E-waste Recyclers are a Growing Concern to the Economy of the UAE

Amidst the  COP 28 proceedings, the launch of ‘waste to zero’ initiative called our attention to hazardous waste management. As per the data unveiled by the former US Vice President Gore, at COP28’s main plenary hall, UAE’s greenhouse gas emissions rose by 7.5% in 2022 from the previous years.

The waste to zero initiative launched at COP28 will be a joint initiative between The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) and Tadweer (Abu Dhabi Waste Management Company) aiming towards decarbonisation of waste.

ewaste disposal in UAE

Being the largest emirate of the UAE, Abu Dhabi also has high level of industrial activities –  generating large amounts of industrial wastes inclusive of electronic wastes.  To combat this, Abu Dhabi Waste Management Company (Tadweer) has regulations to recycle e-waste and its new chapter- E-Tadweer, is responsible for overlooking the collection and recycling of e-waste.

E-waste has been of the most rapidly increasing wastes, globally with 50 million tonnes produced in 2018 and the numbers increasing every year. Research says that UAE is one of the top- ranking countries in the production of e-waste.

The government of UAE has introduced many initiatives to combat the generation and disposal of e-waste through secure channels. This is done in partnership and participation of the private sector organizations that collect, recycle and dispose of e-waste on behalf of the government.

According to Mr. Suraj Kumar, the CEO of Clear Earth Recycling, a private organization handling E-waste disposal, UAE has observed a 60% increase in the e-waste generated over the decade and the country has only 30% involvement in the disposal of the same.

Abu Dhabi’s plans to collaborate with international partners to promote the use of the 3Rs- reduce, reuse and recycle is believed to accelerate the achievement of responsible waste solutions, according to Eng. Ali Al Dhaheri, Managing Director and CEO of Tadweer.

Suraj Kumar, an expert in IT and cybersecurity, specialized in vulnerability management and threat assessment had the following comments to add,  “Abu Dhabi has built a complete regional boundary, with even a cross- regional  transport of hazardous waste is not possible. This is to ensure that e-waste will  be recycled within the emirate. Currently the UAE does not have a proper channel of disposal as the e-waste is mostly pushed outside the country as used electronics.”

Sustainable Initiatives

One of the projects in operation by Clean Earth is establishing gadget shredders in various communities to ensure secure data eliminations. This way unusable technologies could be processed, segregated and various metals distracted to be recycled. Enviroserve, another private company serving Dubai and a few areas of Abu Dhabi, has services such as ’Green truck’  providing the same. However, the benefits of these services are limited.

ways to reduce e-waste

“We bring our trucks to their doorsteps- and introduce our shredder machine that is free of charge, where you can shred off the old gadgets without the risk of losing data. However people still hesitate to do it, because they prefer to resell them to be reused again. This is the most dangerous decision that people make, and it is because of a lack of awareness.”

Several reports have pointed out the increase in the second-hand market of electronics, which could substantially look like reusing but this is not always the case. But recent years saw a dramatic shift on how people view the idea of recommerce and second-hand goods, where we now see affordability leading to usage of used devices with major ecommerce and telecom players now selling used devices. But, users are hoarding their old electronics, which lose value every hour they spend locked in a drawer.

“The world is moving towards a change and the quality of the materials used to produce the gadgets have reduced. Previously, the quality of metals was much better, but now they are able to produce the same with the minimal metal conceptions,” adds Kumar.

From recent research conducted on household E-waste generation, it’s been proven that most people are ignorant of the adverse effects of storing old gadgets. When respondents were asked about how often they have recycled their electronic devices, the majority with 68.4% have never recycled their devices.


The most advanced momentum regarding e-waste in the GCC can be found in the UAE.

According to Mr. Suraj, “Every household has an old smartphone left in their drawers that they don’t give up on, and the batteries of these old gadgets can cause a blast when left in closed conditions as the wood used in most furniture available in the UAE market are not fireborne.”

Reports prove the government hasn’t figured out better ways for people to hand off this common but dangerous material, risk-free.

Awareness precedes change

Clear Earth Recycling is also involved in awareness initiatives, playing the role of an NGO, educating the public about the advantages of disposing of the old gadgets without risking their data.

There are many organizations carrying out various activities amongst schools and communities to promote and educate e-waste recycling and disposal. They have conducted various e-waste disposal drives to ensure a sustainable futur e amongst responsible citizens. People of different ages contribute to the common vision of a sustainable tomorrow as well as a nature- developed environment.

The Verdict

“Even with the various HSE policies and environmental policies, data security and privacy policies in place, there is a gap in the process, elsewhere in the UAE”. Waste generators are expected to submit their  request of disposal with the details on the amount of waste being generated. “However the internal processes seem to take longer to provide them permissions.” says Mr. Suraj.

With more and more private organizations working with the Government, the e-waste industry is expected to boom only when the regulations are revised as per the opinion of  Suraj Kumar.

“The current regulation available to monitor the waste is the WDA (wholesale distribution authorization) regulations. But there is a need for regulations to find a permanent answer to e waste management. The recycling companies aren’t growing in the country now, due to the trade culture here and the export borders open to send them to developing countries. It needs to change for the recycling culture to grow.” added Suraj.

Reports show that garbage trucks and recycling centers are going up in flames. These are mostly because of the volatile lithium-ion batteries sealed inside the electronics from Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and more. They are dangerous as well as difficult to segregate,  making e-waste less profitable, and contributing to a growing recycling crisis.

With more private organizations in UAE, enlarging their scopes of recycling e-waste, UAE can ensure a journey towards a safer and cleaner environment. With many initiatives to educate young minds about the importance of understanding e-waste, the UAE is expected to see the e-waste sector as a part of the waste to zero movement.

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About Hamna Iqbal

Hamna Iqbal- an environmental journalist and advocate for climate crisis. She is a researcher based in United Arab Emirates, understanding the sustainability measures and regulations. With the hope of being the face for the less spoken and the unseen parts of climate change, she has done a bachelors in mass communication and journalism, with the vision of being the voice of the voiceless.

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