TBY talks to Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO of Bee'ah, on support from the government, strategies for dealing with growth, and the benefits of PPPs.

Khaled Al Huraimel
Before joining Bee’ah, Khaled Al Huraimel was one of the founders and CEO of Arabian Global Investments LLC (AGI), a UAE-based real estate investment company founded in 2007. In 2005, he took on the role as COO of Dubai Waterfront at Nakheel, where, he was responsible for launching Madinat Al Arab at the Dubai Waterfront. Previously, he held the position of Senior Manager of Sales & Marketing at ENOC International Sales in 1998, a subsidiary of Emirates National Oil Company. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from King Fahd University in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as an MBA from the University of Bradford in the UK. He is also a graduate from the first batch of students to study at the prestigious Dubai Leaders Program at Wharton Business School in Pennsylvania in the US.

What has been Bee'ah's strategy for transforming Sharjah into a sustainable Emirate, and what progress has been made in this regard?

Bee'ah was established in 2007 by a decree from the Ruler of Sharjah, and the objective was to tackle all environmental challenges. We started to focus initially on the problem of waste, which was a major problem here in the region. The waste output per capita in this region is one of the highest in the world, because of the development and growth that is happening here, and we started infrastructure-building operations in 2009 to tackle this issue. The infrastructure we have built since that time includes several facilities to handle, treat, and recycle waste, such as the Middle East's largest material recovery facility, a tire recycling facility, and a construction and demolition waste recycling facility. We also have oil treatment facilities, a car shredder, and a medical waste plant. On top of that, we also manage the engineered landfill and we set up a sister company, called Tandeef, as our waste collection arm. Today, we have contracts with the government to collect household and commercial waste, which we take to our landfill to treat and process. As of the end of 2014, 67% of all waste that we collected in Sharjah was either treated or recycled, which is the highest rate in the Middle East. Once our gasification waste-to-energy facility comes on line next year, which will be the largest gasification facility in the world with a capacity of 400,000 tons, we will be able to achieve our target of zero waste to landfill.

What is your strategy to maintain the tremendous growth Bee'ah has achieved over recent years?

In 2009 we had 14 employees, and as of 2015 we employ 4,000. We have been recognized locally and internationally and won many awards for Best Waste Management Company in the Middle East for the past four years running, from various authorities. This adds to our credibility and shows we are on the right track, and now, the way forward is to expand outside of Sharjah. We already have offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and recently opened an office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. We are already prospecting new opportunities in Oman, Bahrain, and Qatar. We are also expanding our services, and have become an environmental management company, while we started as a waste management company. This year we are installing air quality monitoring towers across the Emirate, to assess the state of the air and decide what action is required. With regard to renewable energy, we have a waste to energy project coming up that will generate 85 megawatts of clean energy, and we have a solar project coming up, which we expect to generate between 15 to 20 megawatts of power mainly for our own facilities. In order to grow in the areas of air quality, water quality, and renewable energy, we have been gaining expertise from foreign entities.

Bee'ah is a Public-Private Partnership with the Sharjah City Municipality. What are the benefits of this model?

We operate like a private company, and we have managed to become profitable in a short period of time. But the partnership with the government has enabled us and Sharjah to move much quicker and become the leader in environment management here. In most other cities, waste management has been fully privatized, but in Sharjah the partnership has helped considerably with legislation and support, and we would have faced many challenges without this. We believe that this model works well in this region. Before Bee'ah, waste management was handled by the government, specifically by the municipality, which was adequate but not quite enough to meet the pace of the vision of Sharjah's authorities.