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. 


Saudi Arabia records 16 COVID-19 deaths, 1,077 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 16 COVID-19 deaths, 1,077 new cases
Updated 48 min 50 sec ago

Saudi Arabia records 16 COVID-19 deaths, 1,077 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 16 COVID-19 deaths, 1,077 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 906 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • 8 mosques reopened in 3 regions after being sterilized after some people tested positive for coronavirus

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 16 new COVID-19 related deaths on Saturday, raising the total number of fatalities to 7,553.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,077 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 464,780 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 10,267 remain active and 1,562 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in Makkah with 348, followed by the capital Riyadh with 225, the Eastern Province with 149, Asir recorded 97, and Jazan confirmed 70 cases.
The health ministry also announced that 906 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 446,960.

The ministry renewed its call on the public to register to receive the vaccine, and adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs reopened eight mosques in three regions after temporarily evacuating and sterilizing them after some people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of mosques closed and reopened after being sterilized to 1,555 within 126 days.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 176 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.80 million.


Saudi Arabia to limit Hajj pilgrimage this year to 60,000 citizens and residents

Saudi Arabia to limit Hajj pilgrimage this year to 60,000 citizens and residents
Updated 12 June 2021

Saudi Arabia to limit Hajj pilgrimage this year to 60,000 citizens and residents

Saudi Arabia to limit Hajj pilgrimage this year to 60,000 citizens and residents
  • Decision made due to the coronavirus pandemic

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said it will limit registration for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage to citizens and residents of the Kingdom in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ministries of Health and Hajj announced Saturday that a total of 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage this year. The Hajj begins mid-July.

It stressed that those wishing to perform Hajj must be free of any chronic diseases, and to be within the ages from 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.

The decision is “based on the Kingdom’s constant keenness to enable the guests and visitors at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque to perform the rituals of Hajj and Umrah,” the ministry said. “The Kingdom puts human health and safety first.”

A deputy to the Hajj minister meanwhile said that Saudi Arabia found great understanding from Muslim countries over the decision to limit this year’s pilgrimage participants.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision to limit Hajj2021 to pilgrims from within the Kingdom.


Saudi Foreign Ministry launches e-service to extend visitor visa validity

Saudi Foreign Ministry launches e-service to extend visitor visa validity
Updated 12 June 2021

Saudi Foreign Ministry launches e-service to extend visitor visa validity

Saudi Foreign Ministry launches e-service to extend visitor visa validity

RIYADH: Saudi ministries have launched an e-service that allows visitors coming to the Kingdom to extend the validity of their unused or expired visitor visas due to a travel ban imposed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Kingdom will allow a cost-free extension, granted on the directives of King Salman, for those who were suspended from entry to 20 countries previously announced in February.  
The initiative launched by the Saudi foreign and interior ministries and the General Directorate of Passports would allow the extension of visas until July 31, 2021.
Travelers who wish to extend their visitor visa can head to ministry’s e-platform to perform the necessary extension.


Saudi artist’s paintings helping sell luxury Hollywood properties

Saudi artist’s paintings helping sell luxury Hollywood properties
Abdulrahman Hamdi, backed by his mother, his biggest supporter, secured an ‘amazing opportunity’ to work for Premier Stagers, a leading US luxury staging and interior design company. (Supplied)
Updated 12 June 2021

Saudi artist’s paintings helping sell luxury Hollywood properties

Saudi artist’s paintings helping sell luxury Hollywood properties
  • Abdulrahman Hamdi’s artwork has been decorating homes up for sale in the film capital of the world, and some of the residential properties his pieces hang in are on the market for more than $14 million

JEDDAH: A Saudi artist is making a name for himself in Hollywood after his paintings were selected to adorn the walls of some of the famous Los Angeles neighborhood’s most luxurious properties.

Abdulrahman Hamdi’s artwork has been decorating homes up for sale in the film capital of the world, and some of the residential properties his pieces hang in are on the market for more than $14 million.

Every day, one sees something new in an abstract painting and feels more of it.
Abdulrahman Hamdi

Hamdi, backed by his mother, his biggest supporter, secured an “amazing opportunity” to work for Premier Stagers, a leading US luxury staging and interior design company, a breakthrough that has helped to provide a shopwindow for his paintings.
And his American success story does end there: A Los Angeles-based real estate magazine has published one of his works on its front cover, and Vogue Arabia ran an article about Hamdi accompanied by a picture of another of his paintings.
His artistic talents were first spotted by his kindergarten teachers but at elementary school he said students paid more attention to football and his tutors often frowned on his drawings.
Now living in Los Angeles, Hamdi, who gained a master’s degree in law, told Arab News that he had been obsessed with fine art from an early age.
“At the time, my kindergarten peers were waiting for the physical education class, while I was counting hours for the arts class to begin. I used to save up money (to buy painting tools) from the amounts I received from my relatives on Eid occasions.”
Abstractionism slowly began to capture his interest and he started displaying his artwork on social media platforms, such as Instagram, with the hope of one day becoming a professional artist.
“I consider abstract art, with its broad scope, as an interesting art. Every day, one sees something new in an abstract painting and feels more of it,” he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• At first, Hamdi felt apprehensive about displaying his abstract paintings in public, fears that were soon to be justified as exhibition halls rejected his approaches. But he said the reforms now taking place in Saudi society had changed attitudes and art had been given a raised profile through the support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and bodies such as the Misk Foundation.

