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Dubai: not enough glass to feed the furnace

Post Time:Apr 08,2009Classify:Industry NewsView:987

A belt no more than three feet wide conveys newly crushed bottles to an old metal barrel turned sideways, where water is sprayed to clean them before they are sent to a furnace.

The ad hoc machine, pieced together by workers at the Jebel Ali Glass Factory, plays an integral role in Dubai’s glass recycling. However, the lack of glass recycling programmes in the UAE means the company struggles to get enough reusable material to make the 70 to 80 thousand tonnes of glass each year, and has to rely on material shipped from other countries.

“The problem is there are no rules and regulations for this; they don’t force people now to segregate waste,” says Samir El Sayyed, the factory’s commercial manager.

“I did a presentation 10 years ago and found out about 150 million containers then in the Emirates every year go to the landfill,” El Sayyed says. Since then, the UAE’s population has increased an estimated six-fold and the country now has the highest ecological footprint per capita of any country in the world.

The glass industry here contributes to that footprint for several reasons: first, consumers throw away their glass waste rather than reusing it; second, the glass factory has to ship high silica sand from countries like Saudi Arabia, increasing mining, traffic and fuel consumption; and third, the furnace has to burn at higher temperatures with raw material inputs than it would with waste glass, using more energy to operate the plant.

“The silica content in the UAE sand is about 60 per cent. We require 99 per cent. Unfortunately, they’ve got so much sand, but not the right sand,” El Sayyed says.

Several years ago, El Sayyed began working with the Emirates Environmental Group to increase the amount of locally collected glass. The NGO helped distribute specially made bins to hotels and schools, and the glass factory now gets about 20 tonnes of recycled material from those facilities each month.

Even when combined with glass from industrial contributors, the factory — which pays US $90 per tonne of used material — sometimes struggles to maintain the minimum 15 per cent waste content necessary to run its furnace at the more economical lower temperatures.

The recycle bins next to bus stops dotting Dubai’s roads contain bins for paper, plastic and aluminum waste, but nothing for glass.

Dubai Municipality did not respond to repeated requests for comment on whether future waste management plans include provisions for glass recycling.

“If we recycle glass, we don’t have to take so much of these materials; we can keep it for future generations,” El Sayyed said.

Source: khaleejtimes.comAuthor: shangyi

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