UAE building world’s largest waste-to-energy facility in Sharjah

By Arya M Nair, Intern Reporter
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Waste to Energy Plant
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The United Arab Emirates is building one of the world’s largest waste-to-energy plants, to deal with its expanding trash load after China stopped importing waste.

Dubai is constructing a $1.1 billion plant to burn trash and produce electricity. A smaller plant, the UAE’s first on a commercial scale will start operating this year in the emirate of Sharjah. Once two other projects in Abu Dhabi are finished, the country may incinerate almost two-thirds of the household waste it currently produces.

Since waste-to-energy generates pollution, it’s usually used to dispose of the final remnants of trash after all recyclable elements have been extracted. The projects may make it more difficult for the UAE to achieve its target of wiping out carbon emissions by 2050.

However, the Emirate has few options for preventing massive piles of plastic, paper, and organic trash from accumulating on the outskirts of its desert cities. It has a lot of garbage sorting facilities and some recycling facilities for building materials, tires, and electronics, but very few that can turn domestic waste into new products.

Recycling plants, on the other hand, require a significant amount of capital but don’t have the benefit of generating energy. It’s also becoming more difficult to export waste to other countries. Those that used to import waste, such as China, no longer want to do so, while others, such as Turkey, are under pressure from environmentalists.

The UAE’s decision to burn the majority of its waste is rare and that only about 11 percent of the world’s garbage gets burned. While supporters claim that the process keeps landfills piling up and generates energy, it also releases heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It also serves as a deterrent to recycling.

Sharjah will be able to plug its waste site once the plant is operational. Bee’ah, the company in charge of Sharjah’s waste management, has said that it plans to develop green spaces and a 120-megawatt solar power plant on top, as well as produce hydrogen from garbage to fuel its garbage trucks. Mr. Khaled Al Huraimel, CEO of Bee’ah, said he wants to see more waste-to-energy plants built in the region.

In April, French energy services company Schneider Electric announced that it will supply a range of electrical solutions for the first waste-to-energy facility being built in the UAE at Sharjah.

Earlier this year, a consortium including Dubai Holding, Itochu Corporation, Hitachi Zosen Inova, Besix Group and Tech Group were given the authority to develop energy-from-waste (EfW) facilities in Dubai.

Related: Talabat rolls out ‘Sustainable Packaging Program’ in UAE to reduce plastic waste

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