Dubai's Averda mulls source-segregated recycling facilities for plastic construction waste

Dubai-based major Averda is planning to establish several recycling facilities in the region, including ones that will accept source-segregated plastics from the construction sector, the company’s Chief Sustainability Officer told Zawya Projects. 

“We are investing in recycling facilities to recover organics and plastics as these represent the biggest and most impactful components of waste,” said Samer Kamal.

The end-to-end waste management, treatment and recycling firm is conducting studies to gauge the pace of its fleet conversion to alternative energy sources.

Kamal disclosed that Averda is developing facilities to convert used cooking oil into biodiesel for use in trucks.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: What are your sustainability targets for 2022? 

A: Averda is on a sustainability journey, similar to many of our customers and partners. We are publishing our first sustainability report this year, which is the cornerstone of our sustainability programme because it provides us with a baseline against which to plan and measure progress. 

Some of our key targets include reductions in greenhouse gas emissions related to our waste collection vehicles, gender balance in key roles, more engagement with the communities in which we operate and supporting our frontline workers.

Q: What sustainability policies are you looking to introduce since Averda is present in many countries? 

A: Some of our key policy projects include addressing affected communities, greenhouse gas mitigation, environmental performance, and the like. We have implemented an environmental and social management system to provide us with up-to-the-minute information about our impacts. We are rolling these policies out across all of our markets simultaneously because we believe in operating at the same standards in all markets. This forces us to operate to the highest standard on each issue in all markets – a threshold we welcome. The implementation of our policies is an opportunity for us to further engage our stakeholders and invest in the environment.

Q: In February 2022, Dubai increased landfill costs for non-recyclable waste. How do you view such steps?

A: The landfill fees in Dubai and other such producer-pays programmes are essential to driving sustainability and circularity. They create the economic environment imperative to help waste producers accelerate their reduction of waste to landfill. These fees also help waste companies such as Averda to invest in more impactful waste management systems, in addition to being essential to a greener future.

Q: Abu Dhabi and Dubai have banned the use of single-use plastics. As a leading waste management services provider, how will this move help the UAE?

 A: These single-use plastic bans are very exciting. Making people think about how they carry their shopping also makes them conscious about how much they are buying. Also, plastic bags are a major challenge to nature in the region because of their propensity to fly away and litter the wild, where animals can eat them. In fact, nearly half of all camels in the wild die from eating plastic bags in the UAE.  

As a waste services company, we are dedicated to reaching a stage where the world has zero waste. We will continue to align with governments, companies and communities to eliminate waste rather than manage it.

Q: Do you see similar measures in other GCC countries?  

A: Landfill fees, single-use plastic bans, extended producer responsibility regulations, etc., are all very important elements of a regulatory framework for improved environmental performance. These regulations also signal stakeholders that our leadership is committed to solving the climate crisis. Economically, environmentally-first regulations increase the perceived risk associated with companies focused on producing single-use plastics. Thus, it would be surprising to see major regional investments in businesses focused on single-use plastics or disposable products. The knock-on environmental effects of this type of regulation could therefore be very positive.

Q: Does such a ban impact Averda’s plastic recycling business?

A: Most single-use plastic products covered by the recent regulations are extremely difficult to recycle either due to their small size, their chemical characteristics, or the amount of contamination they are prone to attract in the waste stream. We believe this ban will help rather than hurt our recycling efforts by removing hard-to-recycle products from the waste stream.

Q: What solutions do you offer in terms of recycling construction waste?  

A: Averda provides number of construction waste recycling services, including planning, collection and processing of recyclables and the operation of construction waste recycling facilities. We are planning on establishing several recycling facilities in the region, including plastics recycling facilities that will accept source-segregated plastics from the construction sector.

Q: Averda has an estimated 3,600 trucks and vehicles. What measures are you taking to lower your carbon footprint? 

 A: Having established a scientific accounting of our fleet’s carbon emissions, Averda has implemented several measures to drive down CO2 emissions. These include improved routing and driving training to regulate rapid acceleration, deceleration and reduce idling. We have further invested in maintenance that ensures more efficient truck performance. Our vehicle and fuel selection are done with efficiency in mind as we continue to seek methods of further reducing carbon emissions from our vehicles.

We have recently committed to the purchase of electric vehicles for one of our projects in Saudi Arabia. We are also conducting studies to understand the pace at which we can convert the fleet to alternative energy sources.

Q: What do you propose to accomplish your vision of offering ‘holistic circular recovery options’ in all markets?

A: Delivering circular services is at the core of Averda’s strategy. To accomplish this, we are focusing on key factors along the waste value chain. First is data, because without clear data about waste generation, customers cannot make the necessary changes to reduce the amount of waste they produce, and we cannot plan the right recovery mechanism.

Next comes waste capture, where we must make sure that we secure the discarded materials as early and as homogeneously as possible, as it increases the recovery rate of those materials. Sorting infrastructure such as material recovery facilities is essential to further categorise waste and make it useable downstream. 

We are investing in recycling facilities to recover organics and plastics as these represent the biggest and most impactful components of waste. We are also developing facilities to convert used cooking oil into biodiesel that can operate trucks just like ours.

At Averda, we believe that we must support our stakeholders through all the various stages of the waste lifecycle to realise our goal of a world without waste.

(Reporting by D Madhura; Editing by Anoop Menon)

(anoop.menon@lseg.com)

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