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Recycling in the UAE (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah)

There is so much misinformation on recycling in the UAE and globally so I am going to share some words of caution:

1 - Recycling is not magic. There is energy expended in the recycling process and the processing of waste can be done in conditions which are not environmentally-friendly nor socially responsible.

2 - Throwing anything in a "recycling bin" does not guarantee that it will get recycled. A "recycling" label does not guarantee that the labelled item will be recycled. "Recycling bins" are only sorting stations and many of them are not properly labelled nor used.

3 - All plastic bags given out in the UAE are by law required to have an additive which makes them "oxo-biodegradable" and this makes them break easily and not able to withstand any recycling. "Oxo-biodegradable" bags will break down into micro-plastics which can contaminate our ecosystem, air, water and food. How environmentally or eco friendly can this be?

4 - If paper is contaminated with any food or grease it will be of less value in the recycling market.

5 - Many "paper" brochures and "paper" cups are lined in plastic (not wax) to make them waterproof or to provide a base for printing and therefore will not be easily processed for recycling. Tetra Pak is not "carton" and requires processing by special facilities; it needs to be shipped out of the UAE to be recycled.

6 - Single-use food and beverage containers with a "plant-based" lining are usually shipped into the UAE and there are emissions and a sizable carbon footprint associated with international shipping.

7 - Many plant-based products which claim to be 100% biodegradable and compostable will require industrial composting NOT home composting and will end up in landfill in the UAE.

8 - Any trash which makes it to a waste sorting facility will be checked for "recyclables" that are of value, that is, which can be sold for profit rather than landfilled.

9 - The value of "recyclables" depends on the price of the commodity, and the "recyclables" will most likely be landfilled if it is cheaper for the waste management company to dispose of the items in landfill rather than bale and store them for resale. This applies to every "recyclable" item, including household batteries. PET, HDPE bottles and aluminum cans are items which are usually manually or mechanically collected from General Waste at the waste collection site and eventually washed by the recycling facility.

10 - There is no facility which recycles household batteries in the UAE.

11 - There are carbon emissions associated with any environmental initiative or for-profit business which charges you to collect "recyclables" that can be alternatively picked up by your community's waste management company. A free door-to-door collection service is not energy efficient either.

To conclude, it is important for us to acknowledge that many developed countries have been shipping their "recyclables" to developing or underdeveloped countries for processing. Shipping "ecobricks" made from non-recyclable packaging and wrappers to underdeveloped countries is not ethical.


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