How a culture of recycling can reduce waste generation in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia produces around 15 million tons of garbage every year, with 95 percent ending up in landfill, and just 5 percent of total waste recycled. (Shutterstock)
Saudi Arabia produces around 15 million tons of garbage every year, with 95 percent ending up in landfill, and just 5 percent of total waste recycled. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 28 January 2022

How a culture of recycling can reduce waste generation in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia produces around 15 million tons of garbage every year, with 95 percent ending up in landfill, and just 5 percent of total waste recycled. (Shutterstock)
  • Consumerism in GCC countries has created mountains of trash, most of the content of which is nonbiodegradable
  • “Circular economy” opens up huge opportunities for Saudis to reduce, reuse and recycle the waste they generate

JEDDAH: As is the case in many other parts of the world, a combination of population growth, urbanization and economic expansion has not only increased personal consumption across the Middle East but is also generating colossal amounts of waste.

Five Gulf Cooperation Council countries — Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait — rank in the top 10 worldwide in terms of per capita generation of solid waste.

Thanks to their oil wealth, consumer spending in these countries has grown over recent decades to become a key driver of domestic economies. But as in many advanced countries, a culture of consumerism has created mountains of trash, most of the content of which is nonbiodegradable and extremely harmful to the environment.

Saudi Arabia alone produces about 15 million tons of garbage a year, 95 percent of which ends up as landfill, polluting the soil and releasing greenhouse gases, including methane, into the atmosphere for decades.

What is not buried often ends up as litter on city streets, in the form of discarded polythene bags, fast-food containers, plastic bottles and empty soda cans.

Between the start of 2020 and the first half of 2021, Saudi Arabia recycled only 5 percent of its total waste, including plastic, metal and paper.

To reduce waste generation, protect fragile ecosystems and make the most of reusable materials, Saudi Arabia can rely on the “circular economy” concept, a closed-loop system that involves the 3-R approach: Reduce, reuse and recycle.

The leading agent of change in this effort is the Saudi Investment Recycling Company, which was established in 2017 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund.

FASTFACTS

* Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade.

* Only 12 percent of plastic is incinerated worldwide.

SIRC seeks to divert 85 percent of hazardous industrial waste, 100 percent of solid waste, and 60 percent of construction and demolition waste away from landfills by 2035. The only types of waste not covered by its remit is that created by the military and nuclear energy, both of which are handled by specialist organizations.

The circular economy model opens up huge opportunities, whether in terms of products, energy creation or services, which can make a major contribution to the diversification of the Saudi economy away from oil and its derivatives, in line with the aims of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms strategy.

Saudi Arabia aims to invest almost SR24 billion ($6.4 billion) in the recycling of waste by 2035 as it attempts to switch to a more sustainable waste-management system. It will invest about SR1.3 billion in construction and demolition waste, and about SR900 million in industrial waste. Investments in municipal solid waste will exceed SR20 billion, while investments in other types of waste will amount to more than SR1.6 billion.

There are several ways to create value in a circular economy. One of them is “waste-to-energy,” which involves drying and incinerating garbage, raw sewage and industrial sludge to power steam turbines.




Volunteers in Saudi Arabia removing waste from beaches to stop its flow back to the waters. (Supplied/World Clean Up Day)

Burning waste produces carbon dioxide but leaving it to decompose in landfill sites results in 20 to 40 times the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions, in the form of methane, over a period of many years.

Unsurprisingly, the circular economy approach is catching on. In 2020, when Saudi Arabia held the presidency of the G20, the Kingdom proposed to allies the concept of a circular carbon economy as a means of mitigating the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere.

But a circular economy model cannot succeed without the active involvement of big companies, small-business entrepreneurs and the general public.

Experts say that the construction of recycling facilities in the Kingdom is only part of the solution; it must go hand in hand with efforts to instill in the Saudi population a culture of household recycling and responsible consumption.

“We have to invest in the infrastructure but, equally, we have to provide education and create outreach programs,” Ziyad Al-Shiha, the CEO of SIRC, told Arab News in October. “Once we achieve 25-35 percent recycling, we can say to the public: ‘Look, this is your effort and this is the result that we’re bringing back to you.’”

TIMELINE OF SAUDI ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRESS

2016: Launch of Saudi Vision 2030.

2017: National Renewable Energy Program announced.

2018: Launch of the National Environment Strategy.

2019: Saudi Arabia joins International Solar Alliance.

2020: Launch of Environmental Fund.

March 27, 2021: Launch of Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative.

Sept. 16, 2021: Farasan Islands added to UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Oct. 23, 2021: Saudi Arabia announces goal of Net Zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2060.

Oct. 23, 2021: Saudi Arabia joins Global Methane Pledge.

Progress has already been made in fostering environmentally conscious behavior at the community level. Saudi highways are better maintained now than before. Even in cities, drains are no longer clogged with cigarette butts, tissue paper, paper cups and discarded food packaging.

