How Saudi Arabia is protecting marine habitats by tackling plastic waste 

Special How Saudi Arabia is protecting marine habitats by tackling plastic waste 
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Updated 18 March 2024
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How Saudi Arabia is protecting marine habitats by tackling plastic waste 

How Saudi Arabia is protecting marine habitats by tackling plastic waste 
  • The Kingdom is participating in Plastic Pollution INC-4 in Ottawa next month to address the global plastic waste crisis
  • Raising public awareness about environmental damage and encouraging sustainable habits are seen as key 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will take part in the Plastic Pollution INC-4 conference in Canada next month to help drive global efforts to reduce the manufacture and use of non-essential plastic products and to develop robust regulations on plastic waste.

Convened by the UN Environment Program, the fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international, legally binding instrument to address plastic pollution, including in marine environments, will take place in Ottawa from April 23 to 29.

Although Saudi Arabia does not support an outright ban on plastic products, officials say they are very much aware of the huge industrial and commercial overreliance on plastics, which results in excessive amounts of non-biodegradable waste worldwide.

According to the UN, the equivalent of about 2,000 trucks filled with plastic waste is dumped into the world’s oceans and lakes on a daily basis, causing immense harm to marine life. The presence of microplastics in the water, and the bodies of fish, means it also poses a threat to humans.




Plastic waste wash ashore in the beach next to the Panama Canal. (Shutterstock photo)

Although there are several ways in which manufacturers and consumers can help minimize the problem, such as by recycling or choosing reusable bottles and biodegradable utensils, the amount of plastic waste continues to increase. Of the 400 million tonnes of plastic produced worldwide each year, barely 10 percent is recycled.

“It is a habit; we are used to drinking water from plastic bottles. This behavior needs to change but, also, we need to have alternatives for plastic,” Faisal Al-Fadl, a representative to the UN and UNEP observer, told Arab News.

“I believe the biggest challenge we are facing here is the intensive use of plastic by consumers, such as using plastic water bottles.”

DIDYOU KNOW?

• Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam generate almost 50% of total plastic waste in Saudi Arabia.

• Plastic pollution is a major threat to marine life and food systems.

• Plastic waste takes between 20 and 500 years to decompose.

• Burning plastic releases toxic chemicals, adding to air pollution.

Part of the solution lies in raising public awareness about the environmental impact of plastics, encouraging businesses and consumers to purchase more-sustainable products, and ensuring recycling becomes an ingrained habit, he said. However, this will require effective regulations.

“Until now, regulations have not been enforced to eliminate plastic products from the local market,” said Al-Fadl.

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“Alternative products must be available and affordable, and the production of unnecessary sizes of plastic materials must also be banned. For example, large, medium and small sizes of plastic water bottles are unacceptable. Plastic is accessible but it should not be the only option for consumers.”

Although it might take time to change public attitudes and behaviors, including purchasing habits, efforts by the Saudi government and businesses to reduce the effects of plastic waste on marine life have been promising so far.




Red Sea Global, the developer behind Saudi Arabia's regenerative tourism destinations The Red Sea and Amaala, has introduced cleaning robots to reduce the amount of plastic waste on beaches. (X: @RedSeaGlobal)

For example, Red Sea Global has deployed a robot that can clear up to 3,000 square meters of coastline in an hour. And during the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association’s Plastics Conference in the Saudi city of Al-Khobar last year, industry leaders stressed the need to design and scale up sustainable solutions that can help reduce waste.

Plastics polluting the world’s oceans threaten water quality, marine environments and even food systems. Marine animals such as turtles, whales and seabirds often mistake plastic waste for food and ingest it. This can lead to internal damage, gastrointestinal blockages and ultimately death.

When small fish consume microplastics, the particles collect in their tissue. When larger predators consume smaller prey, the concentration of the plastic increases, eventually affecting top-of-the-chain predators such as sharks and large marine mammals.




Due to the excessive amount of plastic waste in the ocean, extinction of marine biodiversity is rising. (UNESCO photo)

This bioaccumulation of plastic affects not only the health of wildlife; humans can be negatively affected by consuming seafood contaminated by plastic.

In addition to the dangers of ingesting plastics, entanglement in discarded fishing nets and other types of plastic waste can also cause serious injuries to, and affect the mobility and survival of, marine life.




According to the World Wildlife Fund, sea turtles mistake plastic bags for other species that they consume, such as jellyfish. (WWF photo)

Plastic waste that accumulates along coastlines also destroys natural landscapes and suffocates the coral reefs and seaweed beds that are important breeding and feeding grounds for numerous aquatic plants and creatures.

