Dubai: not enough glass to feed the furnace

An ad hoc machine, assembled by workers at the Jebel Ali Glass Factory, has an integral role in Dubai“s glass recycling. However, the lack of glass recycling programmes in the UAE means the company h…

An ad hoc machine, assembled by workers at the Jebel Ali Glass Factory, has an integral role in Dubai“s glass recycling. However, the lack of glass recycling programmes in the UAE means the company has difficulties getting enough reusable material to make the 70,000-80,000 tonnes of glass each year, and has to rely on material shipped from other countries. The problem is there are no rules and regulations for this; they don“t force people now to segregate waste, said Samir El Sayyed, the factory“s commercial manager. I did a presentation 10 years ago and found out about 150 million containers then in the Emirates every year go to the landfill, El Sayyed said. The UAE“s population has increased almost six times since then and the country now has the highest ecological footprint per capita of any country in the world for several reasons. First, consumers prefer to throw away their glass waste rather than reusing it; second, the glass factory has to ship high silica sand from other countries such as Saudi Arabia, which increases mining, traffic and fuel consumption; and third, due to the use of raw material inputs, the furnace has to burn at higher temperatures than it would using waste glass, and therefore uses more energy to operate the plant. The silica content in the UAE sand is about 60%. We require 99%. Unfortunately, they“ve got so much sand, but not the right sand, El Sayyed said. El Sayyed began working with the Emirates Environmental Group to increase the amount of locally collected glass several years ago. The NGO collaborated in distributing special bins to hotels and schools, which supply the glassworks with about 20 tonnes of recycled material per month. The glassworks, which pays US USD 90 per tonne of cullet, sometimes has difficulty in maintaining the minimum 15% waste content it needs to operate its furnace at the more economical lower temperatures, even when mixed with glass from industrial contributors. The recycle bins along Dubai“s roads include those for paper, plastic and aluminium, but not for glass. If we recycle glass, we don“t have to take so much of these materials; we can keep it for future generations, El Sayyed said.