Experienced, Self-Driven & Results Orientated

Khaled Al-Huraimel, Chief Executive Officer of Bee’ah

Interview with Mr. Khaled Al-Huraimel, Chief Executive Officer of Bee’ah.
by Lawrence J. Ireton.

Khaled Al-Huraimel

Khaled Al-Huraimel

Lawrence J. Ireton: How would you describe the UAE development over the past decade and the role that Bee’ah is playing?

Everybody knows about the rapid development that the UAE is going through, in Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi and the other Emirates. Dubai has led rapid real estate development and this had led to everyone else trying to catch up with infrastructure and real estate development. What we are trying to do at Bee’ah is to lead the environmental effort, and we have done a lot in certain areas, which we can discuss in more detail later. I believe that the UAE is still one of the best places in the region to live, work and do business. It is a very stable country. Our leadership has a vision that has been followed consistently and successfully. The location of the UAE is very strategic from the East to the West, and all that has supported the UAE. People feel at home in the UAE, and that all contributes to the success and this is due to the visionary leaders that we have had.

Lawrence J. Ireton: Indeed the UAE is quite a multicultural society with over 200 nationalities living here I believe.

I think they all feel at home. You can do what you want. The UAE model works very successfully. The real estate market was affected by the global financial crisis, but things are picking up. Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi are still some of the best places in the region. The infrastructure is built very well and our leaders will continue to support this.

Lawrence J. Ireton: One could argue that Dubai and Abu Dhabi are well known internationally and Sharjah also to some extent. Under the current leadership Sharjah is concentrating on three main areas of development: culture, industry and education. How does Sharjah’s role fit in with the rest of the country?

Sharjah and its neighboring cities complement each other. Sharjah has led the cultural movement with lots of museums. On the educational front, we have the best universities and colleges today in the UAE and in the region, and I think the American University of Sharjah the best university in the region. A lot of importance is still placed on education, and Bee’ah has played and is playing a very big role. We have the Bee’ah School of Environment that we launched last year and we are expanding that further. We have just signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the American University of Sharjah to build the first Middle East environmental research center. This will position Sharjah as the leader in environmental research in the region. We will support not just people from the UAE, but also from the region, who want to develop new environmental protection technology. There will be a platform for them to work with, which will be connected to the other international research centers globally. We just announced it early this week. That is going to be an important step for us.

Lawrence J. Ireton: What was the state of environmental affairs prior to Bee’ah’s launch in 2007 and kindly describe the role Bee’ah is fulfilling now?

A lot of the work that Bee’ah is doing right now was handled by the Sharjah City Municipality. They did their best at the time – they were handling all the waste collection and managing the landfill. But it was decided that we needed to do a lot more and that support was needed from the private sector, so this is when Bee’ah was created. We still work very closely with them, and together we are able to do a lot more.

Close to 800 million has been invested. The immediate issue we faced when Bee’ah was established was the problem regarding waste. The UAE is one of the highest producers of waste per capita in the world. Each person generates approximately 2.6 kg of waste per day. This is related to the development and expansion that the country has gone through. We are looking at tackling that problem first. To do that, we need to start building the infrastructure. So we invested in a material recovery facility which is the third largest in the world and the largest in the Middle East. All the MSW waste is separated when it gets to the facility and then we sell that to companies that add value to it and recycle it. We also have a tire recycling facility. If a tire burns, it can really damage the environment, so the tire recycling facility uses a new technology where the tires are shredded, frozen and crushed to create a product called crumb rubber, which is a powder which is used in sports facilities, playgrounds etc. We are even exporting this now outside the UAE.

We have a construction and diminishing waste recycling plant as well. Recycled material is used for road projects and so on. About 2 years ago we created a waste collection unit. In addition to building infrastructure, it is fully integrated. We manage the whole channel – from collecting the waste to treating it, to the education and outreach. This unit used to be handled by the municipality, but we have taken it over entirely. We are using new technology and we are retraining the staff and introducing routing systems so we save power, fuel and manpower. We are more efficient. We are able to clean Sharjah much better this way. This avoids landfill. We have a target to have zero waste in the landfill by 2015. We are on target for this. We have been working towards that target since the beginning. Today we are able to divert 40%, which is one of the highest in the region. By the end of this year we will probably be close to 50%, so we are getting there.

