Organic waste offers Saudi Arabia a plentiful and sustainable resource

Clockwise from left: Sanitation workers collect litter during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah; piles of plastic bottles before they are recycled; circular fields, part of the green oasis of Wadi Al-Dawasir. (AFP/File Photos)
Clockwise from left: Sanitation workers collect litter during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah; piles of plastic bottles before they are recycled; circular fields, part of the green oasis of Wadi Al-Dawasir. (AFP/File Photos)
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Updated 16 May 2021

Organic waste offers Saudi Arabia a plentiful and sustainable resource

Clockwise from left: Sanitation workers collect litter during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah; piles of plastic bottles before they are recycled; circular fields, part of the green oasis of Wadi Al-Dawasir. (AFP/File Photos)
  • Most of the 15 million tons of garbage generated every year ends up in giant landfills
  • With recycling incentives, discarded plastics could be reused in housing, roads and even artwork

RIYADH: Once upon a time, mankind produced a small amount of waste. Food was not packaged, fruit and vegetable peelings were fed to animals and the dung from horses and camels was used for fertilizer or dried and burned for heating. Most of what came from the earth went directly back into the earth with little or no harm to the environment.

Today, we live in a consumer age in which multitudes of products are purchased and the ensuing trash disposed of with little or no regard for its detrimental impact. Many single-use goods are manufactured and distributed at considerable expense, only to be momentarily used and then thrown away forever.

Saudi Arabia produces no less than 15 million tons of garbage per year — most of which ends up in giant landfills, full of dangerous toxins that seep deep into the ground.

Fortunately, there are now signs of a sea change, both in the Kingdom and around the world. An emerging concept known as “the circular economy” holds that any form of solid waste can be the raw material for a new and more valuable resource.

This is a contemporary answer to alchemy — the medieval quest to turn base matter into gold.

The circular economy involves both upcycling (the process of transforming waste materials into products of greater value) and downcycling (whereby discarded material is used to create something of lower quality and functionality).

Plastic is an obvious starting point. Heralded as a miracle substance almost a century ago, it became ubiquitous in our groceries, clothing, cars and electronic devices.

That initial enthusiasm for plastic has gradually led to a sober realization that it takes up to 500 years to decompose — presenting an environmental calamity that we witness daily on streets littered with plastic bags, cups, bottles and straws.

But did you know that some 50 percent of the plastic waste in Saudi Arabia is collected for recycling?




Plastic bottles before they are recycled. (AFP/File Photo)

Once cleaned and processed, this used plastic can be transformed into pellets, which in turn are melted down to form anything from household tiles to benches to roadside curbs. Japan is the leader in this respect, now recycling almost 90 percent of its plastic waste.

In fact, it is normal in Japan for households to have over half a dozen different containers for various kinds of trash, to ease sorting for recycling purposes.

India’s Kerala Highway Research Institute has developed a recycled, plastic-derived road-surfacing material that is more durable than conventional tarmac and able to withstand the heavy monsoon rains.

Household waste can also produce the energy needed to heat homes and charge electric cars of the future.

As organic matter (that is, anything from apple cores to onion skins) decomposes, it produces methane gas — a source of energy. Other solid waste — for example, cardboard and wood — can be incinerated, again to provide energy.

These processes are collectively known as “waste-to-energy” (WtE). Methods also exist for the filtration of the resulting fumes, reducing carbon output from WtE to almost zero.




A sanitation worker collects litter during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah on August 22, 2018. (AFP/File Photo)

A 2017 study by King Saud University’s Department of Engineering Sciences concluded that Jeddah alone has the potential to produce 180 megawatts (MW) of electricity from garbage incineration and another 87.3 MW from garbage-sourced synthetic gas (syngas).

Another study by Dr. Abdul-Sattar Nizami, assistant professor at the Centre of Excellence in Environmental Studies at Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz University, estimates that 3 terawatt-hours per year could be generated if all of Saudi Arabia’s food waste was utilized in syngas plants.

Sewage is another valuable resource, in two ways. First, just like household waste, sewage produces methane, which can be harnessed to produce energy. Second, sewage water can be treated and reused for irrigation and industrial purposes.