• Hamdi’s first participation in an exhibition came at the Misk Historic Jeddah event in 2017, and the following year he took part in Misk Art, which encouraged artists to promote their cultural identity in their works.

However, in late 2014, Hamdi was involved in a traffic accident that completely changed his outlook on life.
“I was locked up in memories and pains. I even failed to express my feelings in words. I became completely destroyed. I then realized that drawing was the only way to take me out of my sufferings.
“When the unpleasant event was over, colors began to mean something else to me, and I began to deal with them differently,” he added.
At first, he felt apprehensive about displaying his abstract paintings in public, fears that were soon to be justified as exhibition halls rejected his approaches. But he said the reforms now taking place in Saudi society had changed attitudes and art had been given a raised profile through the support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and bodies such as the Misk Foundation.
Hamdi’s first participation in an exhibition came at the Misk Historic Jeddah event in 2017, and the following year he took part in Misk Art, which encouraged artists to promote their cultural identity in their works.


New Saudi fashion forum to launch next week with live event in New York and Riyadh

Fashion Futures was introduced in 2019 as the first event dedicated to the fashion sector in the Kingdom. (File/Screenshot)
Fashion Futures was introduced in 2019 as the first event dedicated to the fashion sector in the Kingdom. (File/Screenshot)
Updated 12 June 2021

New Saudi fashion forum to launch next week with live event in New York and Riyadh

Fashion Futures was introduced in 2019 as the first event dedicated to the fashion sector in the Kingdom. (File/Screenshot)
  • The Kingdom’s Fashion Commission has redesigned the groundbreaking Fashion Futures initiative as an interactive digital platform
  • The inaugural event, Fashion Futures Live: Moving Towards Sustainability, Diversity and Innovation, takes place on June 17

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Fashion Commission has announced a new digital initiative that will launch next week with an event that will be broadcast live from Riyadh and New York.
Fashion Futures, which was introduced in 2019 as the first event dedicated to the fashion sector in the Kingdom, will be relaunched as a digital platform on June 17 with Fashion Futures Live: Moving Towards Sustainability, Diversity and Innovation.
The event, which will take place simultaneously in the Kingdom and the US, will be streamed online to participants through a specially designed, interactive virtual platform. It is being presented in cooperation with Fashinnovation, a global platform for sustainability, innovation and entrepreneurship in fashion.
The organizers of Fashion Futures says its aim is “to bring together fashion’s most inspiring leaders, digital distributors and design mavericks for unprecedented conversations surrounding innovation and sustainability.”
Notable international speakers due to appear at the event include: Susan Rockefeller, the president and trustee of Oceana, a non-profit marine-conservation foundation; Rebecca Minkoff, a fashion designer and author of “Fearless: The New Rules for Unlocking Creativity, Courage, and Success;” Oskar Metsavaht, an environmental activist and founder of fashion brand Osklen; Helen Aboah, the CEO of luxury lifestyle brand Urban Zen; and Abrima Erwiah, co-founder of Studio One Eighty Nine, a social enterprise that promotes and curates African fashion.
The discussions will cover topics such as diversity, sustainable-development goals, entrepreneurship and innovation in the fashion industry. They will be moderated by Fashinnovation co-founder Jordana Guimaraes from New York City, and Taghrid Alhowish, a TV presenter and producer from Dubai.
“We are honored to host some of the world’s greatest minds in business sustainability to discuss the pressing issues we are facing today, especially the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” said Burak Cakmak, CEO of the Fashion Commission.
“And since there is no sector that has not been affected by it, virtual platforms such as Fashion Futures enable discussions to break down barriers by engaging experts from all over the world in this critical dialogue, and by collaborating and exchanging ideas we can draw on a wide range of expertise and strive toward a sustainable global fashion industry.”
He said that Saudi Arabia can serve as an example of how to build an innovative, sustainable and appropriate fashion sector, locally and internationally. By working with innovators in the sector, attracting retail experiences and establishing partnerships for education, business development and entrepreneurship, he added, the Kingdom will be able to develop the processes and brands of local businesses to improve them in line with international best practices.
In addition to broadcasting talks and discussions, the Fashion Futures platform will also offer training courses and workshops, with the aim of providing a fertile environment for the exchange of knowledge, innovation and ideas. Another live event is scheduled to take place in December in Riyadh.
The Fashion Commission is one of 11 Saudi cultural bodies established in February last year by the Ministry of Culture to oversee the development and success of cultural sub-sectors.
With the Fashion Futures initiative, the commission aims to lead the way in achieving a more globally sustainable fashion sector, in addition to developing the local fashion industry.