Waste collection is one of the main obstacles to plastic recycling in the United Arab Emirates. As currently over 90% of plastic ends up in landfill in the UAE, the local recycling industry must struggle to meet volume targets and often ends up relying on imported goods. According to the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemical Association, the Kingdom produces nearly 1.5 million metric tons of plastic bags, bottles, containers, and other types of waste with a recycling rate of just 4%.
During the second day of the Plastics Recycling Show Middle East & Africa, happening this week in Dubai, Sustainable Plastics talked to a spokesperson from France-based waste management company Veolia about their efforts to increase plastic collection rates in the UAE with the help of their Recapp initiative.
Recapp is an app-based recycling solution for individuals and businesses operating in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Veolia launched the door-to-door service in 2020, collecting post-consumer plastic and metal packaging for free from homes and for a fee from businesses. Users can schedule pick-ups on the app and are rewarded with points based on the weight of the collected recyclables. Those points can be redeemed as vouchers for use in shops and supermarkets like Carrefour. The scheme partners include local bottled water brand al ain, Borouge, CocaCola, Nestle, and the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency, amongst others.
This June, Recapp launched a new deposit return scheme with a reward system for plastic bottles and metal cans. The project implemented 10 reverse vending machines (RVM) in Abu Dhabi and another one in Dubai, based at the Salt restaurant at Kite beach, Alice Vettese, marketing and communication manager at Recapp told Sustainable Plastics.
The RVMs can recycle all types of plastic water and beverage bottles, according to Recapp. They work by recycling bottle by bottle and can be placed indoors or outdoors in high-traffic locations. All RVMs are connected to the Recapp app and reward users with 150 points per recycled bottle which is eight times more compared to the door-to-door initiative.
The Recapp project has collected 1,200 tonnes of plastic since its inception and has set its 2023 target at 1,000 tonnes, Vettese said, while over 77,000 vouchers have already been redeemed. The app is available on iOS and Google Play as Go Recapp. She added that it is only available in the UAE for the time being, but that it could potentially be expanded to other MENA markets if the pilot project becomes profitable.
Other companies implementing RVM projects in the UAE exhibiting at the fair include Sparklo and Biocrux India.