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Imdaad: leveraging technology and innovation for smart waste management

 

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Mahmood-RasheedMahmood Rasheed, Chief Operating Officer, Imdaad talks to Swaliha Shanavas about their business operations and strategies, significant contracts and the company’s latest innovative solutions and services that will positively contribute to the waste reduction and diversion targets set by various governments in the region.

Imdaad, an integrated facilities management and environmental services company headquartered in the UAE, has stepped up efforts to expand its waste management and recycling capabilities to complement government initiatives to reduce the volume of waste generated in the UAE. The company is broadly recognised for its quality-driven FM solutions and strong commitment to environmental sustainability.

Due to rapid population growth and urbanisation, waste management is increasingly becoming important and Imdaad plays a key role in this sector at present. Touching upon the current state of the industry and key challenges pertaining to proper waste management in the region, Mahmood Rasheed, Chief Operating Officer at Imdaad says it is apparent that waste management has been gaining momentum in the region in recent years, as more and more projects and plans are being put forth by local authorities and governments, which have helped in highlighting its importance.

“There are also more public-private partnerships in the form of outsourced contracts that include collection and transportation, processing and disposal of waste, as well as recycling projects, to improve efficiency and leverage private capital, which indicates a healthier engagement of key stakeholders in waste management,” he states, also adding that it is essential to ensure a cleaner and greener world for future generations.

Awareness is key for success

A key issue is the lack of awareness, Rasheed comments. The biggest challenge is waste reduction and diversion from landfill “as awareness remains one of the major difficulties, which can directly influence the waste handling behaviour of an individual,” he opines. Despite existing awareness programmes, considering the large floating population in the UAE with people coming in and leaving frequently, there is a need to start the education process all over again, which is a major concern, the COO explains.

Imdaad is trying to catch them young. Rasheed says with Be’ati, one of the company’s key initiatives, they can reach out to the community in the best possible manner. “For our part, we try to educate the young generation through our Be’ati programme as they are the future,” he emphasises. Training and awareness programmes for the young generation is important; and teaching them the concept and benefits of waste sorting and recycling will make them totally aware, so when they grow up they continue to practice what they learn in their young age, he adds.

Imdaad introduced this programme a few years back, with a large number of schools in the emirate now participating in the initiative. It involves a lot of resources and the company is organising discussion sessions and awareness programmes, bringing all the target groups together at regular intervals.

Various governments in the region have set their own deadlines to achieve certain waste management goals. The UAE National Agenda sets out a vision to divert away from landfills 75% of all waste generated by 2021, and by 2030, a 100% per cent diversion rate is being planned.
In this context, the COO states: “If the governments continue to intensify their awareness programmes as they are doing at present, and introduce more schemes and encourage people to participate in the process, they can get as close to the target as possible within the set time frame.”

Environmental Services division’s capabilities and latest projects

With a strong team of 760 staff members working exclusively in the Environmental Services division, this arm of Imdaad has been performing very well over the last few years, says Rasheed. “Apart from the strong Dubai presence, we managed to conclude one of the most significant integrated waste management projects in Oman in the Al Batinah North and Musandam regions. In Dubai, we have secured several key projects with Dubai Health Authority, Emirates General Petroleum Corporation (Emarat), TECOM Group and Union Coop, to name a few.”

The company’s large fleet of more than 200 vehicles and advanced equipment aid in efficiently handling waste collection and transport. The COO says, Imdaad collects more than 1,000 tons of general waste on a daily basis, and around 11 percent of the total solid waste collected is diverted from the landfill through source segregation programmes and downstream segregation, while approximately 12,000 cubic meters of wastewater is treated daily across their sewage treatment plants.

“We try to segregate as much recyclables as we can, including paper, plastic, metal, glass, etc. The collected recyclables are delivered to government approved recycling companies in Dubai,” says Rasheed.

Modern fleet and service management system

‘Sahal’ is the new fleet and service management programme the division has rolled out. It is an integrated approach to logistics planning and fleet handling and scheduling, says the COO. “We are aiming to improve the efficacy in our route planning and vehicle management with this system. This is also our first significant step towards paperless transactions, both internally and externally,” he notes.

Material Recovery Facility

Imdaad is currently building their material recovery facility, ‘Farz’, and this state-of-the-art plant is expected to be ready for operation by the second quarter of 2018.

