Recycling may be the last thing on people’s minds during Ramadan. But, as the waste people create increases during the festivities, it is all the more important to make an effort, experts have said.
On average, the amount of waste produced per household rises from 10 to 17 per cent during the festivities. A lot of that is leftover food scraps but packaging – cardboard, plastic bottles as well as aluminium cans – increases too.

“People are changing, but at the same time waste management needs to be regulated and enforced,” said Glenn Platt, environmental manager at KEO Infrastructure in Dubai.

Instead of taking up space in the country’s overflowing landfills, packaging can be recycled and the opportunities to do so are slowly increasing. Restaurants and companies that handle large volumes can make a significant difference.

“We know it [waste] is a big problem during Ramadan and it will be nice to see commercial properties taking some responsibility for that,” said Mr Platt.

By segregating waste into different types of recyclable materials, restaurants and large establishments such as malls are not only acting responsibly but also reducing their collection fees. “We are not just talking about the environment, it is better for them in the business sense,” added Mr Platt.

In Dubai, shopping malls are already required to segregate their waste. The new rules have been in place since March this year.

“What Dubai is doing is a very positive step. You can start to see the infrastructure in the malls,” said Mr Platt, referring to separate bins for different types of waste.

“Whether or not that is actually being enforced and monitored, that is the question.”

The next step would be to audit malls and ensure that the segregated waste really is recycled. More oversight is also needed in Abu Dhabi, where businesses have been paying a waste fee since March 2011. The measure was intended, among other goals, to encourage recycling and divert 90 per cent of waste from landfills.

Households can also make a difference, said Mr Platt.

“Although we do not have house-to-house collection in Dubai like in some other parts of the world, there is an opportunity to recycle. People need to make some effort.”

In Abu Dhabi, door-to-door collection of recyclable materials is available in a few parts of the city such as Al Bateen, some parts of Khalidya, Khalifa City A and Al Raha Beach.

“Try to segregate anything recyclable and put it in the green bin, if you have one,” said a spokesperson for The Centre of Waste Management Abu Dhabi.

Many gated communities have recycling centres. One company that runs such centres in Dubai is Union Paper Mills, which has more than 30 locations in areas such as Festival City, Silicon Oasis and The Greens.

The company processes 550 tonnes of paper and cardboard a day and passes on other materials, such as plastic and metal, to other companies for processing.

“We can always accept paper and cardboard in our facility or we can organise collection if the quantity is large enough,” said Huzaifa Rangwala, manager of marketing and contracts.

Owners’ associations in neighbourhoods with free-hold properties can start their own recycling.

“They can get in touch with the companies managing their facilities,” said Mr Rangwala. “They are entitled to know where their waste goes.”