Furthermore, plastic waste can release toxic chemicals into water, putting the physiology and reproductive health of marine life at risk.

The economic impact of plastic waste on marine ecosystems is also significant. Coastal communities that rely heavily on fishing, for example, suffer as a result of the environmental pollution it causes. The degradation of marine habitats can eventually lead to heavy economic losses and destroy livelihoods in these communities.




Almost 700 species in the sea are affected by plastic. (AFP/File)

In response to the blight of plastic waste in waterways, it is therefore important for countries such as Saudi Arabia to develop initiatives and participate in conferences that can aid efforts to promote sustainable development, environmental protection and a better quality of life.

By doing so, the burden of plastic waste might soon be lifted, thereby protecting our oceans and ensuring marine ecosystems are preserved for the generations to come.
 

 


Hajj pilgrims from Uzbekistan, Morocco, Niger and Iraq latest to arrive in Saudi Arabia

Hajj pilgrims from Uzbekistan, Morocco, Niger and Iraq latest to arrive in Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 May 2024
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Hajj pilgrims from Uzbekistan, Morocco, Niger and Iraq latest to arrive in Saudi Arabia

Hajj pilgrims from Uzbekistan, Morocco, Niger and Iraq latest to arrive in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The first group of pilgrims from Uzbekistan, 950 in total, arrived in Makkah on Thursday ahead of Hajj.

Several expressed “gratitude to the Kingdom’s government for the services and facilities that have been provided to make their pilgrimage safe and reassuring,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Meanwhile, the Saudi ambassador to Morocco, Sami Al-Saleh, attended a farewell ceremony at Rabat-Sale Airport as the first group of Hajj pilgrims from the country set off for the Kingdom. He was accompanied by the Moroccan minister of endowments and Islamic affairs, Ahmed Toufiq, and other senior government officials.

Similarly, the Saudi ambassador to Niger, Zaid Al-Harbi, saw off the first group of Nigerien pilgrims as they departed from the capital, Niamey. The country’s prime minister, Ali Lamine Zeine, was also present.

Closer to home, a second group of Hajj pilgrims from Iraq arrived at the Arar border crossing in the Northern Borders Province on Thursday, where authorities said they received a warm welcome and benefited from a range of services and procedures designed to streamline entry procedures.

The Iraqi pilgrims expressed their thanks and “commended the Kingdom’s leadership for the generous hospitality and exceptional services provided by the authorities responsible for Hajj affairs,” SPA reported. 

They also praised the facilities at the crossing, which officials said will operate around the clock throughout the Hajj season to provide the best possible pilgrimage experience.


Saudi FM discusses Gaza, West Bank with Palestinian PM

Saudi FM discusses Gaza, West Bank with Palestinian PM
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi FM discusses Gaza, West Bank with Palestinian PM

Saudi FM discusses Gaza, West Bank with Palestinian PM

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Thursday spoke to Palestinian Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Mustafa by telephone, the Kingdom’s Foreign Ministry said.

They discussed developments in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and its surrounding areas.


Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority issues statement following Riyadh food poisoning incident

Riyadh experienced a wave of food poisoning cases caused by clostridium botulinum at the end of April. (File/Shutterstock)
Riyadh experienced a wave of food poisoning cases caused by clostridium botulinum at the end of April. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 23 May 2024
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Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority issues statement following Riyadh food poisoning incident

Riyadh experienced a wave of food poisoning cases caused by clostridium botulinum at the end of April. (File/Shutterstock)
  • Nazaha says royal directives mandate the holding of all responsible officials accountable

RIYADH: Following the recent food poisoning incident at a Riyadh restaurant, the Kingdom’s Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority has said anyone found to be negligent in ensuring public health and safety will be held accountable.

The authority, also known as Nazaha, added on Thursday that measures will be taken against anyone found to have obstructed the investigation into the incident and concealed crucial information regarding the cause of poisoning.

Riyadh experienced a wave of food poisoning cases caused by clostridium botulinum at the end of April.

The outbreak was linked to the consumption of food from a Hamburgini fast-food restaurant and led to several hospitalizations and one death.

The Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing later announced that a Saudi Food and Drug Authority laboratory test found clostridium botulinum in the Bon Tum mayonnaise brand used by the food chain.

As a result, the distribution of the mayonnaise product was suspended and it was withdrawn from markets and food facilities across all cities in the Kingdom.

