COVER STORY

CLOSING THE LOOP

Bee’ah, a leading environmental management company headquartered in Sharjah, UAE, has aligned all its projects with the emirate’s long-term vision of achieving ‘zero waste’ to landfill. The company has been making rapid progress in many areas, particularly tyre recycling and construction and demolition waste recycling. Daker El Rabaya, Managing Director – Waste Processing, Treatment and Disposal, Bee’ah, sits down with Swaliha Shanavas to discuss the strategy they have adopted to deal with these two critical segments. He outlines the business model they have developed to close the loop, and the progress they have made in terms of creating innovative products at their advanced recycling facilities to ensure these valuable resources are fed back into the system.

Tapping into full potential of end-of-life tyres

Daker-El-RabayaEnd-of-life tyres pose serious environmental hazard globally and at present there are tens of millions of scrap tyres lying around in various countries across the Middle East waiting for a solution. Considering the geographic conditions, temperature ranges and the fact that the Middle East is one of the largest automobile markets, used tyres pose an impending danger and there has always been the question of how to deal with the scrap tyres, says Daker El Rabaya, Managing Director, Waste Processing, Treatment and Disposal at Bee’ah.

Normally, end-of -life tyres are either stored in the storage area or sent to landfill and these tyres are hazardous as they are highly inflammable and non-biodegradable. They also contain a high amount of sulphur and other contaminants, so the gases and fumes arising from the fire pose a health hazard to the people around, he notes.

Until 2010, around 16 million tyres were stacked in the storage area at Saja’h landfill in Sharjah, a problem that nobody was dealing with. “Today, at Bee’ah, we have negative tyre balance,” says El Rabaya. This implies their consumption capacity is significantly higher than the quantities they have or receive, which makes Sharjah the first emirate or the first city in the Middle East that does not have an issue with scrap tyres, he notes, adding that currently their state-of-the-art Tyre Recycling Facility (TRF) has the capacity to process around 2000 tonnes of tyres per month, which amounts to three times more than the quantities received.

How did they achieve this? The MD says Bee’ah is the only company in the UAE that has the capability to produce asphalt rubber. The company is using crumb rubber-blended asphalt in the construction of new roads in Sharjah as they improve safety, are cost-effective, reduce maintenance costs and are long-lasting. “We have the machines and the material, and have already implemented this internally in Bee’ah’s Waste Management Complex at Al Saj’ah,” he states. An internal ‘zero maintenance’ road constructed with rubberised asphalt concrete about six years ago is still in very good condition.

The TRF is one of the few facilities in the world using an environmentally friendly cryogenics process to turn old tyres into crumb rubber, which is used for flooring and various other applications. The material produced from recycled tyres has also been exported to be used in road construction in the Gulf region for the past eight years due to the unique technology they have, states El Rabaya.

pic-01The cryogenic process uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the tyres, and they become brittle and are then broken down into crumb granules of varying sizes. The whole process includes three steps. First, they ensure there is no sand or any other contaminant mixed with the scrap tyres. In the pre-treatment stage, the wires are removed and the tyres are shredded into big pieces, following which they are again broken down into smaller pieces, and most of the remaining steel and textile is separated. The material then goes into the cryogenic shop and in this stage all the rubber pieces are frozen at minus 196 degrees Celsius. Thereon, they become brittle and are broken down by cracker mills, into crumb granules varying between 0.6mm to 4 mm in size, and steel and textile residues are extracted.

“The system helps produce very fine powder with up to 99.99% purity, which makes it the only product suitable for use in rubberised asphalt. It is due to the technology we use that the crumb rubber produced in Bee’ah is considered one of the best worldwide,” he emphasises.

Addressing key issues

The private sector is beginning to get involved in collecting and shredding scrap tyres, and sending them to the cement kilns, which is a challenge for them, the MD comments. There are some attempts at regulating the segment, he says, “but they are not binding enough or clear enough to ensure that scrap tyres are collected, treated and recycled in a socially responsible manner.”

The main issue is the lack of suitable regulations, which is one of the most important things for them, says El Rabaya. Another aspect is the process and final product regulatory framework, he adds, referring to the processes that can be licenced to treat and recycle tyre, the characteristics and the properties of the final product desired out of this recycling process,etc. “So we are now working with government authorities to try to put this within a proper legal framework. Bee’ah is a socially responsible company and we are making efforts to ensure there are regulations that are clear and transparent for everybody to follow,” he emphasises.

Opportunities

There are immense opportunities and the TRF has diversified their range of products from end-of-life tyres such as mulch; crumb rubber tiles of different sizes, shapes and colours that are a lot safer than the conventional interlock for playgrounds, etc.; and jogging tracks made of recycled rubber, which has already been applied in many places in Sharjah and other cities.

