The events of 2020 have challenged both communities and businesses in ways that one could never have imagined. The covid-19 pandemic has affected countries worldwide and many countries are still working to control the spread of the coronavirus, as critical sectors like waste management continue to work round the clock to ensure a healthy and safe environment for all.
Although at the beginning the industry was in uncharted waters as this pandemic brought in various operational challenges to solid waste management in terms of procedures and best practices, many of these waste management companies have stood up to the test, quickly transforming themselves and raising their standards like never before. They planned their covid response, putting in place business continuity plans, adopting key strategies and introducing significant campaigns and enhanced techniques as part of their efforts to combat covid-19.
In this edition, we feature some of the waste management companies that have not allowed the effect of the coronavirus to dampen their spirits and have been continuing to operate sustainably offering innovative solutions in challenging times to make a positive impact on the industry and communities they serve. Read on to know more about these resilient companies...
Mazen Chabaklo, Chief Growth Officer at Averda highlights the company’s strategy to deal with the challenges faced during the pandemic, and the key initiatives that have helped them stay at the forefront of the industry.
2020 has been a year of transformation for Averda in a period that brought challenges which none of us could ever have imagined as Covid-19 swept the globe and put cities and countries on lockdown. Averda is the leading waste management company across the Middle East, Africa and Asia operating in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Morocco, Congo, South Africa and most recently India.
During the pandemic, our work became more important than ever as it was vital to keep cities and communities as clean as possible in order to slow the spread of infection. Our first priority was to keep our people safe, which we did, by augmenting personal protective equipment for all frontline workers, whilst office-based staff were successfully transitioned to working mostly from home. We are proud to say that our cleaning, collection, disposal and recycling services continued uninterrupted, despite challenges with lockdowns.
Averda also played a vital part in the fightback against Covid. In the UAE, we were contracted to provide specialised medical waste collection services from a number of hotels serving as quarantine facilities. Handling medical waste is a high-risk procedure that required a specific license from the authorities in each country. Hazardous waste was collected by specially trained Averda staff and was then transported by an appropriate collection vehicle to an appropriate medical waste treatment facility.
Ensuring there was sufficient treatment capacity for medical waste was another challenge which needed to be overcome. Thermal treatment at high temperature is agreed to be the most appropriate method of disposing high-risk hazardous healthcare waste. However, when the pandemic hit, UAE’s capacity for dealing with medical waste in this way needed to be urgently expanded. Fast and decisive action was required, so at the request of the authorities, Averda arranged for the delivery of four mobile thermal treatment units which were flown in, installed and made operational within record time.
Working around the clock, teams at Averda’s sites were able to install the incinerators at key locations across the UAE in a matter of days. The challenge was magnified by the travel restrictions in place at the time, which meant that all technical guidance and training had to take place via videolinks and prerecorded means. Since then, over a million kilogrammes of waste has been treated in these units, where the waste from hospitals, isolation units and clinics have been exposed to temperatures of up to 800 degrees Celsius, rendering it completely safe and virus-free. We are incredibly proud of the role we played here.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, we entered into a strategic partnership with Africa’s largest disaster response NGO, Gift of the Givers, to provide much needed medical waste management services to its mobile testing stations across the country free of charge for the duration of the lockdown period. In doing so, we were providing much crucial support to healthcare facilities that were already stretched to capacity. The large quantity of infected medical waste generated by testing for this highly contagious virus means that efficient waste management of high-risk healthcare isolation waste and disposal is critical. On a pro bono basis, Averda has been managing the disposal of contaminated waste from these mobile Covid-19 testing stations which have been established by the Gift of the Givers in key locations across the country.
Technology formed the backbone of our success amidst this pandemic. Averda’s consistent investment in business digitalisation over the last decade truly proved both its worth and necessity when the pandemic hit. Digitalization allowed for our people to interact while working from home without putting their health at risk, it allowed for tracking every single waste collection in real-time, it allowed us to have complete visibility on waste movement ensuring that all waste collected was disposed/treated responsibly and at approved sites, and last but not least, it allowed us to interact with our customers, capturing their needs and addressing their complaints without the requirement of a physical interaction.
