrown away but, it finds its way back to the environment and to use via different means such as through the food chain.
The reason for choosing this issue is because excess waste generation is a well noted problem around the world. Moreover, it exhibits its importance for sustainable growth and quality living. In addition, it is a growing problem as cities run out of space to dump waste. For instance, Dubai has filled two of its landfill sites and is aiming at zero output of waste by 2030 (Al-Khan, 2012). This issue might make people more aware of the unhygienic activities and would educate them to evaluate the consequences of excessive consumption resulting in waste generation. This discussion is entirely based on socio economic reforms involving strategic development, taking waste management systems into account and their application for reduction. Further more, this discussion could be used to highlight improving methods and gaining responses from the authorities who are responsible for environment protection.
Root Causes Of Excess Waste Output
It is crucial to understand the root cause of excess waste generation in the UAE. The main causes of excessive waste generation seen in UAE are: increasing the population, increasing the demand and consumption, and advancements of new technology with no proper know-how of disposal. Moreover, from the interview conducted with Mr. John Schneider, who is a contract specialist at The Center of Waste Management, it appears that the leading cause of excess waste generation is the fast developmental stage UAE is in. Abu Dhabi for instance generates the greatest amount of demolition and construction waste in the Abu Dhabi Emirate in relation to Al-Ain and Western Region (The Center of Waste Management – Abu Dhabi, 2011).
First of all, the population of the UAE has been increasing rapidly since the last few years by the high rate of births and by migration from different countries to the UAE for employment opportunities and high quality of life. The high population increases the consumption of products and materials which in return produces more waste. Second, the materialistic perception and constant attractive advertisements of luxurious life has augmented the demand for many products regardless to whether it is needed for survival. The demand on products makes the producers manufacture more of their products and the increasing rate of expending these products generates more waste. Furthermore, it is not only the utilization of these products that lead to waste generation, but the waste released during the production process, resource acquisition, and unwanted by-products are also leading components of waste in the UAE (Schneider, 2012). Overconsumption is considered a serious problem in UAE that unequivocally makes the production line and imports to intensify and consequently lead to excess generation of waste. Especially the electronic gadgets and quick shift to technology in UAE has lead to more e-waste which is one of the wastes hardest to dispose and get rid of. People in the UAE are discarding gadgets to have latest ones associated with luxurious lifestyle. Lastly, as per the interview with Mr.John Schneider, it appears that Abu Dhabi in particular has a high demolition and construction waste than any other. The reports tell that construction and demolition waste from Abu Dhabi city itself constitutes 85% in the whole Emirates and more than 50 percent in the total daily quantity of waste in the city (The Center of Waste Management – Abu Dhabi, 2011).
Effects Of Surplus Waste Generation
Waste is not just an unpleasant sight but has an awful smell, too; furthermore waste has an adverse effect on our resources if it is not properly dealt with. Not only this, but all kinds of waste can cause health issues in humans, animals, and plants (Ministry of the Environment, 2012). As aforementioned causes show how waste is adding on in our environment, it is important to note the effects it may have on an individual, society and the world if it is not aptly discarded (EDU Green, 2007).
3.1 Individual level:
The consequences of excess waste production can affect the human health in two ways: directly or indirectly (Ministry of the Environment, 2012). For instance, toxic gases from the dump areas are likely to pollute the air leading to respiratory issues in inhabitants. UAE has a harsh humid climate that is also favourable for pests, pathogens and, microbial infections. Indirect impacts can be seen when pollutants from wastes in soil decrease the efficiency of soil and influence the feature of crops (Ministry of the Environment, 2012). Moreover, according to what is stated in a news article published in ‘The National’, the hazardous waste incineration is endangering human health. The Northern Emirates have been a victim of waste dumping that is not properly managed and is leading to health issues among the residents (Hassan, 2010).
3.2 National level:
Excess waste generation day after day leads to additional landfills to be built (Solid waste impacts on human health, 2012). Eventually the city runs out of space to dump waste and exports to other cities (Disposal site , 2012). Dubai, for instance, is running out of space to build more landfills. Two of the already current landfills have been closed as they have exceeded the limit and the other one is expected to last for only seven years time (Al-Khan, 2012). Excess waste output also affects the economy nation-wide. For instance, it was projected in the Green Middle East website that the UAE economy faces a significant loss of about 1.5 billion AED annually as a result of improper recycling (Green Middle East, 2012).
3.3 Global Level
It must be comprehended that most waste dumped areas contribute significantly to the green house gases. Methane is one of the most released green house gas from waste sectors contributing to global warming (Waste and Climate Change, 2012). According to a report published by Environment Protection Agency about ‘Global Mitigation of Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases’, 12% of methane emissions world-wide are from the landfills of municipal solid waste. Furthermore, if nothing is done about it, the emissions will increase by 9% between the year 2005 and 2020 (Environment Protection Agency). Considering this, the UAE’s waste output, in relation to its size, is extensive. UAE contributes 22% of household waste to the 22.2 million tones of waste from GCC countries which makes it second highest in waste generation next to Saudia Arabia (Todorova, 2010).
