ABU DHABI // A recycling centre for discarded electronics will be built in Sharjah, and its operator hopes to open more around the country.
The UAE generates one of the region’s biggest amounts of electronics waste, chemicals from which can seep into the soil to aquifers and the food that uses their water to grow.
“Constant technological advancements means that older devices become obsolete at an ever-increasing rate,” said Khaled Al Huraimel, chief executive of Bee’ah, Sharjah’s environmental and waste management company and the plant’s operator.
“The need for computer and electronic recycling is higher than ever before and will only continue to rise.”
Recycling e-waste is lucrative as motherboards and circuitry use precious metals such as gold, which can be extracted and sold.
“More gold can be derived from e-waste than mining ore,” said Nitin Gupta, chief executive of Attero Recycling India, which will set up the plants.
The plan is to have up to eight recycling centres over next two to three years, with an investment of about US$200 million (Dh734.5m).
A UN-sponsored project shows that each year the average UAE resident generates 17.2 kilograms of e-waste, which holds toxins such as arsenic, cadmium and mercury.
Kuwait residents create the same amount, while Bahrain is next on the list with 16.4kg per year.
E-waste generation in the GCC was estimated to be 600,000 tonnes in 2015, which is expected to reach 900,000 tonnes in 2020.
Before, the UAE had companies that would collect e-waste and send it abroad to plants in places such as Singapore.
Mr Gupta said that security concerns were also addressed by recycling e-waste.
“There are also data security concerns, where electronic data lands in the wrong hands and leads to unpredictable, long-term liabilities for corporate entities,” he said.
The project will cover the entire process, from collection to on-site precious metal extraction. A completion date has yet to be announced.
Bee’ah is collaborating with Sharjah Investment and Development Authority and Gulf Islamic Investments to build the project.