With the program we have just launched a few years ago, that helps us get a step further. We are able to collect segregated materials and we will be able to retrieve more recyclables. As I mentioned earlier, we have launched our residential recycling program across the whole of Sharjah. Sharjah has a population of just over 800,000 and that requires a lot of education and outreach. We actually have a separate unit in the company just looking after this area.

Last year we created the Bee’ah School of Environment, which is a program that has been launched in all the schools of Sharjah (100 schools). I think we have already reached 85,000 students. Phase 1 was launched last year and it targets the teachers. We provided online tools where all the teachers get a username and password and they can use various tools related to the environment that they can introduce in their classes. This year we are launching phase 2 and this will include mobile apps on iPads and iPhones and various other projects to target students. We believe that the students will help educate their parents and families. Then we have another program called My Bee’ah, which is more of a general community outreach program. When we started residential recycling, we knocked on the door of every single home in Sharjah with people providing recycling kits and leaflets in different languages. We also use advertising in newspapers etc. to try to reach as many people as we can. This is continuous – we might have to do it over and over again until we get to the level that is required.

We are also working on legislation. We have been working with the Government and the Sharjah Municipality. We are looking at legislation for waste management and recycling and what can be improved to make this work better. This is being introduced. A lot of work is being done.

Lawrence J. Ireton: And being recognized, with awards.

Yes. In 2011 we won an award for the best waste management company in the Middle East. We also won the best CSR (Corporate Social Responsibly) project in the Middle East as well as other awards. The 2015 target is ambitious, but we are going ahead with it. We are looking at introducing various other technologies into Sharjah to help us achieve that, including waste to energy. Whatever waste we cannot recycle or treat, we covert it into power. We also handle medical waste in the city – we have created a joint venture with another company called Green Planet. We own 50%. That company collects and treats medical waste, and it has already been active for almost a year now.

Lawrence J. Ireton: How does Bee’ah utilize and transfer technologies from other countries?

We have worked with partners from Europe as well as North America. We purchased our material recovery facility, which is one of the largest in the world from a North American company. We purchased some of our street cleaning equipment and sweepers from Canada. We have visited various cities to North America and we visited landfills in Los Angeles and Dallas. We have done similar things in Europe as well. In Europe we signed an MOU with the Government of the Netherlands, which is one of the most advanced countries in terms of waste management in the world. I think they have achieved 0.8% from the landfill. We are working closely with them to see how they can help us with their experience. Bee’ah is very open to partnerships to help us to achieve our objectives.

We are also buying equipment from Italy, Germany and Spain. We are looking at global best practices. We want to position Sharjah as the leader of the environmental movement. Last year we helped to launch the first Green Middle East event with the support of the Expo Center Sharjah in conjunction with them. That is a platform where companies can come, as well as a forum where people can speak about change and help to lead that movement. We are looking at how to reach and influence change in the region. Early this week we signed with the US to build and launch the first Middle East environment research center, so that has also helped to promote research in environmental protection in the region. We will also be building a learning center very soon, which will also be a museum where people can come and visit. We are taking various steps to try to influence change in the region.

Lawrence J. Ireton: Are you going to expand the company’s model to other Emirates?

We just got our license for Dubai, so we will be active there. We are looking at other Emirates as well. We are already talking to potential partners in the region. We have perfected a model that works, and we can export that to other countries in the region that have faced and are facing similar problems. The advantage we have is that with other international companies in the same area we understand the consumer and the population much better. We understand waste consumption and the characteristics of waste, the culture and the traditions, and that is why we are able to work much faster than someone coming in from another country or region and trying to apply what they have done elsewhere to here.

Lawrence J. Ireton: Why do you think?

It is the vision that the UAE has to lead change towards better living standards for its population. So why not look to do that for others outside the UAE? With what is happening in the region, I think the UAE is a very good example of how a model can work properly. We have led in other areas and now we want to lead in the environment.