The potential gasification of solid waste and sewage is especially pertinent to Saudi Arabia, which derives a large proportion of its freshwater from desalinated seawater, every drop of which is precious.

RECYLING IN SAUDI ARABIA

* 15m - Tonnes of garbage produced by KSA per year.

* 50% - Plastic waste collected for recycling.

* 3TW-hours - Energy potential from food waste per year.

The Saudi government has already realized this and is taking proactive steps to generate at least half of its energy requirements from renewables by 2030. “Waste to energy” will no doubt play a role in this new paradigm.

In the city of Marselisborg in Denmark, sewage-derived methane now generates over 150 percent of the electricity needed to run its water-treatment plant. The surplus power is used to pump drinking water to homes and offices.

Much of Saudi Arabia’s sewage is filtered and repurposed, presenting an opportunity to produce cheap and abundant energy.

A similar philosophy can be applied to land use. Areas currently dismissed as wasteland can be reimagined as beautiful public spaces.




A partial view of the Sharaan Nature Reserve near AlUla in northwestern Saudi Arabia. (AFP/File Photo)

King Salman is a pioneer in this regard. Up until his tenure as governor of Riyadh Province, Wadi Hanifah, the dry riverbed that winds down the western edge of Riyadh, was an unsightly dumping ground for garbage and industrial effluent.

Working with an international team of landscapers, botanists and water-management experts, King Salman transformed the wadi into the exquisite meandering parkland it is today, with its thousands of trees, lush wetlands and charming picnic spots.

Another example of wasteland regeneration is the Highline of Manhattan — an elevated rail track that was abandoned after the Port of New York was largely shut down in the 1960s.

Instead of being demolished at great trouble and expense, this rusty eyesore was turned into a lovely green walkway through the concrete jungle and is today a major tourist attraction.

And just as wastelands can be repurposed to create attractive new spaces, many artists are using discarded materials to create stunning sculptures, while making powerful statements about our abuse of the planet.

The Milan-based artist Maria Cristina Finucci used two tons of plastic bottle caps and thousands of red-net food bags, placed inside recycled plastic containers, to spell out the word “HELP.”

One critic described this work as “a cry from humanity ... to curb the environmental disaster of the pollution of the seas.”




A McDonald’s table covered with trash. (Supplied)

In a similar vein, two Singaporean artists, Von Wong and Joshua Goh, created a work called “Plastikophobia” — an immersive art installation made from 18,000 discarded plastic cups, to raise awareness about single-use plastic pollution.

After decades of short-termism and willful denial of environmental destruction, all-encompassing smart waste-management policies are still in their infancy. The know-how and technology exist. They just need to be put into practice.

The Kingdom is already striking out in the right direction. Its Saudi Green Initiative, launched in March, calls for regional cooperation to tackle environmental challenges, boost the use of renewables and eliminate more than 130 million tons of carbon emissions.

The Middle East Green Initiative likewise sets out to reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent across the region.

There are also plans to plant 10 billion trees in the Kingdom and restore 40 million hectares of degraded land, while across the wider region there are plans for 50 billion trees and the restoration of 200 million hectares of degraded land.

Much will depend upon enlightenment and imagination at a societal and individual level. Do we continue to regard our world as a supposedly infinite source of material for our consumption and as a dumping ground for the resulting junk, or do we aim for a cleaner, more sustainable circular economy?

Young people, in particular, are increasingly concerned for the future of their planet and are highly motivated to protect it. This awakening is already beginning to translate into government policy, in Saudi Arabia and around the world. 


Residents in Saudi Arabia above 50 set for second vaccine dose

Residents in Saudi Arabia above 50 set for second vaccine dose
Updated 25 June 2021

Residents in Saudi Arabia above 50 set for second vaccine dose

Residents in Saudi Arabia above 50 set for second vaccine dose
  • More than 48 percent of the country’s population has received at least 1 dose

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Health (MoH) announced that residents in the Kingdom above the age of 50 will now be able to receive their second dose of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine after completing more than 40 days from their first dose.

More than 17 million doses have been administered as 48.8 percent of the country’s population has been inoculated with at least one dose.

The Kingdom recorded 1,255 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 479,390.

Most new cases were in the Makkah region with 340, followed by the Eastern Province (282) and Riyadh (203) while Jouf had only six people who tested positive.

