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An interview with Ras Al Khaimah Waste Management Agency

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Sonia Nasser
Sonia Ytuarte Nasser
Executive Director
 

Ras Al Khaimah Waste Management Agency (RAKWMA) is part of the UAE’s public services department tasked with meeting UAE Vision 2021 target of 75% diversion from landfill.

“ We are exploring PPPs with different entities and looking to see if they can do it more efficiently than us.”

It manages the waste for a population around 400,000 and it is a “one-stop-shop” for the regulatory, planning, collection, treatment and disposal needs of the government. However, as a utility they’ve reached a tipping point in meeting the UAE’s waste diversion target. RAKWMA has been working with CMS Middle East on customising civic contracts for various types of infrastructure projects to help meet their targets.

“We’re very small and lean but at the same time we have a lot of government mandates. There’s a role for government and then there’s a role for private industry,” says Nasser.

“That’s why this year we have started exploring options with the Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone, whose job is to go out and get investors,” she continues.

Next round of PPPs

PPPs in the UAE’s waste sector began in 2009 with two wastewater treatment plants in Abu Dhabi developed by BESIX and Veolia: the 300,000m3 capacity per day Al Wathba 2 plant
and the 130,000m3 capacity per day Allahmah plant near the city of Al Ain. These projects set the standard for future PPPs.

According to Nasser, while plans are still at an exploratory stage, projects are likely to be tendered for the Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone with a preference for, “design, build, finance, maintain contracts because our hiring process for operating these facilities is very difficult within government. We are exploring PPPs with different entities and looking to see if they can do it more efficiently than us.”

Vision 2035: the circular economy

Vision 2035 will prioritise a circular economy strategy as well as a zero-waste-to-landfill target according to Nasser. This means various forms of energy-from-waste are on the table. The UAE is in a rush to establish leadership in environmental sustainability and to achieve this RAKWMA, as well as other emirate agencies, see the private sector as a key partner.

“We're really focused on creating alternative fuels, for example solid refuse fuel,” says Nasser.

“We have started doing pilot projects with the cement factories here, namely Gulf Cement, where we’re sending all our camel waste because of its high calorific value,” she continues.

A circular economy has already been developed for glass from the 33 hotels situated in the area. Collected glass is transported to Dubai to be processed and the cutlets are returned to glass manufacturer Saverglass in Ras Al Khaimah.

RAKWMA is confident in its control of feedstock as well as its regulatory capacity to protect investments, so the agency is now seeking waste processors interested in setting up a variety of facilities. These could include a solid refuse fuel plant, lead acid recycling plant and other specialised waste streams such as diaper recycling.

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