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.”


King Salman leaves hospital after medical examinations

King Salman leaves hospital after medical examinations
Updated 15 May 2022

King Salman leaves hospital after medical examinations

King Salman leaves hospital after medical examinations
  • King Salman thanked well-wishers within Saudi Arabia and from friendly countries

JEDDAH: King Salman left King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Jeddah on Sunday evening after undergoing medical examinations and successfully completing the treatment plan and recovery period.

Saudi Press Agency reported the king thanked well-wishers within Saudi Arabia and from friendly countries for their messages of support.


Dutch artist Satori headlines Riyadh desert event

DJ NarkBeat engaged the crowd with his notable performance at Desert Sounds'
DJ NarkBeat engaged the crowd with his notable performance at Desert Sounds' "Mars Escape" on Friday. (AN photo/Basheer Saleh)
Updated 15 May 2022

Dutch artist Satori headlines Riyadh desert event

DJ NarkBeat engaged the crowd with his notable performance at Desert Sounds' "Mars Escape" on Friday. (AN photo/Basheer Saleh)
  • New wave of events featuring international lineup of artists and diverse activities catering to music lovers, weekend family entertainment in Riyadh

RIYADH: On Friday, a vibrant series of electronic house music bounced off the hills of the Riyadh desert at the NOX Camp Desert Resort, bringing together music, art and desert-sport lovers alike in a one-of-a-kind event.

The exclusive music and art event organizer, Desert Sound Entertainment, presented their premiere “Mars Escape” experience to the Saudi community, transporting about 1,000 attendees to another dimension made distinct by live art, festival makeup and fire performances.

The moon shone, setting up the atmosphere for the celestial night, the music ascended. Headlined by Satori, the international DJ lineup included the likes of Alaa Jazaery, Rafa, NarkBeat, and a surprise performance by local DJ Ibbie.

One. of. the Mars. Escape attendees enjoyed one of the many games and activities 'Mars Escape' had to offer. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

The 10-hour festival saw a distinctive blend of artists taking to the main stage. Rafa gave the crowd a sensual and authentically earthy organic house experience while NarkBeat’s performance left the crowd in anticipation with sultry Arabian oud sounds. Alaa Jazaeri, founder of a similar music festival titled “Narratives,” slowed down the groove with an organic and soulful house music set, taking festival-goers on a mini-journey.

The diverse music echoing the valley of the desert culminated with Satori, a world-famous Dutch producer whose music focuses on spirituality and enlightenment. His set took off promptly at midnight and closed the event. His stop at Riyadh is part of his world tour this month with upcoming shows in Moscow, Stockholm and London.

HIGHLIGHT

Rafa gave the crowd a sensual and authentically earthy organic house experience while NarkBeat’s performance left the crowd in anticipation with sultry Arabian oud sounds.

“I would not imagine from this side of the world that people would know me and connect with the music in this way, so it was really a big pleasure. I’ve been playing in this region of course already for a few years, if we speak about Dubai or Egypt, I played in Oman and Lebanon, but never in Saudi,” Satori said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

Satori’s mellow sounds, crafted under the influence of the Japanese term “Satori,” cannot be narrowed down to a single genre, but rather a feeling. His music combines elements of self-exploration, earthy melodies, psychedelic tones and vivid energy. The crescendo of the piano, synthetic electronic beats and kalimba prompted a series of cheers as people danced. Almost every listener was rhythmically entranced, surrendering to the sound.

AN photo by Basheer Saleh

“For me it feels like I’m part of innovation. There’s something progressing and just to be part of that is really a great honor. It feels like we’re writing history and I’m kind of part of that chapter,” he said of his recent performance. “In the end, music is a universal language, people would connect to that or understand that even if they’re not used to these types of events. People will feel it.”

While primarily centered around the musical performances, the Saudi General Entertainment Authority-certified event also included an array of cultural activities such as art installations, graffiti sites and street art, virtual reality booths, games, and live catering. “We wanted to complete the music experience as a whole, connecting with nature and expressing through art and feeling with music,” assistant manager, Reema Al-Saud, told Arab News.

Event-goers were ready to indulge in the cultural aspect of the experience. “This is my first experience, and it gives a nice vibe,” said attendee Bha’a Mahdi. “I didn’t like that there wasn’t a big crowd. The place is very, very gorgeous. Incredible. It’s unreal. I liked the music, but was hoping the music would have more drops and highs. I felt united with the desert, I even removed my shoes,” he said.

Other members of the audience had similar comments. “The location is good, the vibe is nice. Just one thing: I wish there were more people,” said one attendee.

“The ground traps you. The sand doesn’t give you way to dance or walk,” said another attendee.

This international lineup and diverse activities come after a new wave of events that cater to those music-lovers, the latest being Freaks of Nature, bringing new meaning to weekend family entertainment ventures in Riyadh.


Saudi Civil Defense rescues pet animals trapped in Alkhobar fire

A Civil Defense crew in Alkhobar rescued animals including cats, dogs and fish from Pets Houses. (Saudi Civil Defense)
A Civil Defense crew in Alkhobar rescued animals including cats, dogs and fish from Pets Houses. (Saudi Civil Defense)
Updated 15 May 2022

Saudi Civil Defense rescues pet animals trapped in Alkhobar fire

A Civil Defense crew in Alkhobar rescued animals including cats, dogs and fish from Pets Houses. (Saudi Civil Defense)
  • All animals are subject to periodic medical checkups by Pets Houses’ veterinarian clinic, which provides for all their needs, including hygiene

RIYADH: Pet owners were relieved after their animals were rescued from a massive fire that broke out Friday inside Alkhobar’s Dhahran Mall in eastern Saudi Arabia.