There are 11,322 active cases while the number of critical cases dropped to 1,451 compared to the day before. Fourteen new COVID-19-related deaths have raised the total number of fatalities to 7,730.

The MoH said that a further 1,247 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 460,338. The country’s recovery rate is currently at 96 percent and holding steady.

In addition, 91,021 new polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests conducted in the past 24 hours have raised the number of tests conducted in the Kingdom to over 21.3 million.

Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

Among them, Taakad (make sure) centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual. Tetamman (rest assured) clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.

Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.

Meanwhile, Jeddah authorities closed 32 commercial outlets for breaching COVID-19 protocols.

Municipalities in the Kingdom have stepped up their efforts to ensure compliance with COVID-19 safety measures designed to protect public health.

The municipality of Jeddah governorate carried out 3,899 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities in one day, identifying 57 violations.

The violations varied between noncompliance with social distancing and wearing a mask, leniency in measuring the temperature of customers, overcrowding issues and failure to effectively use the Tawakkalna app.

Officials have urged the public to report any suspected health breaches by phoning the 940 call center number or using the Balady app.


Saudi Arabia reports 120% jump in research published in major journals

Saudi Arabia reports 120% jump in research published in major journals
Updated 25 June 2021

Saudi Arabia reports 120% jump in research published in major journals

Saudi Arabia reports 120% jump in research published in major journals
  • The ministry has contributed to defining the national priorities in scientific research and innovations by organizing scientific events in cooperation with national authorities and industrial sectors

JEDDAH: The number of scientific research papers and innovations from Saudi Arabia’s government universities has increased dramatically in the past year.

The number of scientific publications from Saudi universities published in international refereed magazines and journals rose by 120 percent in 2020. The number of research papers rose to 33,588, almost doubling the target set last year at 18,000 publications. 

The Kingdom ranked first in the Arab world and second in the Middle East and North African region for the quality of published research papers for the third consecutive year according to the Nature Index 2020, one of the world’s most important international indexes for institutional research performance, evaluating and comparing international academic institutions. 

Saudi Arabia also ranked 14th worldwide in the publication of distinguished research papers and provision of solutions for the coronavirus pandemic. Saudi Arabia’s Education Ministry has supported scientific research and innovation across governmental universities. 

Its efforts have ensured that the universities keep up with contemporary changes, improve learning outcomes and support the innovation-based national economy through setting the Kingdom’s research priorities.

The ministry has also developed a strategy for scientific research, including a special research identity for each university, to improve the rate of publishing and optimize its impact in line with national needs and Vision 2030’s goals.

Several programs have also been launched to support research and innovation across universities, such as the institutional funding initiative to support scientific research serving the national priorities and needs of the industrial sector. 

The ministry has contributed to defining the national priorities in scientific research and innovations by organizing scientific events in cooperation with national authorities and industrial sectors. These efforts have allowed the ministry to define 12 priorities.


Historic palace inspires Saudi design blueprint for the future

Historic palace inspires Saudi design blueprint for the future
Updated 25 June 2021

Historic palace inspires Saudi design blueprint for the future

Historic palace inspires Saudi design blueprint for the future
  • The wide-ranging blueprint reflects the authority’s ambitions to launch a fresh and innovative start for the Saudi architectural sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture has unveiled a comprehensive strategy to take the architecture and design sector in the Kingdom “to the next level” by empowering talented architects and designers.

The Murabba strategy, announced by the ministry’s Architecture and Design Authority, takes its name from the historic palace in Riyadh.

The wide-ranging blueprint reflects the authority’s ambitions to launch a fresh and innovative start for the Saudi architectural sector, going beyond traditional limits, and serving members of the sector through a range of initiatives and programs.  

Sumaya Al-Sulaiman, CEO of the Architecture and Design Authority, said that the strategy will develop the sector and help its members meet the aspirations of the Culture Ministry, led by Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan. 

“The strategy covers multiple themes and aspects, such as the legislative and regulatory aspects, as well as supporting and enabling an educational and practical environment related to the targeted sector, along with a set of initiatives and programs aimed at supporting architects and designers across the Kingdom,” she said.

Under the slogan “the north star,” the authority’s strategy has defined its vision and mission to reflect its major objectives.

