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Recycling textiles at United Arab Emirates University: reducing waste to landfill whilst contributing to Red Crescent

At United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) New Campus in Al Ain, UAE, where we provide integrated facilities management services through Khadamat Facilities Management, our joint venture with Mubadala, our Waste Management team manages the collection of all waste across the campus.

The population of the campus is approximately 18,000 students and 2,000 faculty members and office staff in 58 buildings. The Waste Management team are keen champions of recycling but face many logistical and cultural challenges.

For example, every semester the team are required to manage of a significant volume of ‘waste’ textiles and clothing, often simply left behind by departing graduates. Historically, in the absence of local clothing and textiles recycling facilities, all such waste was disposed of at landfill. Determined to find a better, practical and sustainable solution, the team engaged with the volunteer humanitarian organisation, Red Crescent.

Working in partnership with Red Crescent, the Waste Management team established an unwanted textiles collection system. Through this initiative, old clothing, shoes, bed linen, carpets – and some electronic items – are collected and sorted for recycling. Clothes fit for wearing are donated to people in need, while textiles in poorer conditions are recycled as fabric.

Because of the large intake of new students every year, the Waste Management team have found that their biggest challenge is ensuring that everyone is appropriately educated about the initiative, its purpose and what they can do to support it. The team have strong relationships with the university’s residential staff and work closely with them to drive student awareness, whilst maintaining collection points around the campus to maximise recovery of unwanted items.

As of 2019, more than 22,000 kgs of textile waste has been saved from landfill – being redirected into Red Crescent care packages for both inside and outside the UAE.