Tasos Bereketidis, Regional Director Emerging Markets at TOMRA Sorting Solutions, looks at the role that MSW recovery can play in moving the UAE closer towards its goal of being a circular economy.


The United Arab Emirates, like many countries in the Gulf region, has experienced rapid population growth, urbanisation and economic expansion over the past decade. Such growth not only increases consumer consumption rates, but also the volume of waste generated. It is estimated that the UAE now produces more than 6.5 million tonnes of waste per annum* – equivalent to around 1.9 to 2.5kg** of waste per person per day, which is three times higher than the global average.

Waste, and in particular, municipal solid waste, is a major challenge for the country, which remains heavily reliant on landfills and ineffective manual sorting facilities. An estimated 77 per cent of the total waste generated in the UAE is currently disposed of to landfill. However, it’s not all bad news as the UAE is one of a number of Middle East countries that have recognised the need for change and a more sustainable approach to municipal solid waste management. In fact, a number of its seven municipalities have set targets of achieving ‘zero waste to landfill’ by the end of 2020.

Setting clear targets

In May 2018, the UAE Government set the nation on a path towards a circular economy model when it passed the Middle East’s first federal law on integrated waste management. The law sets a target of diverting 75 per cent of waste from landfill by 2021 through enhanced regulations to reduce waste volumes and find alternative uses of waste materials, as well as encouraging innovative strategies for final waste disposal.

For countries like the UAE, with strong ambitions to become global leaders both economically and environmentally, recovering materials from waste is essential and MSW presents an ideal opportunity for the UAE to move towards a circular economy. MSW contains a variety of valuable, recyclable materials including plastics, mixed paper, cardboard and metals, so there are clear commercial reasons for recovery and resale.

Recovering maximum value from MSW

The UAE’s rate of MSW recycling has improved over the past ten years; however, with the new law now in place and the 2021 target set, the nation will need to invest in new recycling facilities to divert waste from landfill and recover maximum value from MSW.

The scope to recover and treat MSW using traditional recycling processes is very limited so, in order to achieve high recovery and purity rates of recoverable materials from this waste stream, operators will have to take advantage of the latest advances in sensor-based sorting technology.

The latest advances in sensor-based sorting, including near infrared (NIR) and visual spectrometers (VIS), can accurately and quickly recognise and separate different materials according to their material type and colour, extracting high-purity high-value end fractions. NIR technology is used for sorting materials and VIS sensors for sorting colours.

TOMRA Sorting has also developed a number of add-on solutions which, when combined with NIR and VIS technology, further strengthen recycling capabilities. A Laser Object Detection (LOD) system, for example, sorts according to the feed material’s spectral and spatial characteristics, enabling the detection of black plastic, rubber, glass and other waste items that NIR is incapable of identifying. TOMRA’s SHARP EYE technology can separate single-layer PET trays from PET bottles and enhances the previous capability of TOMRA’s AUTOSORT machine to separate multi-layer trays. By combining NIR and XRT (X-ray) technology, organic waste, regardless of its contamination level, can be sorted to a high and stable purity rate. And our AUTOSORT LASER technology excels at separating thin, thick or opaque glass from MSW.

Investing for the future

At TOMRA Sorting Recycling we are already witnessing the impact of the new legislation and have received a noticeable increase in enquiries from both the public and private sectors looking to invest in sensor-based sorting technology for new plants. In 2019, TOMRA equipment will be installed at a new state-of-the-art MRF in Dubai, and we are also talking to a number of plastics reprocessors in the UAE who are looking to optimise their process with our optical units and gain maximum yields.

By incorporating the latest in automated sorting technology in its recycling facilities, the UAE will be far better positioned to meet its challenging landfill diversion targets, and will set an example for other countries in the region.

TOMRA Sorting Recycling strengthens its regional presence with the appointment of new Area Sales Manager for the Middle East & Africa

PeterTOMRA Sorting Recycling has appointed Peter Schmid as Sales Manager for Middle East & Africa. Peter will work closely with the company’s sales team in the emerging markets and will be responsible for the expansion and execution of TOMRA Sorting’s sales strategy, building on the company’s success in the region since it opened its Dubai office in 2011, the company announced. Peter’s priority countries include the UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and most of Africa.

Prior to this, he was Director of Operations Public Waste Collection & Cleaning at Bee’ah. Earlier, he was Key Account Manager for Saubermacher Dienstleistungs AG in Austria and then moved with the same company to the UAE in 2013 as Head of Collection Operations.

Peter holds a degree in Process & Environmental Engineering from the University of Applied Sciences – FH Joanneum, Graz, Austria. Having lived in Dubai for the past five years, he brings considerable regional knowledge and connections, backed up by extensive technical knowledge of recycling and waste management, said the company. Peter will operate out of TOMRA’s regional office in Dubai and will report directly to Tasos Bereketidis, Regional Director Emerging Markets. He will also support service for the recycling business for all the projects in the region.