Waste, and getting rid of it in a manner that makes sense for the economy and the environment, is an issue that has been getting much more attention and investment recently across the GCC. Waste volumes are rising thanks to rapid urbanisation combined with some long-standing societal issues around general wastefulness that make this a serious and ongoing problem.
Backed by ambitious yet achievable overall targets for diverting waste away from landfill sites, numerous Gulf nation governments are pushing for more to be done about waste management in both the private and public sectors. As governments aim to crack down on waste, this has led to a flurry of recent announcements regarding new legislation and initiatives to tackle the problem through a variety of innovative means. While some of these measures involve greater education and support for recycling in the home, many of them are in direct support of cleantech investments and the exploration of innovative new green waste management solutions.
Last month saw the Federal National Council in Abu Dhabi pass new legislation with the aim of recycling 75% of all municipal solid waste (MSW) across the country by 2021. Ultimately, many individual parts of the UAE aim to achieve a ‘zero waste to landfill’ target by the end of 2020, so the new nationwide legislation will no doubt prove a useful spur towards this goal.
The UAE currently has a waste generation ratio of between 1.9 to 2.5kg per person per day, making it one of the most wasteful countries in the world. With around 77% of all this waste ending up in landfill sites, it constitutes a significant challenge but also an equally significant opportunity for the UAE to promote the efficacy of cleantech and instil a more sustainable way of living in its population.
The integrated waste management plan to achieve this 75% recycling rate relies on multiple approaches, including composting, Scandinavian-style home recycling systems and the construction of the largest waste-to-energy plant in the Middle East.
If anything, Saudi Arabia’s MSW disposal issue is even more acute than that of the UAE. While the per capita waste generation rate is 1.4kg (lower than the average UAE citizen), this still creates 15 million tonnes of MSW per year and that figure is expected to double to 30 million tonnes per year by 2033.
Responding to this growing issue, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) is planning to launch the Saudi Recycling Company (SRC), a waste management body that will be empowered to set up and support domestic recycling projects across the country. Currently, Saudi Arabia only recycles around 10% of its waste, but through the SRC the government aims to dramatically increase this ratio to hit 85% as part of its Vision 2030 national strategy.
Driven by global targets set by the Paris Climate agreement, Oman has been developing a new set of regulations in an effort to quickly expand and modernise its national waste management operations so that 60% of all waste can be diverted away from landfills. Currently, almost 100% of all waste ends up in landfill sites.
October 2017 saw the Oman Environmental Services Holding Company – also known as Be’ah – successfully privatise waste management, which quickly led to large contracts and joint ventures in waste management and waste-to-energy projects being awarded to international companies.
With the help of these international operators, Oman is currently in the process of closing all of the country’s 317 dumpsites, which have been deemed environmentally and hygienically unsuitable. In their place, 10-11 engineered landfill sites and 18-25 transfer stations are being established. Equally importantly, the Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP) is currently mulling over the feasibility of establishing the Sultanate’s first waste-to-energy project, a proposed 50 MW capacity facility.
A greener future for waste
These legislative measures, and the initiatives that they support, are a vital step in the GCC’s path towards achieving sustainable national waste management. As each county aims to achieve a high rate of waste recycling over landfill usage, this attitude already seems to be sparking greater enthusiasm for adopting and trialling more sustainable technologies and solutions regarding waste. Given the continually rapid growth of the GCC’s urban centres, we can expect that more investment and support for cleantech will follow on from these announcements in order to keep pace with this perennial challenge.