In part, such improvements are as a result of the introduction of penalties; the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing can now impose fines of $133 on anyone caught littering or spitting in a public place.

But concern about the environment and public interest in recycling and reducing household waste have also increased markedly, thanks to campaigns conducted by civil society groups.

One such group, Mawakeb Alajer, has worked for 17 years to encourage community-level recycling in Jeddah by providing sorting facilities where the public can drop off a wide range of recyclables, from scrap paper and waste plastic to unwanted furniture and even old wedding dresses.

“As a second-hand shop, we encourage people to give away what they don’t need to charity, which helps protect the environment by reducing waste,” Sara Alfadl, a spokesperson for Mawakeb Alajer, told Arab News.

“We believe that everyone plays a part in the community and we’re providing a service everyone can benefit from. We sort out everything we receive. This takes a lot of time, requires a lot of manpower and is hard. Thankfully, most of the items we receive, whether clothes or recyclable waste, are in good condition.”

In cooperation with local businesses, truckloads of recyclable materials are brought to Mawakeb Alajer’s facility where they are sorted and then sold, donated, or sent to be reused, recycled or repurposed. In the process, the group is helping to gradually change public attitudes.

“Awareness is still in its infancy but spreading nonetheless,” Alfadl said.

Schools have begun to play an important part in shaping attitudes among the next generation, by adopting “environmental literacy” projects that give pupils the chance to learn by participating in school-based recycling schemes and science projects.




Saudi mayor honors British expat, Neil Walker, for 27 years of beach cleaning and who inspired creative environmental initiatives in Alkhobar. (Supplied)

For their part, many Saudi businesses are adjusting to the circular economy model, in line with the Kingdom’s pursuit of sustainable-development goals.

Mona Alothman, the co-founder of Naqaa, a local provider of business-to-business environmental-sustainability solutions, said that many companies are now integrating recycling and waste reduction into their business models.

“It’s not just a phase,” she told Arab News. “Many Saudi companies are adopting ingenious ways to reduce, reuse and recycle their office supplies and better manage their waste, among other things.

“A lot has changed in recent years. Regulations have become stricter in order to adhere to international standards. Our company’s core ethos revolves around sustainability, and recycling is one part of the picture.

“Companies today are not only applying our recommended solutions to office waste but also initiating campaigns to promote and encourage people to be more conscious of how they throw away their trash.”

This multi-pronged approach, encompassing education, charity schemes, stricter rules and penalties, is encouraging the Kingdom’s business establishments to adopt eco-friendly practices and communities to think more about the effects of lifestyle on the environment.

Alfadl and her colleagues at Mawakeb Alajer believe there is a lot that Saudis can do to encourage their employers, neighbors and local authorities to implement more environmentally responsible practices in homes and workplaces.

“I believe that recycling will pick up fast here in Saudi Arabia,” Alfadl said. “With growing awareness, what was once a project or short-term initiative has become a necessity.

“Our approach was always bottom-up. When employees join the sustainability drive with their actions, it won’t be long before others do the same and create a community of people who follow the same approach.”


Japanese delegation completes training program in Saudi Arabia

Japanese delegation completes training program in Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 May 2022

Japanese delegation completes training program in Saudi Arabia

Japanese delegation completes training program in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: A number of young Japanese diplomats completed a training program organized by Prince Saud Al-Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies and Jouf University.

The program was part of an initiative aimed at strengthening bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan and included field visits, educational lectures, and tours in Riyadh and Jouf.

The Japanese diplomats visited a large number of public and private agencies including the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Shoura Council, King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economy and Planning, the Ministry of Culture, the headquarters of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh, King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, Princess Noura bint Abdul Rahman University and the headquarters of Arab News.

They also attended lectures on the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and its most important achievements since its launching.

The diplomats learned about Saudi Arabia’s energy sector and its future prospects, as well as the Kingdom’s efforts in combatting terrorism, and combatting financing extremism.

Jouf University organized lectures on pre-Islamic Arabic literature, and organized a distinguished touristic program to present the civilizational heritage of the region.

At the end of the training program, the Japanese delegation praised the economic, social and cultural achievements of Vision 2030, which has opened new horizons for economic diversification and income diversity, and rendered the Saudi economy a role model to achieve the objectives of sustainable development.

They also praised the beauty of the Jouf region and the touristic, archeological and historical landmarks that it includes.

The program organized by Prince Saud Al-Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies to train Japanese diplomats was launched in 2015 based on a joint statement by Japan and Saudi Arabia on the occasion of the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Japan in 2014.

This story was originally published on Arab News Japan


Saudi deputy defense minister, US central command chief discuss defense coordination

Saudi deputy defense minister, US central command chief discuss defense coordination
Updated 24 May 2022

Saudi deputy defense minister, US central command chief discuss defense coordination

Saudi deputy defense minister, US central command chief discuss defense coordination
  • Prince Khalid visited the Central Command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, as part of the official visit to the US of his delegation, which began last Tuesday

RIYADH: Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister, on Monday met the commander of the US Central Command, General Michael Kurilla, to discuss developments in the Middle East.

