Disassembling the myths of the waste to energy plants in the Middle East

Published: 11 June 2020 - 11:02 a.m.
By: Baset Asaba

Waste-to-energy (W2E) plants are increasingly under focus across the Middle East, as governments recognize that this technology can solve two problems with one solution: First, to generate energy out of non-recyclable waste and then help the UAE strategy to achieve its goal to divert 75% of its solid waste from landfill sites.

Before the appearance of the Covid-19, rapid economic development in the region has improved the quality of life for people across the Gulf, but the down side is that it is accompanied by a heavy increase in the amount of municipal solid waste: The Arabian Gulf urban residents produce nearly twice as much amount of waste that their counterparts in Western Europe.

When we look at the waste produced in urban environments around the world, especially in Western and European cities, the average is around 1.2 kg of waste per person per day while in the Middle East region we are closer to 2 kg per person per day.

In this scenario, W2E offers a great opportunity as a suitable solution for the two goals explained above. The UAE has already pioneered the possibilities that lay within W2E plants.

In Sharjah, Bee’ah in cooperation with Masdar, are developing a very large incineration W2E plant. On completion, the plant will divert more than 300,000 tons of solid waste from landfill each year, while producing 240,000 MW-hours of clean energy.

Another good example is the Al Warsan WTE, where Dubai Municipality and DEWA are cooperating in the development of the AED 2.5 billion facility being built in Dubai that will eventually be able to power 120,000 homes.

However, this technology is somehow questioned in some countries. Some arguments have been presented for and against W2E technology. The potential impact on Climate Change is a key issue in modern waste management and it is crucial to understand the role of this technology with respect to CO2 emissions and its benefits.

Emissions are indeed the aspect of this technology that gathers more attention for obvious reasons. Here are a couple of aspects that should be taken into account:

This is a sector with many years of experience in the most developed countries and consolidated actors. Technologies have improved massively over the last 30 years and current plants have nothing in common with those that were built in the 80s. Strict emission controls are implemented, with continuous measurement systems that are accessible for everyone.

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