In fact, a change in behaviour is essential to extending the life cycles of everyday products.
Keith Newman, Averda’s Technical Director, speaking at the Middle East Waste Summit 2009 (Dubai Airport Expo Centre, May 26-28), emphasized the need to view society’s discards in a different light.
“The word ‘waste’ conjures negatives—nasty, smelly, toxic, hazardous and useless. At Averda, we look through the other end of the telescope. What most people refer to as ‘waste’, we call a ‘resource’.”
Newman cites the book ‘Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we make things work’ (2002) by German chemist Michael Braungart and US architect William McDonough as an inspiration for his philosophy at Averda.
He says, “Everything has an infinite life cycle. Societies with a linear resource pattern discard items at a particular stage. Yet that isn’t the death of the material.”
He adds, “A ‘cradle-to-cradle’ society looks to reinvest in items that have served their original purpose, giving them a useful afterlife and creating a virtuous circle of resources—as well as increased economic activity and environmental improvements.”
“Waste is the only global resource that is not diminishing,” he states. “So it’s high time companies started competing for it.”
Averda does so through its waste-to-energy solutions. The company’s Centre for Environmental Research & Technology (CERT), where Mr Newman works , seeks ever greater efficiencies. But that’s only half the story.
He says, “Almost all discards have the potential to be reused, recovered or recycled in some form or another. To these three Rs, we add a fourth: rethink.”
“Since we all contribute to what we call waste, we’re all responsible for what happens when we’ve finished with it. At Averda, we’re aiming to establish a new mindset throughout the Middle East with educational programmes that engage with communities and inspire fundamental change in people’s approach to what they discard or throw away,” he adds.
Through its community activities, Averda encourages people to change their regular habits to reduce the impact of waste. But what happens when irregular events overturn even the best intentions?
Walid Shaar, Deputy CEO and COO of Averda, speaking at the the Middle East Waste Summit 2009, highlighted the company’s experience with crisis management.
“On July 12, 2006, war broke out in Lebanon. Within four days, 1500 Syrian workers had fled the country, with a further 500 Indians leaving just days later. Our warehouse stopped receiving bulky items and other municipal waste.”
He adds, “The situation looked grim. Yet by July 20 we had recruited Lebanese labourers in an unheralded turn-around, while crisis management teams went into neighbourhoods to roll out a community volunteer programme.”
“By July 22, we had emergency sites up and running and our labour force fully restored by July 27, two weeks before the ceasefire came into effect,” he points out.
Mr Shaar attributes this ability to react quickly under the worst conditions to a combination of local knowledge and international best practices.
“We started as a local company in Lebanon,” he says, “and we take that mindset into each new territory, learning about each community’s culture and its needs. When you combine this approach with our adherence to the strictest international standards,” he concludes, “you have a powerful engine that drives us in any eventuality.”
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