carrot soaps on display in a Lush store

Recycle in the UAE: The Creative Way

6 mins

It’s never been easier to recycle in the UAE with countless companies offering innovative, easy, and free ways of reducing landfill

Since 2016 figures show that at 2.7 kilograms a day, a typical UAE resident produces double the amount of municipal waste than their European counterpart. Such shocking figures have catapulted the nation into rolling out programmes to improve recycling efforts and, in line with the government’s plans of becoming a zero-waste nation by 2030, positive changes are now being made at a rapid rate. 

Single-use plastic bags were banned in Dubai from January this year, while Abu Dhabi did the same back in 2022. The UAE now aims to recycle or reuse 75 per cent of waste by the end of 2022 and, thanks to clever campaigns and services like those listed below, there’s lots of reasons to feel hopeful that this goal isn’t too far away.  

Swap plastic for bus rides 

Blue Abu Dhabi passenger bus
Hop on a bus at a discounted rate when you hand over your plastic bottles. Source: Wikimedia

In a bid to cut waste and encourage taking public transport, residents of Abu Dhabi now receive discounted bus rides in exchange for recycling plastic bottles. One point (10 fils) is awarded for every 600ml bottle (or smaller), and two points (20 fils) for any larger bottles. The total is deducted from the collector’s next ride and DGrade, the UAE’s cutting-edge, plastic recycling company, uses the bottles to make T-shirts and accessories. There’s currently only one deposit machine at the city’s central bus station, but more are expected to be rolled out soon.

‘Save The Butts’ with Goumbook   

Cigarette butts make up 30 to 40 per cent of the UAE’s beach litter – pick them up with Goumbook’s recycling scheme

Made of 95 per cent plastic and taking 10 to 15 years to decompose, a shocking 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are dropped across the world every year and they make up 30 to 40 per cent of the UAE’s beach litter. Fortunately, local sustainable start-up Terrax has found a way of recycling butts and turning them into plywood alternatives. Through Goumbook’s ‘Save The Butts’ campaign, you can contribute to the cause by joining in with one of the community beach cleanups, or by collating your own stash of butts and having them collected through the ReLoop app.  It’s a great way of putting your beach days and sunset strolls to good use.

Exchange old clothes for cash

jumper with a recycle sign in the middle
There are plenty of good reasons for recycling your clothes instead of throwing them out

Every year, 12 million tons of clothing ends up in landfill. So, next time you’re having a therapeutic wardrobe clear out, commit to recycling your unwanted clothes. In the UAE a relatively new service, Kiswa, will come and collect your unwanted clothing before you throw them back into your wardrobe for another six months. Including a free pick up and a rewards system that offers 2 AED for every kilogram of clothes, 1 AED for every kilogram of shoes, bags, bedding and toys and various shopping vouchers, it has recycled over 424,100 pieces of clothing since it arrived in the UAE in September 2021. 

With 92 million tonnes of textile waste estimated to be produced each year globally, Kiswa either uses the old materials to make furniture and curtains, sells them on abroad or donates them to charity.  

carrot soaps on display in a Lush store
Head down to Lush for gorgeous smelling natural beauty treats, and don’t forget to take your pots for their recycle scheme

‘Bring it Back’ to LUSH 

Ethical cosmetics brand LUSH started 2022 by launching its recycling ‘Bring It Back Scheme’ in the UAE for the very first time. Now for every clean LUSH pot or bottle you return, you get 5 AED to spend in store. Or, if you’re seriously addicted to the gorgeous smelling moisturisers, hair products and other vegetarian-friendly pampering items, you can try and exercise some self-control and wait until you have five to exchange for a homemade face mask. Either way, you’re winning.

Make soil with food waste 

Even if you don’t have a garden, there’s no excuse for not turning your fruit peel, egg shells, coffee grounds and other organic waste into compost.

Clever platform MakeSoil helps soil makers (residents who have a compost heap and a garden) connect with people who have food scraps to give away.

The perfect way of giving back to the earth, even those living in small apartments can create soil in compact, indoor-friendly composters made by innovative hardware brands such as Daily Dump.

The useful map highlights where all the collection points are in your area, and there’s advice on how to get started and build your own ‘Soil Maker Box.’ Just type your emirate into their search tab and choose from one of the 40 plus locations closest to you within Dubai or Sharjah. It’s slim pickings in Abu Dhabi and Ras al Khaimah with fewer than four registered at the time of publishing, however, it’s such a great idea we are sure it will catch on soon!

Discover the UAE’s first free recycle app

Here in the UAE, we can get everything from fuel to manicures delivered to our doors with just a quick tap of our smartphones. So, we think it was about time we had an app that let us recycle from our sofas, too.

RECAPP is the first app in Abu Dhabi and Dubai that will pick up recyclables right from your doorstep for free.  Accepting metal cans and clear and opaque plastic bottles, the app is an efficient way to ensure you divert your waste from landfill.

It also has a reward program in the pipeline to incentivise recycling among members. “The more you recycle,
the more points you win,” they say. Consumers will be able to redeem rewards from the online rewards marketplace. Each time a user recycles, points are accumulated based on weight.

Unfortunately, while it’s popular in Abu Dhabi, its Dubai service is currently limited to certain areas.

A handy reminder from RECAPP on what residents can and can’t recyle

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