The authority has also elaborated its own vision of the sector, which it defined as “the creative expression of designing the built environment, products and communicating ideas with aesthetic and functional value, and includes the disciplines of architecture, interior design, urban planning/urban design, landscape architecture, graphic design, and industrial design, as well as all activities, professions, products, and services related to these practices.”  

The strategy covers six strategic objectives: Developing the sector through promoting its integration, contributing to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product by developing the sector of innovative industries and design services, building the skills and talents of present and future professionals, obtaining global recognition for the Kingdom’s architecture and design sector, achieving environmental sustainability in the built environment, and finding a local community for research and innovation in architecture and design fields.   

The authority is planning 33 initiatives that fall under six programs to achieve its strategic objectives, set to be implemented in the five next years.  The first program, titled “architecture and design sector regulation,” focuses on setting the guidelines, laws and regulations of the commercial and professional practices in the sector and includes two initiatives.

The second program, titled “development of the architecture and design sector” focuses on promoting the development of the sector and empowering practitioners to make a greater and broader impact on the architecture and design community, and includes seven initiatives.

The third program, titled “professional development and education,” focuses on supporting local practitioners throughout a comprehensive professional journey, from education to professional excellence, and includes seven initiatives.

The fourth program, titled “content development,” aims to contain, collect, create and promote the cultural content of architecture and design to enrich cultural practices, and includes eight initiatives.

The fifth program focuses on the societal participation and communication, where it aims to set the schedules for cultural events and awards of the authority provided for the local and international community. It includes four strategic initiatives.

The sixth program, titled “activating the architecture and design authority” aims to activate the authority while focusing on internal initiatives and communication to implement the operational model. It includes five strategic initiatives.


Saudi Arabia to announce approved Hajj pilgrims on Friday

Saudi Arabia to announce approved Hajj pilgrims on Friday
Updated 25 June 2021

Saudi Arabia to announce approved Hajj pilgrims on Friday

Saudi Arabia to announce approved Hajj pilgrims on Friday
  • Due to the pandemic, 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform pilgrimage as registration was only open to citizens and residents of the Kingdom
  • Electronic portal for domestic pilgrims received more than 540,000 applications before registration closed on Wednesday

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah will announce on Friday the names of the 60,000 pilgrims selected to perform the Hajj pilgrimage this year.
The ministry said that the electronic portal for domestic pilgrims received more than 540,000 applications from Saudi citizens and residents before registration closed on Wednesday, adding that there was no priority for early registration.
The ministry also said that the selected pilgrims will be able to start booking and purchasing packages at 1 p.m. on Friday.
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the emergence of new mutations, the Ministries of Health and Hajj announced earlier this month they would cap the total number of people allowed to perform the pilgrimage this year at 60,000. 
Registration was only open to citizens and residents of the Kingdom.
Males accounted for 59 percent of the registered pilgrims, according to the Hajj Ministry, while the age group ranging between 31 and 40 years old occupied the most registration slots at 38 percent. Registered pilgrims aged 60 and over represented the lowest age group at two percent.
Those wishing to perform Hajj must be free of any chronic diseases, and be within the ages of 18 to 65 years for those vaccinated against the virus, according to the Kingdom’s vaccination measures. 
Hajj pilgrims should be fully vaccinated, or those who took one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before, or those who are vaccinated after recovering from coronavirus infection.


Saudi security officials arrest national in possession of over 7,000 amphetamine pills, firearm

Saudi security officials arrest national in possession of over 7,000 amphetamine pills, firearm
Updated 25 June 2021

Saudi security officials arrest national in possession of over 7,000 amphetamine pills, firearm

Saudi security officials arrest national in possession of over 7,000 amphetamine pills, firearm

RIYADH: Security officials in Saudi Arabia arrested a citizen who was found with a large quantity of amphetamine pills and a firearm in his possession, Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.
Spokesman for Najran police, Maj. Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Ashwi said that officials from the Special Forces for Road Security in the region managed to arrest a Saudi national in his thirties, who was found in possession of 7,160 amphetamine tablets and an unauthorized pistol-type firearm with live ammunition.
He added that he had been arrested, initial legal measures have been taken against him, and he was handed over to the competent authority, in preparation for his referral to the Public Prosecution.