UAE is building a $1.1 billion facility to incinerate mountains of waste

A smaller factory - the first of its kind in the UAE on a commercial scale - is starting up in the Emirate of Sharjah this year.

Abu Dhabi: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is building one of the largest waste-to-energy plants in the world to deal with the increasing amount of waste.

UAE is building a $1.1 billion facility to burn power generation waste. A smaller factory – the first of its kind in the UAE on a commercial scale – is starting up in the Emirate of Sharjah this year.

Once two other projects in Abu Dhabi are completed, the country could burn nearly two-thirds of the household waste it currently produces.

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Converting waste to energy results in emissions, so it is usually considered appropriate to dispose of the last waste container only after all recyclable materials have been extracted. The projects may make it difficult for the UAE to eliminate carbon emissions, something considered a target by 2050.

But the Gulf state has few options to prevent the huge piles of plastic, paper and organic waste on the outskirts of its desert cities from rising.

It has many waste sorting facilities, some for recycling building materials, tires and electronics, but a few that can convert household waste into new products.

The UAE’s decision to incinerate most of its waste is unusual – only about 11 per cent of the world’s waste is incinerated. While proponents argue that the process prevents landfills from accumulating and generating energy, it releases heat-trapped greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It also acts as a deterrent to recycling.

Bee’ah — the company managing Sharjah’s waste, chief executive Khaled Al Huraimel said he wants to build more waste-to-energy facilities in the region, including in neighboring Saudi Arabia.

“They’re starting from scratch, but we started from scratch too,” he told Bloomberg.

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