Waste Management: Arab Countries Are Looking for Solutions

Currently, the most likely interest in the Arab countries is to produce energy from waste. For most of these countries (not all of them profit from the rich oil reserves) it is a long way to go before a functioning waste management concept is fully operational. The political turmoil and military struggles in North Africa and the Middle East do not make these tasks any easier.

Waste management systems are still in the early stages of development in almost every Arab country, although many governments have begun to recognize the problems and look for solutions. The legal frameworks are generally too vague or too instable to monitor progress in the standardization and to perform efficiency controls.

Egypt thus lacks purposeful technical and organizational concepts. As a result of this, there are therefore only a handful of independently led treatment facilities whose operating has not yet managed to produce proof of its reliability. Large cities resort to modern disposal sites, the few recycling materials that are available are bought by customers both home and abroad. There is a lack of waste management plants and there is no indication of a thermal recovery. Basic disposal solutions are subject to the control of the communes promoting the interest in mechanical-biological facilities. Consequently the specified projects to date consist mainly of mechanical treatment facilities for recycling material used home and abroad and for high caloric fractions for combustion in cement plants. Foreign companies only have market opportunities if they provide highly developed technologies.

Partly bad experiences

In the past 20 years some treatment facilities have been built in Saudi Arabia, of which several were only operated for a short space of time. The deposition on modern landfill sites and the combustion of medicinal waste are the primary forms of disposal. Bad experiences were made with mechanical-biological treatment (MBT) solutions due to technical defects, incorrect operations and faulty procedures and resulted in the facilities being shut down. A further aspect is a legislation that makes the introduction of ecologically sensitive MBT concepts difficult despite the prospect of changes. According to expert opinion, local firms are incapable of designing, building or operating suitable facilities. On the other hand, technically sophisticated projects can only be realized on a large scale when implemented under foreign aegis.


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Kuwait complains likewise about bad experiences with MBT. The only facility there in place is merely run occasionally and the decision-makers are critical of the technology. Kuwait is however extremely interested in German waste-disposal technology and there are joint activities between the University of Rostock and Fraunhofer Umsicht Institute. It has been considered whether the problem of the high organic percentages in the Kuwaiti residual waste can be tackled in a waste incineration plant. However, it remains uncertain.

The United Arab Emirates also report difficulties with waste disposal. The recycling rate in community waste lies below the ten percent mark whereby over 90 percent is disposed. Until now, there has been no installation of a treatment plant, merely a project which serves the registration and collection of dangerous goods. The problems of the Emirates lie in their limited experience with relevant projects and technologies. Furthermore, there are disagreements as to whether and how a future disposal system can be financed through waste disposal charges.

First mechanical-biological treatment plants

The treatment of residual waste cannot be dealt with in a single facility in Jordan. However, landfill sites and waste transfer stations form the main points with which the financing with World Bank is cooperated. European engineers have been contracted to develop concepts and feasibility studies for the reutilization of recycled materials, the production of substitute fuel for the cement industry and biological waste treatment. In the near future, projects with simple mechanical processing and aerobic treatment – for which there is a demand – could be developed.

A mechanical-biological facility for the production of substitute fuel, supported by the German KfW Bank, is being planned for the capital Amman. Jordan also has to battle with refuse problems due to the flood of Syrian refugees. The Society for International Cooperation is currently working on a suitable solution for this issue.

Lebanon has a number of smaller treatment plants for sorting and composting that are mostly badly planned. Due to the lack of space and thus the lack of dumping possibilities, there is a trend towards waste incineration in cement works for example. Since 2005, Sidon or Saïda is the only place in which a modern mechanical-biological treatment plant with an integrated wet fermentation level is being built, but it has only been in usage since 2013 due to the problematic industrial engineering. Tenders to deal with refuse collection, removal and treatment have been planned, not least because of the flood of refugees from Syria.

In Tunesia plans (with the support of the German KfW and other countries) do exist but there is no existing facility for the treatment of residual waste. There are however good opportunities for the operation of MBT technology. The waste disposal authority ANGed has started a first pilot system in cooperation with the KfW as well as local and international companies. Wolfgang Müller, from the University of Innsbruck (Austria) who supervises the research projects, reports that due to the facility 60 to 80 percent of the landfill site’s volume is lessened, greenhouse gas emissions reduced, the emergence of leachate is sunk and the production of substitute fuel for industry such as cement works can be incorporated.

Oman has issued a tender for the controlled management of its contaminated waste. The country’s waste disposal authority – “be’ah” – is working towards progress and is planning a mechanical-biological treatment plant which has the capacity to deal with 300,000 tons per annum. Solid waste transshipment stations are to be equipped in the same way as the concept “Waste to energy to water”. The General Director of the Omani Environmental Authority, Sheik Mohammed S. Al Harthy, recently visited companies in Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate to gain information regarding electronic waste, construction waste recycling, the professional dealing with hazardous waste and the establishment of an application-orientated recycling economy in Oman.

Photo: Arlo Magicman / fotolia.com

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