Efforts Made By UAE Government
The UAE has developed extensively in the past decades; however, this development has not come without a price. According to Mr. John Schneider, to face this national crisis, the municipalities of the emirates have been struggling with drafting strategies and policies. Abu Dhabi’s Center of Waste Management (WMC) has been lucky in numerous ventures to manage excess waste output. The establishment which effectively has been in operation since 2009 has taken many positive steps such as renewing contracts to companies, taking over the waste management of all the companies in the Emirates as well as pest control (Schneider, 2012). Moreover, it follows standard operational procedures and technical guidelines for collecting and managing waste. WMC endorses and accepts waste energy henceforth; efforts to generate waste energy have been taken up. Also contracts with outsourced recycling facilities have been established to recycle items (Schneider, 2012).
UAE government initiated several public awareness campaigns to direct their citizens toward better waste management. One of the waste management campaigns highlighted by Mr. Schneider (2012) was the idea brought up by 11 year old Cameron Oliver who won the Abu Dhabi Award for Everyday Heroes. His idea urges UAE citizens towards a more responsible use of plastic to save desert animals generally and camels especially. Other campaigns were the product of collaboration between nongovernmental organizations and the UAE’s government, together they educated the public about the benefits of waste management and the three Rs “reduce, reuse, and recycle”. In addition, WMC provided various recycling waste pins at eyeshot around the country to facilitate the recycling assignment for the individual citizen (Schneider, 2012). Furthermore, stricter policies and proper implementation by employing inspectors and contract administrators on daily basis have allowed WMC to deal with illegal dumping of waste (Schneider, 2012).
In an attempt to create awareness and deal with extra waste output, the Government of Sharjah installed reverse vending machines that takes in plastic bottles and aluminum cans which can be recycled accompanied by recycling awards via loyalty cards or other prizes through online accounts (Sharjah to Launch UAE’s First Reverse Vending Machines, 2012)
Another initiative was taken up by the hotels in the UAE by practicing a new technique of waste management where different rooms and suites are given bins with different colors, each for a particular type of waste. The recyclable waste and non-recyclable waste are separated before they end up in the main garbage dump; consequentially, less waste ends up in the landfill thereby improving new green techniques for keeping the environment clean (Todorova, 2012).
The Emirate of Abu Dhabi has been looking forward to reduce waste that ends up in landfill. Landfills have been filling up at a very rapid pace which needs to be slowed down. For this reason, Abu Dhabi government has launched recyclable material programs (Schneider, 2012). In addition, numerous companies in UAE are required to register with the tariff regime of the Central Waste Management (Abu Dhabi To Divert 90% Of Waste From Landfills, 2011). Moreover, Abu Dhabi is imposing a fee for few industries that generate excess waste which is not properly managed. This would compel organizations to adopt recycling and reusing as one way of managing their waste (Abu Dhabi Imposes Waste Management Fees, 2012).
Understanding the drawbacks of dumping waste in landfill, Ajman has decided to take up on a new strategy. The emirate has planned to build an incineration facility to acquire energy from waste (Todorova, 2010).
Mr. Schneider also highlighted about the current recyclable facilities present in Abu Dhabi and Dubai that are active in collecting recyclable materials such as plastic, paper agricultural waste, textiles, demolition waste, and steel. In future, WMC aims to develop ways to recycle agricultural waste in order to use it as an animal feed for the livestock (Schneider, 2012).
It should be dually noted that waste cleanup is a lot more expensive than waste prevention. Following are some other methods that can be used to resolve this issue:
5.1 Individual Level
Every individual makes a difference. If every individual changes his habits and actions, collectively, they can bring a huge change in any sector of the society.
Citizens should refrain from littering around and throw the trash in proper trash cans.
They should prefer buying recyclable and biodegradable products and dispose of recyclable items in the proper recyclable bins.
Spread the word, inform, and educate others about this issue.
Re-use as much as possible, including bottles and plastic bags
5.2 National Level
Governments should do their level best to provide awareness campaigns and advertisements informing the public of the disastrous consequences of excess waste and garbage (Schneider, 2012).
Provide recycle bins all over the region
Place taxes and fines on companies that produce extra waste above acceptable rate (Schneider, 2012). In addition to enacting laws to stop public littering (Schneider, 2012).
Subsidize organic and biodegradable products.
Invest in research to study microbial action on breakdown of waste or using waste to release energy (Schneider, 2012).
Provide benefits, rewards, and privileges to those industries that best recycle their excess waste and/ or most efficiently convert the waste into energy.
5.3 Global Level:
Well developed countries could initiate projects where industries coming from poorly developed countries can market materials that are secondary at a price paid per tonne. A recycling business venture can not only add to the economic system boosting international relations but also improve the environment, on the whole (Bhada-Tata & Hoornweg, 2012).
Moreover, UAE can enter a legally binding protocol with the neighboring countries such as Bahrain, Iran, Qatar, etc to regulate what waste enters the Persian Gulf since it shares common borders.
Well developed countries can assist developing nations by financing proper management of waste.
E-waste that is exported to less developed nations should be minimized and proper ways of disposal need to be looked into when manufacturing the product in the first place.
Trading substances that are non-biodegradable and persistent in the environment should be stopped or the custom charges should be increased in order to discourage their supply and demand.
In summary, from the research conducted and insight of Mr. John Schneider, it is quite obvious that UAE is suffering from excess waste output. It also is highlighted that UAE generates tones of waste that is dumped in landfills, mostly. However, the leaders of the UAE are well acquainted with this devastating cycle of waste generation and have adopted ways to deal with it. Nevertheless, this mission of zero-waste output cannot be achieved nationally unless every citizen makes an effort. With collective decrease in consumption and methods of managing waste such as reusing and recycling, UAE can contribute globally to the world in minimizing hazards of waste output.
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