In Rasheed’s view, they will be able to achieve better waste diversion rates with this facility with the latest technology, which will offer better waste segregation rates. They plan to have two sorting lines, each with a capacity of 600 tonnes and all recyclables such as paper, plastics, cans, etc., will be sorted at this facility and then sent to certified recyclers. “Once completed, the facility will be one-of-its-kind in terms of specialties and will be able to manage 1,200 tons of waste per day. We also have recycling programmes and awareness sessions that fall under our regular services,” he remarks.

The UAE National Agenda that envisions diversion of 75 percent waste away from landfills is a very good move, especially considering there is limited landfill space at present, notes Rasheed. “Right now we are collecting, transporting and disposing waste. One of the visions of our Group CEO is that of completing this cycle and the material recovery facility (MRF) will be a significant step in this direction. Again, in line with the goals of the UAE National Agenda, we strive to increase our contribution to clean energy production and further implement green growth plans throughout our projects,” the COO continues.

To find the best balance between waste and resource management, and sustainability, he says they are also currently working on exploring new treatment methods such as Refuse-Derived Fuel (RDF), Waste-to-Energy, and recycling. “We are continuing to leverage technology and innovation to transform the entire process of waste management – from collection and transportation to treatment and recycling – to enable a quicker turnaround and more efficient waste disposal for a greener future,” Rasheed elaborates.

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Biofuel station in Jebel Ali

As an alternative source of energy, biofuel has been proven to reduce greenhouse gases, and consequently,cause lesser pollution. The installation of the new biofuel station at Imdaad’s Jebel Ali workshop is part of their commitment to harnessing sustainable energy solutions within the portfolio of FM services offered to their clients, says Rasheed. “It is critical that our practices remain aligned with conservation of the ecosystem and communities that are impacted by industrial activities.”

“We are also the first waste collection company to pilot a biofuel project, and currently have 8-10 waste compactor trucks that run on biodiesel. By the end of the year, we will have a majority of our vehicles running on biodiesel,” he underlines. Imdaad’s efforts are also in line with the UAE’s Energy Strategy 2050, which aims to increase clean energy use from 25 percent to 50 percent and reduce carbon footprint during power generation by 70 percent over the next three decades, the COO adds.

Preparations for the new biofuel station started well in advance of the official launch, when experts at Imdaad conducted successful tests to operate five waste compactor trucks on biofuel in place of diesel. Assessing the effectiveness of biofuel derived from food waste and diesel, tests concluded that the large-sized vehicles using the hybrid fuel functioned with optimum performance and emitted lesser harmful fumes compared to a 100 percent diesel mode.

Focus on Research & Development

Imdaad has committed to spending three percent of their revenue on setting up and developing an efficient Research and Development (R&D) function, with the financial commitment set to increase in later years depending on the business needs.

Rasheed says, “Our recently launched R&D department will focus on how to make our business more self-sustaining, by creating a culture of innovation that will give rise to new opportunities, and enable Imdaad to shape the future of our industry keeping in mind the needs of our customers and the community at large.” The R&D activities will primarily focus on three areas – engineering, business, and environment – with water, renewable energy, fleet, services, and development of indigenous products identified as key areas of priority.

Imdaad underlines commitment to green ecosystem at WETEX

As an integrated, sustainable management and maintenance services provider that is committed to enhancing operational efficiencies of physical assets, Imdaad’s participation at Wetex was part of their “continuous effort to build and nurture a greener ecosystem and support the initiatives of the government”, says the COO.

At the exhibition, the company showcased their line-up of innovative and efficient clean energy solutions, including power monitoring and savings services. “The event also became a platform for Imdaad and DEWA to come together and strengthen our relationship as strategic partners to meet our shared vision of an environmentally-friendly emirate,” he states.

In expansion mode

Though the UAE continues to be a key focus market for Imdaad, they are prominent in Oman and other GCC countries as well. “We are expanding across Dubai with new business and in March we also started operations in Oman. It is a significant project, which includes waste collection, transportation and landfill management,” says Rasheed.

“We also have a number of growth plans in the pipeline for the wider region and are currently examining the feasibility of either setting up subsidiary companies with a majority share or entering new bids for other markets,” he concludes

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