Operations at the Bon Tum factory producing the mayonnaise were halted in preparation for implementing statutory procedures.

Initial investigations by Nazaha “revealed attempts to conceal or destroy evidence, suggesting potential collusion by a small number of unscrupulous food establishment inspectors who prioritized personal gain over public health and safety,” the authority said on Thursday.

Nazaha said that royal directives mandate the holding of all responsible officials accountable, regardless of position.

“This applies to those who neglected or delayed fulfilling their duties, actions which may have contributed to the poisoning or hindered response efforts. Consequently, a high-level committee has been established to verify and oversee the implementation of these directives,” Nazaha said.

Nazaha added that comprehensive reports detailing the circumstances, causes, and those potentially responsible for the poisoning were produced around the clock after the incident.

The reports encompassed laboratory analyses of samples from various establishments and details of medical care provided to suspected victims, it said.

Precise laboratory testing, conducted by local and international foodborne illness specialists, swiftly identified the type and cause of the poisoning, the authority said.

Nazaha said the incident was contained and has been resolved.


Saudi Arabia secures membership in International Transport Forum

Saudi Arabia secures membership in International Transport Forum
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia secures membership in International Transport Forum

Saudi Arabia secures membership in International Transport Forum

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia secured membership in the International Transport Forum on the sidelines of the event held in Leipzig, Germany.

Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser said that the membership symbolizes the Kingdom’s commitment to addressing transportation challenges through innovative and sustainable solutions. It also supports the Kingdom’s established role in developing the transport and logistics sector, he added, highlighting the Saudi Vision 2030 goal of benefiting from the country’s strategic location to become a global logistics center.

Al-Jasser said that the Kingdom has made significant strides in logistics, jumping 17 places to reach 38th place globally in the logistics services performance index. Additionally, the Kingdom achieved 13th place globally in the IATA’s international air connectivity index and 16th in the maritime navigation network connectivity index. He also noted the launch of a new air carrier, Riyadh Air, aimed at connecting the Kingdom to more than 250 international destinations.

The Kingdom is committed to enhancing the resilience of its transport infrastructure, promoting sustainable mobility and ensuring equitable access to transport services for all, Al-Jasser said.

Saudi membership of the ITF confirms its prominent position in the global transport sector, the minister added. This membership will enable the Kingdom to contribute to enacting legislation and regulations that improve and develop transportation on an international scale, he said.


Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan

Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan
Updated 23 May 2024
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Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan

Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan
  • Fincantieri stands out in the shipbuilding industry for its innovation, says CEO

RIYADH: One of the world’s biggest shipbuilders will work in partnership with Saudi Arabia to strengthen the Kingdom’s maritime sector, with a focus on sustainability and the development of “green shipping.”

Fincantieri, an Italian company and Europe’s largest shipbuilding group, highlighted its commitment to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 agenda at a conference under the theme “Where Vision Meets Maritime Excellence” held in Riyadh on Wednesday.

Saudi decisionmakers from related sectors in Riyadh joined Italian officials in a range of sessions at the forum.

During the event, Fincantieri CEO Pierroberto Folgiero outlined the shipbuilder’s plans to collaborate with Saudi companies in line with Vision 2030.

“Our commitment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is steadfast,” he said.

Fincantieri stands out in the shipbuilding industry for its innovation, and has a leading role in the naval, cruise, and oil and gas sectors, Folgiero said.

The CEO highlighted the importance of developing green ships, designed to minimize the environmental impact of maritime operations, as part of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2060.

Digitizing shipyard operations through innovations such as AI also aligns with the goals of Vision 2030, Folgiero said.

“Today, the shipping industry and the maritime industry, in general, is coping with environmental regulation. For us, it is not only a source of compliance, but also a source of distinctiveness. So, we believe that in the maritime sector, in the shipbuilding sector, mastering energy transition and new technologies will be a source of competitiveness and distinctiveness,” he said.

“That is why we are engaged in all the solutions (regarding) energy transition at sea. We are a new engine. We are in biofuels. We are in methanol. We are in LNG. We are in ammonia. We are in hydrogen. We are everywhere there is innovation at sea.”

Maria Tripodi, undersecretary of state for foreign affairs at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, discussed the significance of keeping operations and businesses sustainable.

Fincantieri’s ships are built to produce zero carbon emissions, which helps to protect the environment and marine ecosystem, she said.

Khalil Ibrahim bin Salamah, deputy minister for industry affairs at the Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, said: “Localization for us is a key factor. Key components are crucial, but the whole supply chain is equally important.”