Solid Waste Management in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has been witnessing rapid industrialization, high population growth rate and fast urbanization which have resulted in increased levels of pollution and waste. Solid waste management is becoming a big challenge for the government and local bodies with each passing day. With population of around 29 million, Saudi Arabia generates more than 15 million tons of solid waste per year. The per capita waste generation is estimated at 1.5 to 1.8 kg per person per day.

More than 75 percent of the population is concentrated in urban areas which make it necessary for the government to initiate measures to improve recycling and waste management scenario in the country. Solid waste generation in the three largest cities – Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam – exceeds 6 million tons per annum which gives an indication of the enormity of the problem faced by civic bodies.  

Waste Management Scenario

In Saudi Arabia, garbage is collected from individual or community bins and disposed of in landfills or dumpsites. Saudi waste management system is characterized by lack of waste disposal facilities and absence of tipping fees. Most of the landfills are expected to reach their capacities within the next 10 years. Recycling, reuse and energy recovery is still at an early stage, although they are getting increased attention. Waste sorting and recycling are driven by an active informal sector. Recycling rate ranges from 10-15%, mainly due to the presence of the informal sector which extracts paper, metals and plastics from municipal waste.

Recycling activities are mostly manual and labor intensive. Composting is also gaining increased interest in Saudi Arabia due to the high organic content of MSW (around 40%).  Efforts are also underway to deploy waste-to-energy technologies in the Kingdom. All activities related to waste management are coordinated and financed by the government.

Government Initiatives

The Saudi government is aware of the critical demand for waste management solutions, and is investing heavily in solving this problem. The 2011 national budget allocated SR 29 billion for the municipal services sector, which includes water drainage and waste disposal. The Saudi government is making concerted efforts to improve recycling and waste disposal activities.  Recently the Saudi Government approved new regulations to ensure an integrated framework for the management of municipal wastes. The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs will be responsible for overseeing the tasks and responsibilties of the solid waste management system.

However, more serious efforts are required to improve waste management scenario in the Kingdom. A methodical introduction of modern waste management techniques like material recovery facilities, waste-to-energy systems and recycling infrastructure can significantly improve waste management scenario and can also generate good business opportunities. 

Conclusions

Strong legislations, financial support, public awareness, modern technologies and stakeholders’ participation should be the key in transforming Saudi Arabia into a ‘green’ nation. A strong political commitment and unflinching public support is mandatory for implementing a sustainable waste management strategy in the country. 

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About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the Founder of EcoMENA and a renowned expert in waste management, renewable energy, environment protection and sustainability. He is widely acknowledged as an authority on environment and sustainability sector in the Middle East and regularly consulted on environmental projects by top firms in the region and beyond. Salman is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on clean energy, environment and sustainability through his websites, blogs, articles and projects. He has participated in numerous conferences as session chair, keynote speaker and panelist. Salman is a prolific professional cleantech writer and has authored numerous articles in reputed journals, magazines and newsletters. He holds Masters and Bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering and can be contacted on salman@ecomena.org or salman@bioenergyconsult.com
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18 Responses to Solid Waste Management in Saudi Arabia

  1. Abdul salam says:

    Thanks for the information I will be in touch with you for my studies in connection with waste management system in saudi Arabia.

  2. Maxine Pierson says:

    This is such a great article ; as I am in the waste to energy sector, it is especially meaningful and I will continue for more of your.excellent perspectives and possible opportunity. Best Regards, Maxine Pierson Executive Vice President GDT Tek, Inc. 

  3. Abdul Rasheed Shah says:

    I being an Environmentalist had to feel sorry for the Environmental destruction happening in Saudi Arabia the pious land of Almighty. I wish I could contribute what ever best I could for this noble cause & share my more than 35 years of experience for safeguarding Environmental hazards. Wish the entire Kingdom of Saudi Arabia be pollution free in coming future. Really it needs immediate positive action………….. Almighty Allah’s Assets must be preserved / conserved & protected under all circumstances & all anti-pollution measures are needed immediately for the cause otherwise we all are responsible & can never be Forgiven by Almighty Allah……….. Abdul Rasheed Shah……….