2020 with all its challenges forced us to rethink the way we do business. With the level of agility, flexibility, innovativeness, and digital capability we achieved in 2020, we are more than ready for 2021 as we set foot into it with confidence to continue our growth journey in our existing markets and further expansion within Asia. We are immensely grateful for the courage and determination of all Averdians as they continue to carry out important frontline work keeping communities clean, safely disposing of and recycling waste to help make the world a better place. I thank them unreservedly.
With 2020 and Covid-19 presenting unprecedented global challenges, companies like Bee’ah, the Middle East’s sustainability pioneer, rose to the occasion this year. At the very start of the crisis, the company took part in the nightly National Disinfection Programme, a government-led initiative to curb the spread of Covid-19 by sanitising public areas.
Bee’ah deployed over 100 operational vehicles and thousands of manhours to thoroughly disinfect buildings, community spaces, bus stops, public benches, roads and more. This was in addition to ensuring that city cleaning and waste collection services continued without interruption, while also increasing the frequency of disinfecting bins, and their vehicles. Bee’ah also launched a specialist disinfection service for other companies and government entities to safeguard their workplaces and new disinfection pods, a unique solution that can be utilised at the entrance of facilities, complexes, buildings or high-risk areas.
“Throughout our operations, the safety of our workers was and is our top priority, as they are the ones on the frontlines. We conducted weekly disinfection and sanitisation of our head office, facilities and workers’ living quarters, and ensured the steady supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for our workers,” said Rafael Sanjurjo Lopez – CEO of Tandeef at Bee’ah.
Technology key to success
New technologies have been key to the company’s success. Bee’ah utilises WastePro+, a sophisticated AI-powered platform which tracks and monitors waste throughout its cycle, from collection to treatment or disposal. Digitising the waste management process has helped Bee’ah increase operational efficiency, security and optimise its resources, said the company. Similarly, the entity used an integrated dashboard at its Waste Management Complex that allows users to have a complete view of operations enabling seamless flows of information.
Bee’ah also utilised new equipment such as high-pressure spray cannons that had a throw of 30-50 metres and could rotate 320 degrees as well as fogging machines to help disinfect public areas. Elaborating on the new disinfection pods, Rafael commented, “Our disinfection pods for organisations to safeguard their workforce were very important for locations where frontline workers need to be present onsite. The pods work by spraying a fine mist of diluted disinfectant on the person, acting as a full-body sanitiser. This treatment can eradicate viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms on a person or on their clothing in under 20 seconds.”
Major highlight of 2020
Beyond efforts against Covid, this year, a key highlight has been Bee’ah’s international expansion into Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Rafael explained the scope of the projects saying, “We have been tasked to replicate our successes in the UAE and achieve an 80 percent diversion rate in Egypt’s new Administrative Capital, one of the largest urban development projects in the world which will house an expected 6.5 million people. Bee’ah’ will commence operations starting March 2021, which include waste collection and city cleaning, medical waste management, waste treatment and disposal, and community awareness and engagement to drive lasting behavioural change.”
Additional activities include launching a medical waste treatment and refuse-derived fuel facility. In Madinah City, KSA, the entity won three municipal waste management contracts, covering 70 percent of the city and serving a population of 1.2 million people through solid waste collection and transport services, disinfection and sanitisation of waste bins, training sessions, workshops, and awareness campaigns. Bee’ah has since deployed around 3,000 workers, along with 350 pieces of heavy equipment and vehicles to serve the city.
Speaking about the following year, Rafael said, “As we look to 2021, we remain committed to our strategy that combines sustainability and digitalisation as the twin pillars to pioneer a more sustainable quality of life. We will continue to focus on strengthening our expansion into the MENA region next year and deliver service excellence in Egypt and KSA. We will also be exploring new opportunities with both private and public entities in these new markets.”
