Industry experts share insights at northern ireland waste management seminar

Several waste recycling industry experts from the region and the UK shared theirviews and experiences at the Northern Ireland Waste Management Seminar organised by Invest Northern Ireland at the World Trade Club, Dubai World Trade Centre, on 18 April 2018. Swaliha Shanavas reports.

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June 24 2018
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Invest Northern Ireland organised a breakfast seminar that focused on three key themes including waste recycling, construction anddemolition (C&D) waste and wasteto-energy. The event brought together leading international experts and local industry professionals to provide practical insights into the significantdevelopments in the sector. The event comprised two panel sessions that were moderated by Abhimaan Desai, Sr. Business Development Manager, Invest Northern Ireland. “

The purpose of this seminar is to discuss the issues and challenges in waste recycling in the region, and how we can jointly find some solutions to accomplish the major sustainability goals,” said Desai. In her opening speech, Swathi Sri, Head of Territory, Invest Northern Ireland Dubai, gave an overview of Northern Ireland and its materials handling sector, and the role of Invest Northern Ireland in developing the local economy. “The agency does this by helping specialist companies from Northern Ireland compete globally and by attracting new investment to the nation,” she said.

Panel 1: Waste recycling, public awareness and participation

In this session, experts from the UAE and UK discussed the challenges and  current practices in waste recycling. Belfast has been developing rapidly, and over the past 20 years they have improved recycling rates from one percent at the start to 45% expected by end 2018, said Dr. Tim Walker, Head of Waste Management, Belfast City Council. They started with some government legislation, but what really kick-started the change in waste collection and disposal, and helped in the development of the UK recycling industry, was the introduction of things like landfill tax, he stated. They collaborated with other councils to come up with strategies that would help meet the European, UK and Northern Ireland legislations and make it happen. Belfast also had a plan to suit local targets of waste diversion by 2015. All those plans have helped shape and inform their direction of travel in the last 10-12 years, said Dr. Walker.

“It has now been replacedby our waste framework, where weare no longer talking about resources, but about creating and developing employment around the development of a circular economy,” he remarked. Monir Salem Bou Ghanem, Director, Environment Policy & Planning, Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD), saidin recent years, they have developed along with Tadweer - The Centre of Waste Management and other entities concerned, thewaste strategy for Abu Dhabi. There were some grey areas in wastetariffs and they were addressing the regulatory gaps so there would be an improvement in diversion targets,infrastructure and related aspects, he commented.

Other issues he highlighted were the lack of proper data in the region; the need for a holistic approach; cultural diversity; and the challenge of wastesegregation in the residential sector. Ghanem expressed his reservations about educational programmes in schools on waste segregation. He said, it is easy to deliver the message, “but if the environmental education approach is not linked to a robust system outside the school with proper infrastructure, it may not serve the purpose.”

Keith Patterson, Recycling & Collections Manager at Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), elaborated on their efforts to reduce food waste in the UK. He highlighted their capabilities in gathering data and developing necessary tools to support their partn ers locally or globally. Once the food waste collection scheme is in place, WRAP provides necessary information and instructions to help households to actively participate in the programme. Their approach to food waste prevention within businesses is different and they have been running a successful programme in Northern Ireland using WRAP’s materials, said Patterson, adding that the same principles that work in Northern Ireland can be applied anywhere in the world.

Panel 2: C&D Waste, Medical Waste and Waste-to-Energy 


In the second session, a panel of experts addressed critical issues related to C&D waste, medical waste, waste-toenergy, and financing green projects. The UAE is developing rapidly with a lot of construction projects underway, and C&D waste is a huge segment in terms of volumes being generated. “Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) generates 600 tons of MSW and 2000 tons of C&D waste. We recently tendered for the C&D recycling project,” said Sonia Nasser, Executive Director, Ras Al Khaimah Waste Management Agency.  

Following consultations and visits to the C&D plants in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, they were working with the municipality to develop a suitable regulatory framework, Nasser noted. One of the rules being drafted requires companies to source separate the material at the construction site, and the C&D plant would charge a certain fee for comingled waste. The Agency also intends to educate the contractors and provide necessary certifications, she said. Mohammed Sulaiman Al-Harthy,Executive Vice President - Strategic Development, Be’ah Oman, said the generation of C&D waste was quite high in Oman with the material ranging from 3-5 million tons per annum.

“Our strategy is to outsource all of our operations and we have already awarded seven of the 11 governorates to specialised companies,” he remarked. Outlining the challenges, he said they were working with the ministry of transport to introduce the use of recycled materials in road construction. They treat almost 98% of the healthcare waste generated in Oman, said Al Harthy. Be’ah took over the existing healthcare waste treatment facility in 2011, and later built two other facilities, but moved to autoclave.

To treat the medical waste that cannot be autoclaved, they are including special feeding systems in the new integrated hazardous waste facility presently being built in Sohar Free Zone, he elaborated. Hannah Greenwood, Export Finance Executive, UK Export Finance, explained the role of UK Export Finance in funding major green projects, and the benefits to potential buyers and the UK supply chain. They can offer long term financing, especially with regard to projects such as Waste-to-Energy.

In this region, one would typically be looking at a 7-year post-completion term on commercial loans. “We can extend that to 18 years post-construction in case of renewable energy,” she stated. The agency can work closely with governments and “can provide a guarantee to a bank of up to 85% of the contract value. That guarantee will also allow the companies to spread the tenure to 18 years post-completion,” she underlined. The agency offers this financing primarily to encourage UK exports and as per the requirements, 20% of the contract value being financed has to be UK goods and services, said Greenwood.

Going by the panel discussions, one can recognise the need for requisite infrastructure and modern waste recycling technologies to meet the government’s 2021 target of 75% waste diversion. Northern Ireland companies are well positioned to offer innovative, cost-effective environmental solutions to help achieve the best possible results. Many of these companies are already active in this region with local partners and would welcome an opportunity to quote for further business

For enquiries contact: Abhimaan Desai Sr. Business Development Manager Invest Northern Ireland


P: +971 43914703

Twitter: @Abhi_InvestNI; @InvestNI_IMEA