Hazardous waste is a critical area within waste management. Veolia has been providing various specialist services from general waste recycling solutions to complex portfolios including hazardous waste treatment and disposal around the world including the Middle East. Sébastien Chauvin, CEO at Veolia Middle East speaks to Waste & Recycling Middle East about this fast developing market, the key issues involved, potential of the waste recycling sector in the region and the company’s tailor-made solutions for niche segments within waste management.
Waste recycling: Current state and opportunities
Economic expansion, technology advancements, population growth and rapid urbanisation in the Middle East have led to tremendous increase in the waste being generated. The Middle East is one of the largest producers of waste worldwide, with per-capita waste production in many countries averaging more than 2kg per day. In addition, high living standards, inadequate infrastructure and lack of environmental awareness limit the growth of the waste management sector. The lack of disposal facilities has also led to waste dumping in open spaces, deserts and water bodies across the region, leading to environmental pollution.
This has caused the government and urban planners to seek sustainable waste management solutions such as waste recycling and waste to energy, providing a great of opportunity for the regional waste management market. The strategic vision of the UAE government is to encourage sustainable waste management practices to achieve the ultimate goal of zero waste to landfill. And to this end, various emirates have launched several initiatives, including their most ambitious Waste Management Master Plan 2030.
“Governments are investing heavily in sustainability and will be willing to radically change the way in which they manage waste, by converting it into energy. This opens the doors for several strong public and private partnerships in waste management to build and manage specially designed facilities supported by cutting-edge technological innovations,” says Sébastien Chauvin.
Capabilities and specialised services in waste recycling
Headquartered in Dubai, Veolia Middle East is a leader in optimised resource management and provides water, waste and energy management solutions that contribute to the sustainable development of communities and industries. The company is experienced in the management of liquid and solid hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Their range of services include logistics and reverse logistics; urban cleaning services; materials recovery; waste to energy; decomposition; human capital and management; reducing greenhouse gas emissions in landfill.
“Staying true to its commitment to achieve a circular economy, Veolia’s waste management expertise spans the entire waste lifecycle, from collection to recycling, to recover end products as materials and energy,” the CEO notes, also elaborating their specific solutions and partnerships. The company has 63 facilities in operation for municipal solid waste, four of which are for treating sludge. At least 10.7 million metric tons of waste is treated per year and 66 megawatts of energy recovered. With 76 landfill sites in operation, they treat 18.8 million tons of waste.
The private sector also presents opportunities to firms involved in environmental management, he says. Ritz-Carlton chose Veolia in 2012 to implement a three-year waste management programme. The tailor-made services include the removal and segregation of waste from 80 villas and more than 400 luxury suites, enabling the luxury hotel to reuse or recycle about 60 percent of its waste.
In 2016, the company won its first waste management contract with Be’ah, Oman, to provide services in association with its partner Al Ramooz National LLC based in the Sultanate. The seven-year contract focuses on establishing the required services across the governorates of Al-Dhahirah and Al Buraimi, restructure the municipal waste collection services and improve public awareness on issues related to waste management. They have been partnering with TDIC since 2012 to deliver waste recycling services to the residents of Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, and have implemented a recycling strategy aligned with TDIC’s environmental objectives.
Adding value, particularly in the light of governmental efforts to move towards a circular economy
Governments across the Middle East are aligning their goals and strategies with UN sustainable development goals, and the company supports the growing demand for renewable energy by developing green energy generation and supply solutions to its customers, says Chauvin. “Veolia Middle East urges its customers to include waste-to-energy conversion and recovery solutions in their waste management models. Waste-to-energy helps conserve fossil fuels, limit greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the volume of waste being sent to landfills.”
The company offers facilities and solutions to treat non-recyclable waste to produce electricity and heat for either local or domestic energy needs. Fourteen million metric tons of waste in landfills is used for biogas recovery generating 1.2 million of megawatts/hour, he notes. The company has patented an automated management system for biogas collection networks called Methacontrol.
“By enabling continuous adjustment of the collection network’s operation, Veolia can collect far more biogas than would be possible using a manual adjustment method. We have also developed dry and wet anaerobic digestion systems for municipal, food, and agricultural waste,” says the CEO, adding that they have pioneered the use of solid recovered fuel (SRF) through which a significant proportion of municipal waste or non-hazardous industrial waste can be recovered. It can then be used as fuel for co-incineration in facilities such as cement works furnaces, an efficient method of waste recovery that meets the industry’s growing demand for energy.
Hazardous waste management and treatment in the region
Hazardous waste is a critical area within the sector. Public and private sector organisations in the Middle East are seeking expert services from waste management specialists in disposing of hazardous waste. It is a fast growing sector and it is estimated that this market will be worth about $1.4 billion by 2019, according to research by Markets and Markets.
“Dangerous materials must be handled responsibly to avoid health, environmental, financial, and reputational risk. Providers vary widely and some are long-established, with strong track records and international reach. Others are small enterprises employing a handful of staff. For this reason, those who use them must choose wisely,” Chauvin warns.