Bee’ah will also be launching Sharjah Waste to Energy facility, the region’s first such plant. Once operational, the facility will establish Sharjah as the Middle East’s first zero-waste-to-landfill city. Another special milestone to look forward to in 2021 is the company’s highly anticipated new headquarters. Rafael mentions that the headquarters is set to be one of the world’s greenest and smartest buildings, expressing the team’s anticipation of the launch. “It is with great excitement that we look forward to officially unveiling this building of the future and continuing our commitment to the sustainability in the region,” he noted.
Dulsco’s Environmental Solutions provide commercial and residential waste management systems to large communities and neighbourhoods, and cover hazardous waste, medical waste, construction and demolition waste, recycling, and material recovery.
During the Covid-19 outbreak the company immediately formed a taskforce led by the CEO to deal with potential emergencies to mitigate risks and ensure business continuity and performance. The taskforce proactively adapted to the constant changes and updates of the pandemic and came up with a sustainable solution to both business and communities.
“As a leader in the environmental space, responsible for powering better and safer communities we redesigned our vehicles to serve as mass sprayers and put them to the use of Dubai municipality to sanitise public areas in Dubai,” said John Grainger, COO of Environmental Solutions at Dulsco. “Meanwhile we have leveraged our Medical waste assets including our expertise, equipped vehicles, and specialty trained workforce to collect biohazardous waste from quarantine facilities and ensure a safe disposal of their waste in these communities.”
The company has also stressed on the importance of technology for business continuity and increased efficiency. From video conferencing tools, to the internal platform “Sharepoint” these digital platforms provided connectivity and accessibility to the company’s files and approvals enabling faster and more efficient process for internal and external transactions and communications. Above all technology helped them maintain the same high level of employee welfare as they broadcasted Dulsco Weekly Wellbeing Programme to connect with employees and oversee their mental and physical wellbeing, said Grainger.
As a result of the collective team effort and their proactive response to the crisis, he said the company was able to resourcefully grow its business by developing several in-house solutions for disinfection of the community to prevent and arrest the progress of Covid-19. This included:
Mass sprayer: Developed by the Environmental Solutions team, the Mass Sprayer System consists of a mobile tank fitted with a mist generator and remote controlled fog cannon capable of dispersing disinfectant over wide areas safely and efficiently.
Portable pumper system: Addressing the need for sanitisation of smaller or closed areas, Dulsco has equipped its teams with Portable Pumper Systems, highly effective for the decontamination of waste collection bins, vehicles and equipment.
Sanitisation Tunnel: Built by their engineering team, the Sanitising Tunnel allows commercial and publicly accessible buildings such as office buildings, medical facilities, quarantine zones, malls and markets to have a safe point of entry.
Grainger said they also identified and procured one of the most relevant disinfectant to be sprayed through this system from USA which is CBC and USEPA approved for the specific application for Covid-19. “The turbulent times that everyone has witnessed this year didn’t stop Dulsco from pursuing their goals in driving circular economy, which in itself carries the balance between economy and environment,” said Grainger.
He also highlighted the key project of the year. “As an Environmental Solutions leader Dulsco’s regenerative approach aims at transforming waste into a resource which creates value to both business and environment. A perfect example of that is our state of the art MRF or the dry mixed Recycling Material Recovery Facility which is a first of its kind MRF in the UAE with a processing capacity of 240 tons per day. We were able to complete and start operations in 2020 and now it is set to be launched in January 2021,” the COO noted.
“Year 2021 is going to be monumental for Dulsco!” commented Grainger, adding that the first and foremost priority of their business focus as the official waste management partner of Expo 2020 is “a flawless delivery of the event with an outstanding level of service.” He added that their strategic priorities for the coming year revolve around recycling and circular economy. The year will see the launch of four major landmark facilities that are going to position Dulsco at the forefront of the circular economy in the UAE – Recycling Material Recovery Facility(MRF); Oil Re-refinery facility; Paper pulp facility; and Recycled furniture product line.