  4. I have visited Jeddah recently to establish a project in waste management. The goal of the project is to use the technology for monitor the sold waste during Haj time. Also, there are investors want to implement the idea in different areas around the country, but the problem is to find the right people and the experience for such an implementation. Our company is will to help and develop the industry of the waste manage because Saudi Arabia is deserve to be clean and have healthy environments . We have succeeded in such a project in the USA and our waste management is online. As American Muslim I would like help the industry there and make the capital of the Islamic world clean from the waste as any city in the civilized world 

  5. Interesting article Salman – always useful to share information about how waste is managed around the world. Some suggestions about addressing the policy challenges for waste in the middle east can be found here:
    http://www.isonomia.co.uk/?p=638

  6. Niranjan Amin says:

    Your article is not only informative but candid in all aspects which is very useful for any company who is involve in a Municipal Solid waste including industrial waste .

  7. Azhar Ali says:

    Great article but I was little disappointed as this situation in KSA we have been hearing about 10-15 years ago. If situation is still some what similar that would be a great pity. I have worked in Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq and South Sudan about SWM as consultant to most of big organizations and I was expecting that KSA should be much ahead..

    azhar ali

  8. Nour says:

    Dear Sir,
    I would like to draw your attentions that your article can’t be generalized for all Saudi Arabia districts. There is many cities implements the integrated solid waste management systems. Including Sanitary landfills, Methane collection system and leachate treatment.
    Some Saudi cities like Medina Manwara, Jeddah and Riyadh are established sorting facilities (MRF) and fully running from several years.
    It will be much appropriate to conduct a comprehensive study to analyze the situation and reach to concrete finding.
    Best Regards
    Nour

  9. Azhar Ali says:

    Dear Nour, I agree as these situations can’t be generalized for countries. I wonder the projects you mentioned were completed by Ceres or some other company?

    stay safe
    azhar ali

  10. Alaa says:

    Sorry to say this but what Nour said up there is not applied in reality, it’s only on papers. the very basics of waste management is not applied there.
    So please stop defending because you just don’t want anyone to criticise.
    Thats why we will never develop. Not only like Zahir said 10-15 years but 100-150 years as long as we have this mentality.
    We are Saudis and we know the situation. Specially Jeddah which you mentioned !!!

  11. Alaa says:

    By the way, Any references for the statistics ?

  12. HAHA says:

    I would like to have some information about the management of wastes in Saudi Arabia, please :
    - Statistics about volumes of wastes,
    - What are the advantages given by Saudian authorities to reduce the wastes,
    - Is there any system of allocations given to persons treating the landfills,
    - What is the legislation and the financial support of the government in this way.
    nadhem.haha@yahoo.fr
    Thank you by advance for your reply and if you could suggest me some links to have answers to my questions.
    Best Regards.

  13. Khaled says:

    Haha I would appreciate if you can forward me any of the information you requested please. My email is alothaimk@hotmail.com.

    Mr. Zafar, i thank you for a very informative article, and would appreciate if you can forward me more information regarding the projection of waste management in Saudi Arabia.

    Regards,
    Khaled

  14. Its very informative and helpful to me. Could you please send me the addtional information about the waste management practices in Saudi Arabia.

    • Salman Zafar says:
      Dear Afzal
      Thanks for your comment. Glad to know that the article was informative. There is one more article on SWM situation in KSA on our website. Please have a look at http://www.ecomena.org/swm-ksa/
       
      Best wishes
      Salman Zafar
       
      Founder, EcoMENA

  15. Ameer says:

    Great article..i am working domestic solid waste management center in qatar and thanks for sharing such valuable info..
    salam.

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