The UAE is implementing several programmes in environmental conservation and sustainability to help boost the local economy, experts told Al-Shorfa.
The Emirates Environmental Group (EEG), with support from the UAE government, launched three new programmes to encourage waste collection and recycling and to raise environmental awareness in the community.
The three programmes stem from the group's vision of promoting a waste recycling culture by involving families and individuals, as well as private, public and educational institutions, in the programmes.
The goal is to ingrain the concept of recycling in the community in an effort to achieve a green and sustainable future, Habiba al-Marashi, the group's chairperson, said.
According to al-Marashi, work on the newly launched programmes, appropriately named "Neighbourhood Recycling Programme", "Your Can For Your Tree", and "One Root … One Communi-tree", will begin in September and will continue until the end of the year, with anticipated renewal next year.
"The [positive] economic implications of these programmes will be felt in the country by encouraging sectors that operate in the field of re-manufacturing and recycling products," she said.
All waste collected throughout the country will be turned over to these companies free of charge, she said, adding that materials include plastic, paper and aluminium, among others.
"The new programmes aim to encourage the industrial sector in the country to expand its operations and utilise recycled waste material," Al-Marashi said.
The main objective of the initiative is to create "safe channels for waste recycling to protect the country's environment and thereby help preserve the health of present and future generations," she added.
Other waste items that will be collected through the new programmes are old cell phones, al-Marashi told Al-Shorfa.
"Phone recycling will be done in accordance with an agreement with global phone maker, Nokia, which calls for recycling 80% of the phones' components and disposing of the rest safely in accordance with European standards," she said.
Al-Marashi said EEG hopes to involve not only commercial and industrial companies, but the community as a whole, all the way down to the local grocery store owner and even neighbourhood children.
Volunteers will be rewarded with certificates of appreciation or by having trees planted in their names, she added.
Khaled Huraimil, CEO of Bee'ah, an environment and waste management company in the Emirate of Sharjah, said, "Recent research showed that 40% of UAE's population are interested in recycling, but simply lack the requisite tools and facilities."
Bee'ah provides facilities and services to residents, Huraimil said.
"Current research conducted by the company shows that the country has seen significant improvement in the area of recycling and waste sorting," he added.
The company also partners with schools in the Emirate of Sharjah as part of the Bee'ah School for Environmental Education, through which it reaches about 140,000 students with the aim of raising awareness about the [various] aspects of environmental protection.
"Sharjah has set a goal of zero waste in landfills by 2015, or 100 percent recycling, with a target of reaching 50 percent by the end of the current year," he said.
Experts say that not only does the environment benefit from such programmes, but that the economy can receive a boost as well.
"Environmental protection is a strategic objective for most countries that seek sustainability for their economies," said engineer and energy expert Ahmed Fayed, adding that environmental protection reduces healthcare expenditures and opens the door for companies to work in the environment field.
"Improving waste management is currently an important issue in light of the concerns over the depletion of non-renewable energy sources," he told Al-Shorfa. "Proper waste management is a form of energy saving that also bolsters the sustainability of the economy and the environment for future generations."
"Studies also show that environmental protection contributes positively to a country's economic growth," he added.