Lately, the company has been offering rubber chips as a fuel substitute for Cement kilns. “Our rubber chips are of high quality with no contamination and are much safer to be used in cement kilns than other material. This cooperation with cement kilns is now getting bigger, because by the time we started to educate the first consumer about the opportunity to replace coal with this material, other cement factories and clients started approaching us for large quantities of the material,” he comments.

C&D waste recycling: Sustainable business model

Realising the issues related to construction and demolition (C&D) waste and the business opportunities this segment presents, Bee’ah set up a C&D Waste Recycling Facility more than a decade ago. Daker El Rabaya answers some pertinent questions related to this segment.

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What is the state of C&D waste recycling in the UAE/region? What is Bee’ah’s approach?

Around 40% of the waste generated in the emirates is C&D waste and it is important to highlight this fact. Many entities delay taking decisions on construction waste as the material is not biodegradable and would not cause issues such as odour, leachate, etc. But by the time we find a solution for other types of waste, we will have a huge issue with C&D waste. Secondly, high recovery rates can be achieved in C&D recycling as compared to mixed domestic waste, so one can succeed quickly with a lot less investment.

Considering the above facts, in 2015, Bee’ah set a very ambitious target of achieving zero C&D waste to landfill. Back then it looked like a dream due to the high quantities involved and the technology existing at the time was not suitable for achieving such results. But in June this year, we celebrated one year since the last time the plant sent any C&D waste to landfill. The waste stream kept growing, but our capabilities in treatment and recycling were also growing alongside this increase with advanced technology in place.

Moreover, the end products from our C&D facility meet quality specifications of the Abu Dhabi Quality & Conformity Council (ADQCC) and these recycled aggregates have been certified by the Council for use in road construction and so on. The recovery rate from the C&D stream is more than 90%, which means that the residue from this waste after recycling is at worst 10%, creating a tremendous recovery and diversion rate at Bee’ah.

How does the plant deal with mixed C&D waste?

Most of the material generated in the UAE is mixed C&D, a major part of which is sent to landfill. With the ambitious target to recycle all types of waste, our team intensively researched and developed an innovative machine custom designed by Bee’ah, and created the treatment process. The new line now treats mixed C&D material where there are different degrees and levels of screening on the basis of size, density, etc., and could eventually treat recoverables like steel, wood, nonferrous and other materials.

What are the opportunities in C&D and solutions you might be exploring?

A major part of the construction material by itself is mineral material that can be used in certain applications, and is now being reused in Sharjah for construction in the government and private sectors. The plant processes and recycles mineral C&D waste to produce innovative end products from recycled aggregates. The C&D team has been researching and have made remarkable progress in identifying different methods to create valuable products. Our next initiative is to use recycled aggregate to produce landscaping material, and open our new facility for the production of the interlocks and other products, so we will have the mulch, interlocking pavers and curbstone.

Is there any regulation on the use of recycled material in road construction, etc. and what are the developments in Sharjah?

In certain emirates it is mandatory for contractors to use 10% of recycled aggregates in the internal roads in the sub base layer. The Sharjah Municipality and the Ministry of Infrastructure in Sharjah use our road base for all their internal roads. So, the entire road base used is recycled, which is a very interesting and exciting model of collaboration that shows how to close the loop, where the waste comes to the facility, gets recycled and goes back totally into the construction industry.

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What are the issues related to C&D waste?

One of the main aspects is to improve the regulations in terms of final product use. We are now working closely with the Sharjah government to look at all the regulations and make sure that all the waste streams are controlled and dealt with in the most responsible manner. Apart from this, there is also the challenge of source segregation that we are now discussing with government entities, because it makes better sense and better recovery numbers when you segregate the waste before sending it to the facility.

Could we say you are effectively closing the loop?

C&D in Bee’ah can be the role model on how recycling can work to help close the loop, because the scrap material comes from the private sector and it goes back as raw material either to the private sector or the municipality. The C&D plant is one of the facilities that are sustainable and economically viable, similar to the TRF where we have a very successful model. The C&D plant used to work one shift in 2015 and now we are operating two full shifts. It is possibly the busiest in the region in terms of productivity, and by end 2018, I think we will be treating around 600,000 tonnes of C&D waste material per year.

Toward zero waste

We still have a lot to do and we need to understand that moving forward, it is everybody’s responsibility to protect the environment and help reach the target of ‘zero waste’. There has to integrated efforts from the community and one cannot expect that the respective companies or government entities alone can deal with the problems and solve them. We are dedicated, responsible and moving with a clear vision to achieve the ‘zero waste’ status and can see this happening soon. Bee’ah started with the initiative ‘zero scrap tyres to landfill’, followed by the initiative ‘zero C&D waste to landfill’.

This year we had the initiative of ‘no used furniture to landfill’, and have already celebrated one year since the last time we sent any piece of used furniture to the landfill. We are moving forward step by step to deal with bio-degradable waste, the C&I (commercial and industrial) waste and other streams to ensure that we have all the sustainable solutions required for all types of waste that reaches our facilities.

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