Facilities Management Middle East
MALEK SUKKAR, CEO OF WASTE AND RECYCLING COMPANY, AVERDA, REVEALS WHAT THE FIRM IS DOING IN CREATING A CIRCULAR APPROACH TO WASTE MANAGEMENT, AND HOW EVERY PERSON HAS A ROLE TO PLAY
In a circular economy, materials aren’t just used once – they’re reused, composted, recycled or – if no other option is available for them – the energy they contain is recovered, Malek Sukkar, CEO of waste and recycling company, Averda, says.
He elaborates: “Waste and recycling companies like Averda have several important roles to play in this process. Firstly, our waste collection activities ensure that materials aren’t just thrown into our natural environment where they can pollute the earth and oceans. Every one of our street sweepers and bin men plays a vital part here, and we value them highly.
“Then we need to make sure that materials are sorted and recycled, which is complicated but essential. Different kinds of plastics need to be separated, as well as metals, paper and glass. And of course, organic materials – food waste and garden waste – need to be composted or treated in anaerobic digesters. Finally, those materials that can’t be recycled or otherwise reused need to be incinerated and their energy recovered and used to power local communities. This is quite a different ecosystem than we currently have, but we are determined that Averda will contribute to developing it.”
However, there are several major challenges facing the waste management sector before one can apply a “truly circular approach to waste management”. Sukkar says: “The first is the sheer volume of waste we’re generating and the rate of growth – if we continue the way we are then we’ll be creating 3.4 billion tonnes a year by 2050, up from just over 2 billion tonnes a year today. This is unsustainable – we need to rethink our approach to single-use, to packaging and to consumption. At the same time as the amount of waste is skyrocketing, the complexity of materials is changing fast too – items are highly engineered,
containing many different materials often welded together, very difficult to separate out – the contents of your bin today are very different from your grandmother’s 50 years ago. As consumers and as governments, we need to encourage manufacturers from creating nonrecyclable or very confusing packaging.”
A further challenge to be overcome is the creation of a vibrant market for recyclables. Too often, recycled materials, for example plastics, have struggled to compete with cheap and plentiful virgin materials. The price and demand fluctuations traditionally discouraged investment in the facilities required to make recyclates. Sukkar says: “We need governments to use the regulatory levers at their disposal to proactively create a market for recyclables; the circular economy isn’t going to come about without assistance, at least not at the speed we need it to. Where this is taking place, we see demand for recyclables increase very fast.
“Finally, waste management is something everyone really needs, but no one really enjoys paying for. The services required to keep streets clean, the infrastructure development costs of installing proper treatment and disposal systems – these are utterly essential if we are to have sanitary, healthy, happy communities – both now and for our children. But they do require investment and funding, which responsible governments and companies prioritise, but irresponsible ones shirk.”
Averda recently announced the launch of a new 3-year corporate strategy “Renew”, which puts considerably greater emphasis on sustainability and circularity, implementing a number of initiatives aimed at reducing waste to landfill and deriving secondary value from collected waste.
Talking about “Renew”, Sukkar says: “Continuing ‘business as usual’ isn’t an option for anyone anymore. The climate and biodiversity crisis we face is too compelling, too urgent for a responsible business to ignore. We have always felt we play a positive environmental role, but our new 3-year corporate strategy
GOVERNMENTS, COMPANIES, LOCAL AUTHORITIES ALL NEED TO INVEST IN RESPONSIBLE WASTE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS, BUT EACH OF US AS CITIZENS ON THIS PLANET ALSO NEED TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE LEGACY WE LEAVE BEHIND AND WHAT WE TEACH OUR CHILDREN.
will see us accelerate our drive towards greater sustainability, both for ourselves and for our clients. We’ll continue to clean and collect waste, but in the next few years we’ll really focus on reducing waste disposal in landfill and instead on recycling and recovery of materials.
“To be clear, we see an urgent moral imperative to do this; however, we also see a considerable opportunity for us as a business. The environmental crisis is changing how we all view our footprint on this earth, and our clients – municipal and private – are also looking to improve not only how they manage their waste but how they report on it. We are in a prime position to help our clients, and our planet.”
Over the next few years, Averda plans to develop circular solutions for all relevant waste streams in each of the countries where it works. Some are already underway, while others are being explored at present. Sukkar says: “I’m afraid there’s not much more I can say right now but watch this space!”
The firm is also working with industrial sectors to develop solutions specific to its waste needs. These include construction, medical and facilities management. Sukkar adds: “In the FM sphere, we will focus on providing a turnkey solution for waste, from collection to recycling, treatment and – critically – reporting on environmental performance. We are also expanding our wrap-around support for clients in terms of educational programmes to drive behaviour change, ensuring they meet their own ESG performance targets.”
Sukkar concludes by saying: “I do think that each of us, as individuals, also has a role to play. The consumer choices we make about what to buy, whether to choose a single-use item for example, has an impact on the waste we create. In addition, the decisions we make about what we do with an item we no longer need also has a big impact. As I’ve said, governments, companies, local authorities all need to invest in responsible waste management systems, but each of us as citizens on this planet also need to take responsibility for the legacy we leave behind and what we teach our children.”