A Civil Defense crew in Alkhobar rescued animals including cats, dogs and fish from Pets Houses, a pet supplies store in the largest commercial complex in the Eastern Province.

The animals were transported during daylight hours after a fire that started on the complex’s roof was put out.

We always find these (Civil Defense) heroes providing assistance and saving lives, says Badr S. Al-Turaif, General manager Rahmah Animal Welfare Association

According to a Civil Defense source, it is part of firefighters’ job in such circumstances to perform search and rescue operations at the scene to ensure that no one is trapped inside and that any animals are rescued.

The same source told Arab News that firefighters evacuated the pets to a safe location outside the mall before the animals were returned to their owners.

Nawaf Al-Mandeel, general manager of Pets Houses, said that “the shock was tremendous at Pets Houses,” following the fire that broke out at Dhahran Mall, where one of the company’s branches is located.

Firefighters rescuing animals from a pet shop near the conflagration which broke out in Dharhan Mall and caused a lot of damage while a fireman appears to carrying a fish tank. (Supplied/Saudi Civil Defense)

Al-Mandeel said that Pets Houses does its best to afford care and a decent life for the many pets at the branch located in Dhahran Mall. Pet owners regularly come to the branch, he said, to purchase supplies and learn how to breed and care for their pets as part of the family.

All animals are subject to periodic medical checkups by Pets Houses’ veterinarian clinic, which provides for all their needs, including hygiene, he said.

“We were shocked by the news of the fire that morning. We contacted the authorities and alerted them to the presence of pets inside our branch located inside the complex, and they responded immediately,” Al-Mandeel added.

Firefighters rescuing animals from a pet shop near the conflagration which broke out in Dharhan Mall and caused a lot of damage while a fireman appears to carrying a fish tank. (Supplied/Saudi Civil Defense)

He described the waiting periods as “excruciating” until he received the welcome news that all the animals at the branch had been rescued and transported safely and without any injuries, thanks to the efforts of the Civil Defense “heroes.”

“The team brought the animals to our veterinary clinic swiftly to check on their health. The medical team confirmed the safety of all the animals,” he said.

Badr S. Al-Turaif, general manager of Rahmah Animal Welfare Association, told Arab News that the association is in contact with the shop’s management and that the animals are in good health, adding that they had not been exposed to either fire or fumes as the shop is located relatively far from the fire site.

Nawaf Al-Mandeel, General Manager of Pets Houses. (Supplied)

“The courageous efforts of the Civil Defense team are not surprising,” Al-Turaif said. “We always find these heroes at the center of incidents, providing assistance and saving lives.”

Al-Turaif urged pet store owners to implement the preventive measures outlined by the Civil Defense to avoid tragedies in the future. These include setting fire alarms, developing an emergency and evacuation plan, ensuring adequate ventilation, designing the shop in a way that allows for the implementation of these measures, and creating an appropriate environment for animals so that their health and safety are not jeopardized.


Grand Mosque robots answer pilgrims’ questions in 11 languages

Grand Mosque robots answer pilgrims’ questions in 11 languages
Updated 15 May 2022

Grand Mosque robots answer pilgrims’ questions in 11 languages

Grand Mosque robots answer pilgrims’ questions in 11 languages
  • The robots guide pilgrims on how to perform their Umrah rituals, issue fatwas, and answer questions
  • They also have high resolution cameras that provide clarity in transmitting images, high resolution headphones, and a microphone with high capture quality

RIYADH: Robots that provide visitors to the Grand Mosque in Makkah with guidance can be accessed in 11 languages: Arabic, English, French, Russian, Persian, Turkish, Malay, Urdu, Chinese, Bengali, Hausa.

The robots guide pilgrims on how to perform their Umrah rituals, issue fatwas, answer questions and provide opportunities for people to communicate with scholars remotely.

The four-wheeled robots have 21-inch touchscreens and are equipped with a smart stopping system that allows them to be moved easily and smoothly.

They also have high resolution cameras that provide clarity in transmitting images, high resolution headphones, and a microphone with high capture quality that allows clear sound transmission.

The robots work on a Wi-Fi wireless network system at a speed of 5 GHz which enables fast and high transmission of data.


Saudi Ministry of Justice: 79k e-transactions completed since March 2020

79k e-transactions completed since March 202. (SPA)
79k e-transactions completed since March 202. (SPA)
Updated 16 May 2022

Saudi Ministry of Justice: 79k e-transactions completed since March 2020

79k e-transactions completed since March 202. (SPA)
  • The service has been streamlined to enable electronic agreement on sale terms without a notary’s certification, so that the operation can be completed in less than one hour

RIYADH: Almost 79,000 property e-conveyancing transactions have been processed since the launch of the Najiz.sa service in March 2020, the Saudi Ministry of Justice announced.

The total value of the transactions exceeds SR11 billion ($2.9 billion).

“The service is available through the Najiz.sa portal at ept.moj.gov.sa,” the ministry said.

“The upper limit for the e-conveyance of property has been raised from SR3 million to SR20 million.”

The service has been streamlined to enable electronic agreement on sale terms without a notary’s certification, so that the operation can be completed in less than one hour.

It had also enabled digital verification of bank accounts and payment of property transaction tax.

As part of several reforms and development initiatives, the Ministry of Justice is working on enhancing digitization and providing innovative tech solutions that facilitate services, simplify procedures and boost security.

“In cooperation with the Saudi Central Bank, the ministry made it available through 17 local and international banks,” the statement said.