“The unprecedented challenges throughout the year have revealed so much about customer priorities and business resilience. Today, as we navigated this ship to safety and stability, we can walk into 2021 more determined and confident in our ability to drive a sustainable future for our country,” he concluded.
Imdaad has been at the forefront of the development of the regional facilities management industry. During the pandemic, the company adopted a proactive approach to ensure that their operations were not disrupted, at the same time taking care of the new requirements that originated as a result of the pandemic. Right from the outset, Imdaad ensured business continuity by implementing various measures to safeguard the health and safety of their employees through measures like providing safe and hygienic accommodation for their frontline workers, said Mahmood Rasheed, Chief Operating Officer at Imdaad.
“Our comprehensive response plan not only reflected our commitment to ensure the highest standards of service to our customers but also strengthened our preparedness to respond to the rapidly evolving situation on the ground. To support our clients during this difficult time, we provided them the convenience of flexible payment options while continuing to serve them as per the contract terms,” he noted.
Imdaad has demonstrated high levels of responsibility and innovation during the pandemic period, meeting their client’s needs and setting new standards for the regional FM industry, he added. “The broad spectrum of services delivered through our nine business divisions ranging from hard and soft FM services and environmental solutions to waste management, fire prevention, and home maintenance have played an important part in national efforts to mitigate the impact of the virus outbreak.”
Technology helped improve efficiencies
The pandemic period is characterized by an increased reliance on technology to improve efficiencies and ensure continuity of services. The FM industry has been using Big Data, IoT, and AI in its operations for quite some time now. However, in the new scenario, the industry has been using technology to ensure rapid responses, preempt disruptions and glitches, and reduce downtimes. Imdaad employs several digital tools to boost efficiency and improve customer satisfaction, said the COO. “For example, we use the smartphone-based EFFY app to coordinate our operations, ensure efficiency in resource allocation, and guarantee rapid responses. For BMS services, we have a remote access system that offers a clear picture of our clients’ assets in real-time. These technologies offer many advantages relevant to the present times, such as enabling preventive checks and fixing faults remotely.”
Special equipment to deal with Covid-19 crisis
Imdaad’s disinfection tunnel, ViroSheild, is one example of the special equipment they launched to help communities, government entities, and companies in the UAE deal with the Covid-19 crisis. commented Rasheed. Introduced by Vision Safety, a subsidiary of Imdaad, the tunnel is a fully automated system equipped with motion sensors that sprays users with a mist to disinfect their clothes as they walk through it. The company has developed customised models of ViroShield according to the requirements of different clients including malls, hospitals, construction sites, labor accommodation, and residential areas.
Imdaad’s Environmental Solutions division also launched a new disinfection and cleaning service using ultra-low volume cold fogging equipment with a range of 5 to 8 meters, which allows its cleaning teams to cover large public spaces effectively and efficiently.
Imdaad has achieved significant progress, secured new contracts, and turned challenges into opportunities during 2020, successfully sustaining the growth trend across their business divisions despite the impact of the pandemic, said Rasheed. “Our Facilities Management Services (FMS) division registered higher profitability compared to the previous year and won many new projects across various sectors, as well as renewing 97 percent of its existing contracts. Imdaad’s Environmental Services also secured several new contract wins, even at the height of the pandemic.”
This year, they have continued to expand their market presence throughout the UAE, including in the Northern Emirates, where they won two major contracts. Imdaad was also awarded several government contracts and contributed to the UAE’s national disinfection programme against the spread of Covid-19.
Strategy for 2021
“We aim to further consolidate our position as a leading integrated facilities management company in the country by continuing to drive innovation in the industry,” noted Rasheed, adding that some of their key priorities for 2021 include harnessing new technologies, as well as improving efficiency, ecofriendliness, employee safety and customer satisfaction.
“Establishing new local and international partnerships, expanding our supply chain, and entering into new market segments and business sectors are also among our focus areas for the year ahead. We also look forward to expanding our teams, as well as empowering our existing workforce by investing in upskilling our people to deliver services in tune with the rapidly changing times,” he concluded.