Healthcare facilities are surprisingly large waste producers and approximately 15 per cent of clinical waste is toxic, he notes. Refuse that is radioactive, infectious, or contains heavy metals or solvents must each be processed differently. Incineration, for instance, can release toxic emissions such as potentially deadly dioxins. “It is an expensive business, and for this reason, governments tend to develop public-private partnerships in order to cope,” he remarks.
Stringent regulations related to hazardous waste management
Legislation covering health, safety, and the environment has never been more stringent. Middle Eastern states are adopting stricter laws concerning harmful materials. “In the United Arab Emirates, Sharjah Municipality now issues a mandatory minimum fine of AED 100,000 ($27,211) for the illegal dumping of hazardous waste,” the CEO highlights, adding that more than 100 such penalties have been imposed since early last year, most recently to seven firms that dumped sewage in the desert.
One of the aims of the UAE Vision 2021 National Agenda is to increase the percentage of municipal waste that receives some form of treatment, such as recycling, conversion to energy, chemical treatment or exporting for processing abroad, an activity covered by the Basel Convention. In May, the UAE Cabinet announced new controls on the disposal of electrical and electronic devices, taking cues from the European Union’s WEEE Directive. Digital solutions for waste management are also gaining traction; in August, Jordan’s Ministry of Environment launched an online portal for people transporting and treating hazardous materials. The scheme, funded by the German Agency for International Cooperation, will enable the authorities to monitor such processes more effectively and also add convenience, says Chauvin.
“Clients value contractors that can guarantee security, compliance and clearly defined procedures such as expert classification, consistently applied in even far-flung locations. Businesses can avoid PR pitfalls and protect their bottom lines by enlisting the right service provider,” he remarks.
Capabilities and innovative delivery models in hazardous waste management
Veolia is working with government and regional organisations in the Middle East on strategies to manage hazardous waste more efficiently, says the CEO. A global specialist in hazardous waste treatment, its comprehensive suite of services includes logistics, hazardous waste collection, recovery of recyclables; the treatment of hazardous residual waste; soil remediation; site restoration; and traceability and monitoring, amongst others.
With extensive experience and a team of specialists, proprietary technologies and international knowledge, Chauvin says they are well equipped to treat waste with high and diverse polluting loads. Their quality, health, safety and environment (QHSE) team ensures that the most stringent QHSE standards and regulations are met. “In doing so, we stay true to our goal of safely mitigating the environmental impact of our operations and optimise the hazardous waste management processing chain,” he remarks.
The company has 229 facilities for the treatment of hazardous waste in operation, which include 44 physico-chemical units, 25 incineration units, 34 liquid and material recovery units, 13 landfill sites, 10 soil remediation platforms and 103 transit platforms. A total of 4.8 million metric tons is treated every year and 800,000 megawatts per hour of electrical and thermal energy is recovered.
The company partnered with Dubai Municipality in 2016 to treat hazardous liquid waste. The agreement, said to be the first of its kind in the UAE, is intended to prepare Dubai for the anticipated increase in the quality of hazardous liquid waste as industries expand. With a capacity to treat 200 cubic meters per shift of hazardous liquid waste, including acidic, alkaline, and oily waste and wastewater, the plant features a variety of pretreatment systems, each of which is geared towards tackling a specific category of hazardous liquid waste, says the CEO. Their team has also managed hazardous waste for a leading chemicals and plastics company in Abu Dhabi, providing effective and integrated solutions for waste handling, transportation and disposal for domestic and hazardous waste, he notes.
Challenges in implementation
Waste management functions are typically managed by government authorities. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) present fantastic opportunities to speed up development and infrastructure in this area, he comments. “As various Middle East nations have demonstrated an open-minded approach towards such partnerships, Veolia has the freedom to go beyond a scheme’s initial scope, using its technical expertise to conceive and implement innovative solutions.”
Another challenge, in Chauvin’s view, is the adoption and awareness of modern technologies now available. Organisations first analyse the efficiency versus cost ratios before implementing them, thus it takes time for these innovations to gain traction. However, it is increasingly clear that waste-to-energy is a viable, efficient method of solid waste management and energy generation in the Middle East, he says.
Mission: ‘Resourcing the World’
“Every year, we get one step closer to our global mission of ‘Resourcing the World’. This stays true in the Middle East, where we constantly seek ways to preserve, replenish and increase access to resources,” says the CEO.
The company is promoting recycling rather than disposal of material to provide a benefit for local people as well as environment, and limit the dependency on landfill. The final recovery of waste as raw material or energy can be reused completing the perfect green loop, which is in line with their vision of the development of a circular economy in urban services and in industrial production processes, he elaborates.
They aim to strengthen their existing public-private partnerships and look forward to engaging in new ones. “Veolia is constantly investing in the development of solutions to improve service offerings brought to the Middle East in order to develop key infrastructure projects to promote the region’s sustainable evolution, optimise resource recovery and enhance industrial utilities through highly technical solutions,” Chauvin concludes.