“We discussed our joint defense coordination, addressing regional challenges, and stressed the need to work together on preserving regional and global stability,” Prince Khalid said on Twitter.

Prince Khalid visited the Central Command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, as part of the official visit to the US of his delegation, which began last Tuesday.

The CentCom’s area of responsibility covers the Middle East, including Egypt in Africa, and Central Asia and parts of South Asia.

On Sunday, Prince Khalid met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington during which they affirmed their countries’ common vision to confront Iran’s destabilizing policies in the region.

They also discussed the latest developments in Yemen, with Prince Khalid reaffirming Saudi Arabia’s aspirations for the Yemenis “to reach a comprehensive political solution that would move Yemen to peace and development.”

He said the UN and world organizations need “to put pressure on Houthi militias to open Taiz roads, deposit the revenues of Hodeidah port and engage seriously in peace efforts to move Yemen to security, stability, construction and prosperity.”
 


Saudi leaders congratulate new Australian PM on being sworn in

Saudi leaders congratulate new Australian PM on being sworn in
Updated 24 May 2022

Saudi leaders congratulate new Australian PM on being sworn in

Saudi leaders congratulate new Australian PM on being sworn in
  • Australia’s new prime minister was sworn in Monday and flew to Tokyo for a summit with US President Joe Biden

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman congratulated Anthony Albanese on his being sworn in as the new prime minister of Australia, the Saudi Press Agency reported early Tuesday.

In a cable, the king wished the prime minister success and the Australian people further progress and prosperity.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also sent a similar cable to Albanese.

Australia’s new prime minister was sworn in Monday and flew to Tokyo for a summit with US President Joe Biden while vote counting continued to determine whether he will control a majority in a Parliament that is demanding tougher action on climate change.

“I want to lead a government that has the same sentiment of optimism and hope that I think defines the Australian people,” Albanese said in his hometown of Sydney before flying to the national capital Canberra to be sworn in.

Albanese and Malaysian-born Penny Wong, Australia’s first foreign minister to be born overseas, were sworn into office by Governor-General David Hurley before the pair flew to Tokyo for a security summit on Tuesday with Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“We will return (from Japan) on Wednesday and set about implementing our agenda, our agenda that received the endorsement of the Australian people,” Albanese said, highlighting items such as climate change, affordable child care and strengthening Medicare.

(With AP)


Saudi FM visits Misk Youth Council pavilion, Saudi Cafe at Davos

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan attends events on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. (SPA)
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan attends events on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. (SPA)
Updated 53 min 40 sec ago

Saudi FM visits Misk Youth Council pavilion, Saudi Cafe at Davos

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan attends events on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. (SPA)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan visited the Youth Council pavilion of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Misk Foundation, the official Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
Prince Faisal also the Saudi Tourism Authority booth, during his participation in the World Economic Forum (Davos), in Switzerland.
The foreign minister was briefed on the youth dialogue sessions, with the aim of developing young people and enabling them to find creative solutions that seek to address future challenges facing the world.
He also toured the “Saudi Cafe” managed by the Saudi Tourism Authority, represented by the national tourism promotion of “Spirit of Saudi Arabia,” where Saudi coffee is served.
The initiative also includes presenting integrated information about tourism in the Kingdom, to raise awareness about the Kingdom as a tourist destination, for the participants in the Davos forum.


Saudi aid agency signs medical campaign agreement

The agreement was signed by Aqeel Al-Ghamdi and Adel bin Abdulaziz Al-Rushood in Riyadh. (SPA)
The agreement was signed by Aqeel Al-Ghamdi and Adel bin Abdulaziz Al-Rushood in Riyadh. (SPA)
Updated 24 May 2022

Saudi aid agency signs medical campaign agreement

The agreement was signed by Aqeel Al-Ghamdi and Adel bin Abdulaziz Al-Rushood in Riyadh. (SPA)
  • Around 9,600 surgeries for phacoemulsification and minor procedures will be carried out during the campaigns and 24,000 pairs of glasses and medical drops will be distributed, helping 120,000 people

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center on Sunday signed a joint agreement with Al-Basar International Foundation to carry out medical campaigns in eight countries to combat blindness and its causes, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The agreement was signed by Aqeel Al-Ghamdi, the center's assistant supervisor-general director for planning and development, and Adel bin Abdulaziz Al-Rushood, the foundation’s secretary-general, in Riyadh.

Al-Ghamdi said the agreement stipulated the implementation of 24 medical projects, with the participation of Saudi volunteers and doctors in Cameroon, Niger, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Yemen, and Morocco.

Around 9,600 surgeries for phacoemulsification and minor procedures will be carried out during the campaigns and 24,000 pairs of glasses and medical drops will be distributed, helping 120,000 people.

The center has carried out 132 campaigns in 16 countries to combat blindness and the diseases that cause it, helping 421,806 people over the past three years.