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Farz: Contributing to the Sustainability Goals of Dubai

Jamal Abdulla Lootah, Group CEO of Imdaad, speaks to R. Keerthana in an interview on Farz, Imdaad’s material recovery facility in Dubai. He talks about his vision for Farz and Imdaad’s commitment towards UAE Vision 2030, which has the environment at the heart of it.

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Sustainable Initiatives
October 18 2022 R. Keerthana
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When Imdaad launched its Material Recovery Facility, Farz, in February 2020, it set itself an ambitious target – to divert 75 per cent of municipal solid waste away from landfills towards reusing and recycling. This was in line with the goals of the National Agenda of the UAE Vision 2021. In a rapidly developing city that is Dubai, this target meant employing cutting-edge technology and advanced resources to sort, segregate and reclaim recyclable valuables from tonnes of mixed waste that Imdaad collects everyday from different parts of the Emirate. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic that hit the world soon after, Imdaad’s Farz stayed the course and achieved a remarkable recovery rate during this time.

Situated in the National Industries Park in Jebel Ali, Farz spans an area of 45,322 sq m and processes municipal as well as commercial and industrial waste. Imdaad, the Dubai-based group of companies, has a broad spectrum of services delivered through its various divisions ranging from integrated, sustainable facilities management services, environmental solutions to waste management. “Imdaad had a larger impetus, an aspiration to contribute more to the sustainability goals of the UAE government,” says Jamal Abdulla Lootah, the Group CEO of Imdaad, recollecting the time when the decision to open an MRF in Dubai was made. “We had been transporting waste from different parts of Dubai and we saw firsthand how tonnes and tonnes of waste was ending up in the landfills buried or incinerated. I have always believed that waste is gold. We have to recover the valuables from waste, recycle and put them to best use. That’s what we do in Farz.” (Farz is a Persian word meaning ‘duty’). “We segregate all types of waste and recover paper, plastic, rubber, metal, wood etc to get the best of them.” The MRF also helps Imdaad to reduce emissions caused by trucks that collect and carry waste to landfill, he points out. Imdaad’s fleet of more than 100 vehicles collected waste from new Dubai premises and travelled to the landfill located at the DubaiSharjah border for disposal. With Farz, all these vehicles are removed from Dubai’s roads and highways, leading to a significant reduction in emissions and traffic.

Farz was developed after carrying out several waste characterisation studies. “Imdaad’s team visited various cities and countries across the globe to understand the strategies and technologies used there to manage waste. We drew lessons from the U.S., many European countries, South Korea and China. We wanted to utilise the best technology that is available and the ones that are most suitable to the demands of Dubai.”

Farz has two separate lines, one to deal with household waste and the other focusing on commercial and industrial waste. The plant uses an automated system to maximise the range of materials that it is able to efficiently recover. The MRF segregates and reclaims materials such as ferrous and non-ferrous metals, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and high-density polyethylene (HDPE), PE bags, old corrugated cardboard (OCC), and wood, from the C&I and source-segregated mixed waste. With a daily capacity of 1200 tonnes, the MRF is currently processing 800 to 900 tonnes of general waste, of which an estimated 60 per cent can be recycled and thus diverted from the landfill. The facility achieves a recovery rate of 15 per cent.

“I don’t want to go by the numbers but we are in the right direction. Don’t forget that the world has just got out of the clutches of the Covid-19 crisis. Having invested in the right technology and people, I am sure we are improving everyday,” Lootah says.

Farz uses a suspension magnetic separator to sift the mixed waste into ferrous and non-ferrous materials. While the ferrous waste is fed to vibratory feeders, non-ferrous waste passes through another stage of separation using eddy current. Near Infrared machines are used to capture and separate various types of plastic. Ballistic separator further segregates plastic into 2D ( films) and 3D (bottles) material. Farz also employs technologies that can identify those materials that have the highest percentage mapped and processed to recover. It maintains a quality-check to scrutinise the materials recovered. Automation of the segregation processes at Farz has limited human intervention to the quality control part.

“The purpose of an MRF is to reduce waste going to the landfills. We have to progress from burying to utilising waste as a resource and eventually eliminate the need for landfills,” says Lootah. Farz focuses on maximising the quantity of recyclables processed, while producing materials that generate the highest possible revenues in the market. It also works towards enabling the processing of waste into a feedstock for biological conversion or into fuel to produce energy. Talking about the key issues that need to be addressed to improve recycling rate in the UAE, Lootah points out that effective source segregation is the need of the hour. Installation of separation bins and education of the public on the various methods of segregation, waste management and reuse and recycling possibilities will go a long way in contributing to the waste minimisation efforts of the UAE, he adds.

Waste that cannot be composted or recycled can still have value. Farz is equipped to process residual waste into forms of fuel suitable for use in industrial and manufacturing processes. It produces refused-derived fuels (RDFs) from the waste left over after the sorting of recyclable items from municipal and general waste. The MRF facility currently has a production capacity of 93,600 tonnes of RDF fuel every year.

“As a next step, Imdaad plans to venture into other treatment methods such as composting and plastic-to-oil conversion projects,” reveals Lootah, adding that Imdaad is in talks with its partners and investors to launch the alternative fuel project. “We want to be sure our projects are environmentally-friendly and use the best solution available in the world.”

“Fifteen years ago, all the materials used to go to the landfills. Today, we are witnessing new solutions and innovations taking the market by storm. It is also promising to see many recycling companies embracing new technologies to make a difference in the market.”

With more focus on reusing and reintegrating materials from waste into the economy, there has been a higher demand for material recovery efforts. “A circular model reduces material use, redesigns materials, products and services to be less resource-intensive, and recaptures waste as a resource to manufacture new materials and products. We want to facilitate the growing need for material recovery efforts in order to achieve circularity,” Lootah says. The GCEO suggests that all companies dealing with waste have a long-term vision. “They should keep the future in mind. They have to have their own segregation plants. When the UAE government targets to achieve a sustainable future, it is the companies like ours that have to contribute to realise that dream. Imdaad has been constantly working towards it.”

Lootah recognises the advantages of Dubai as a home for diverse talents and culture. “We are lucky to have a mix of multiple nationalities in Dubai. They come up with innovative ideas drawing inspiration from their homelands. We have experts and resources within our country and we can learn from each other to implement suitable solutions for achieving circularity.”

“Farz is the future. It shows the people and the communities that many things are possible with waste. Segregate.. recycle.. and divert it into energy. Sell it and use it again. Dubai has undergone massive infrastructural development. To cater to the growing needs of the Emirate, everyone and every company should contribute to the sustainability initiatives of the UAE. I am thankful to the government for its guidance, its strategies and initiatives towards Vision 2030, which gives importance to the environment.”