Municipal Solid Waste in the United Arab Emirates

Dubai, UAE - The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates located on the Arabian Peninsula. It is a small, oil rich country with a growing population and a rapidly developing industrial sector. In the last 10 years significant steps were taken to protect the environment.

The UAE has one of the world’s highest levels of domestic waste. Per capita household waste has reached an average annual 730 kilos in Abu Dhabi and 725 kilos in Dubai. In the US the average is 710 kilos, in Australia 690 kilos and in the UK 300 kilos. Additional refuse comes from street litter, gardens and from the waste dumped in the sea and on beaches. This has imposed a heavy burden on the municipalities. The problem is only partly solved by converting organic waste into agricultural fertilizer. Some waste such as paper, glass and tin cans is being recycled.

Economic growth and has resulted in the typical waste management problems associated with growth namely rising quantities of wastes generated and also the need for an ever-increasing level and quality of service. Waste management in the UAE has thus evolved to overcome these challenges.

The 2005 estimated market size for municipal solid waste equipment and services was USD 700 million. With an expected annual increase in the population of 3 to 4 percent and the government efforts in tourism and transit travelers, this figure is expected to increase to 1,100 million.

The UAE government is in the process of privatizing most of its public services or operating in a public/private partnership. Prospective buyers, therefore, are the different municipalities and private local and international investors in the sector

The Abu Dhabi Government has recently privatized parts of its municipal solid waste (MSW) collection and transportation services. Two contracts have been award in 2005 for the Abu Dhabi Island (Capital City) and two new contracts will be tendered and awarded for the Mussafah and the Western Region of the Emirate in the near future.

In 2004, the MSW quantity collected in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi amounted to about 670,000 tons. Abu Dhabi Municipality is entirely responsible for MSW treatment and disposal in both the Greater Abu Dhabi Region and the Western Region.

In the Western Region of the Abu Dhabi Emirate, since 1999 green waste has been treated in two composting plants for green waste, located at Liwa and Ghayathi. Untreated domestic wastes are transported to, and disposed of in, 7 official local dumpsites. These will be decommissioned and closed down by the Municipality.

Abu Dhabi has decided to privatize treatment and disposal services. It has recently launched an international tender for the design, construction and operation of a municipal solid waste management services for the whole of the Emirate.

The successful bidder will enter into an agreement with the Abu Dhabi Municipality and the expected terms of agreement will be 10 years from the scheduled commercial operation date. The agreement to include: a MSW Composting Facility at the AI Dhafra site, a new Sanitary Landfill besides the existing Landfill at AI Dhafra site, a new Inert Waste Landfill area at the AI Dhafra site, to commence operation once the existing landfill area has been filled by with inert waste, 5 transfer stations for MSW in the Western Region (AI Si’la, Ghayathi, AI Mirfa, Madinat Zayed and Liwa) on the sites of existing dumpsites, a new sanitary landfill beside the site of the existing landfill of Ruwais, a green waste composting facility at the Ruwais site, upgrade of the green waste composting facilities at Liwa and Ghayathi, and transportation of waste between the different sites, in particular the transfer stations and the transfer and sorting facility (AI Mafraq) to the sanitary landfills.

All other areas including rural areas such as Hatta (120 km away from Dubai) have access to waste collection services. The collection and storage system for MSW consists of a well distributed system of over 14,000 containers.

Private waste collection companies accounted for 49% of the General Waste collected in Dubai in 2003 and 53% in 2004. They are also involved in collection of construction & demolition (C & D) waste and are the sole collection service providers for hazardous waste and medical waste.

Dubai Municipality has announced the setting up of the region’s largest waste recycling project with private sector investment. The project will be set up under a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangement, in which the company will invest the money for constructing the plant, and transfer the ownership to the Municipality, by the end of a 20-year contract.

Dubai municipality operates landfills at five different locations in the Emirate. Only MSW is landfilled at three of these sites. There is a site exclusively for the disposal of C & D Waste while Hazardous Waste is treated and disposed at the Jebel Ali Hazardous Waste Treatment Facility.

Sharjah Municipality is building an environmental complex, which is to be completed soon, to recycle waste that will include recycling plants, construction and demolition sites and a materials recovery facility in which waste can be segregated.

The Emirate of Umm al-Qaiwain has signed a contract with a private company to build a garbage disposal enclosure of an international standard. The project will be built on a 400m x 600m area and should be complete soon.

Market Entry

The UAE seven semi-autonomous Emirates, enjoys a free trade market system. An over-the-board tax of 5 percent applies to imports (with few exception). There are no restrictions on foreign exchange and money transfer operations.

Government buyers are either federal or emirate governments. Federal purchases are administered through the respective local authority in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. For most purchases, government entities will usually only deal with firms registered in the UAE, or the particular emirate, and will favour local products over imports. Only when goods or services of acceptable quality are not available locally will the procurement authority seek outside sources. It is common for bids not to go out on a public tender, but are sent to select firms that were pre-qualified with the organization in question.

The UAE law stipulates that international companies who wish to sell to the government or bid on government tenders are required to assign a local agent. A local agent can be assigned for one emirate or more. Depending on the nature of the items, the agent will be responsible to pre-qualify the company at the Municipalities and other related government departments, as a pre-requisite to be invited to bid.

For this purpose, the agent submits to those authorities a complete file on the foreign company’s products standards and specifications along with all granted international accreditation. Companies should register their agency agreements at the UAE Ministry of Economy and Commerce as well as at the Federation of UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Trade Events

Environment & Energy 2007 Exhibition and Conference (EE 2007) January 28 – 31, 2007 in Abu Dhabi. EE 2007 is one of the biggest environment shows in the region focusing on Environmental research, science and technology, Energy Management, Water Management, Waste Management, Air Management, Residual Waste, Land Management and Ancillary. (

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