UAE Sustainability Partnerships Reduce Waste and Improve Road Quality



  • The UAE National Agenda was launched in 2014, to help fulfil the “Vision 2021”. Both government-led initiatives held “Sustainable Environment and Infrastructure” as one of six core national priorities.
  • Succeeding Vision 2021, in January 2021, the UAE Government approved the UAE Circular Economy Policy. This is a framework to guide the country’s transition to more sustainable use of natural resources. Included in its seven outcomes are the need to motivate innovation, mitigate environmental pressures, and ensure the supply of raw materials.[1]


  • Extreme weather and traffic conditions cause roads to deteriorate at a faster rate in the UAE than in other countries, which necessitates innovative means of upgrading asphalt binder agents to help reduce maintenance costs. Asphalt tends to deform at higher temperatures
  • The emirate of Abu Dhabi alone contributes approximately 15 billion dirhams to GDP (2%) from plastic production. Plastic makes up a large portion of waste in UAE landfills and lacks sustainable disposal methods. With degradation taking decades, it is one of the largest pollutants of soil, oceans and animal habitats in the country
  • Solid tyre wastes are non-biodegradable materials that pose serious environmental and public health concerns. Over 50% of tyres in the UAE discarded without appropriate treatment, and in Abu Dhabi alone there are more than 25 million used tyres (compared to a population of 1.5 million in the emirate). Tyres are typically disposed in open pits, which have harmful environmental impacts as chemicals leach into the ground. They are also prone to catching fire, which is particularly difficult to extinguish and releases toxins into the atmosphere.[2]


  • To improve the sustainability outcomes of infrastructure, the UAE government sought to research new materials with industry and specialists
  • The Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure (MOEI) established a partnership with Michelin for a two-year pilot project to develop road surfacing that comprised regular cement mixed with crumb rubber and used tyres. The aim was to design an admixture according to specific UAE requirements and determine if the application of this technology can be specified in new projects
  • The government also partnered with the academic sector to provide seed funding for research into the use of recycled plastic in asphalt pavement. Studies at the University of Sharjah in the UAE showed that the addition of plastic waste powder to asphalt binders was a viable, cheaper and environmentally friendly method of reducing rutting in asphalt pavements.[3]


  • Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure – Developing new mix specification with recycled plastics
  • Sydney Metro
  • Michelin Tyres – Key partner for the recycled tire asphalt project
  • UAE Academic sector – Such as the University of Sharjah[4]


  • 2010 – “Vision 2021” launched, includes “Sustainable Environment and Infrastructure” as a key objective
  • 2019 – Project launch for recycled tyres in asphalt production
  • 2020 - Real scale test segment of rubberized asphalt UAE Federal highway
  • 2021 – Launch of recycled asphalt in pavement project, utilising research from academic studies. Pilot implementation for Rubberized Asphalt
  • 2022 – Further sampling and testing of plastic asphalt binder and pavement performance simulation. Expected competition of recycled tyre asphalt project with impact measured and final report
  • 2023 – Final mix for plastic asphalt determined

Results / impact

  • Reduction of tyre and plastic pollution will contribute to the UAE Circular Economy Policy goal of mitigating environmental pressures, and to the Vision 2021 goal of “Sustainable Environment and Infrastructure”
  • Infrastructure will be made more resilient by increasing pavement tensile strength, providing longer asset life and reduced maintenance costs. In addition the reduction in plastic and tyre waste will alleviate pressure on landfill facilities, and prevent the release of chemicals and toxins into the environmental from incorrectly disposed tyres.
  • Road user experience and safety will improve due to increased road quality from a more crack-and-heat resistant product. Non-road users will also benefit, as rubberized asphalt may reduce noise pollution levels by up to 4 decibels
  • For the Dubai Expo 2020, the construction of 30,000 car park spaces was completed with mixture that consisted of 20% recycled tyres, as part of the expo’s sustainability drive[5]
  • The partnerships formed with academic bodies and researchers have continued a UAE trend of working with universities and the private sector to develop industry – and to develop local talent. As part of the “Projects of the 50” program, the state has allocated USD 6.5 billion to train and supplement the salaries of local professionals in fields such as accountants, lawyers, and analysts working in the private sector[6]
  • The government has also established a USD 275 million Graduate Fund, to give grants to students and recent graduates to encourage them to establish start ups and work in the private sector, which is currently dominated by expatriate workers. The government aims to have 10% of private sector roles in the nation filled by local Emiratis by 2026.[6]

Key lessons learnt

  • Partnerships with the academic sector toward the implementation of the circular economy policy enables government entities and the private sector to experiment with high-potential infrastructure investments. It also contributes towards accelerating their implementation at a country level and in new conditions while recycling PET, DPE, LDPE and PP plastics and rubber from recycled tyres
  • Innovative research and testing projects are only possible if accompanied by the corresponding policies regulating the collection and recycling of the plastic wastes and tyres through approved service providers.
Last Updated: 10 March 2022