Recycling and Artwork

Art and recycling goes hand-in-hand. Eco-artists are, nowadays, transforming old, recycled and resued object into amazing pieces of contemporary art. The trend started gaining prominence in 1980s when museums and galleries in the Western world opened their doors for such innovation and creativity. In recent years, many artists in the Middle East has started expressing their support for recycling and sustainability through artworks where they merge traditional tone with contemporary themes creating attractive installation art that express local cultural heritage in the larger public interests. Artists are expressing their emotions and ideas through a wide range of recyclables glass, cans, plastics, CDs, PET bottles etc. 

Installation Art and Recycling

This type of art is termed as Installation Art which is 3-dimensional work using common raw and natural materials to create an object with different messages directed to the viewers and the public audiences. Installation art can be expressed at any type of form like objects, videos, sound or even through the Internet. Interestingly, installation art is also considered a part of Renaissance where people can discover classical cultural movements like Surrealism and Futurism. 

Many artists search for inspirations that surround them while others express their feelings in the artwork. Artists use recycled or reused objects to make attractive pieces of contemporary art and literally turn everyday trash into creative treasures. Some create compositions from recycled plastic bags or themed works for art galleries, while others create entire theme parks with trash, and even furniture from recycled materials. For example, if an artist has a penchant for collecting beverage cans, he/she might be interested in creating a replica of a famous building or monument. 

Artists can collect recyclable materials through public donations, collaboration with businesses or direct collection from solid waste stream. This innovative approach not only creates environmental awareness but also help in finding a good use for unwanted materials. For example, giant bottles made of recycled plastic bottles are tipped over on the grass at an art installation in North Evanston, Illinois. Approximately 6,000 small, clear plastic bottles were used to construct the five 16-foot bottles on display. 

Mrs. Salwa Nabhan, a graphic design faculty at Sharjah Higher Colleges of Technology, stresses the importance of using art and recycling in our daily life. She says, “Installation Art is good for the environment because it takes everyday objects and transforms it into a valuable artwork. This is because using raw or new materials can be expensive and people are limited with what they can buy”. The Sharjah Higher Colleges of Technology Media students have already worked on such background creating 2-D artworks by using recycled items like fabric leftovers, wood and paper to create collage of things.

Conclusion

Around the world, eco-artists are turning recyclables into creative pieces of art and thereby contributing to the Green Movement taking place in different spheres of life. Artists are finding innovative ways to show their concern for the environment and thus encouraging the masses to reuse, reduce and recycle for a better future. With waste disposal posing a serious environmental challenge in the Middle East, it is expected such initiatives will also spur governments to take concrete actions to ease the situation.

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Guidelines for Eco-Friendly Eidul Fitr

The culmination of the holy month of Ramadan is with the festival of Eidul Fitr or Feast of Breaking the Fast. Eid is considered as a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide and to show a common goal of unity. The main aspects of Eid are congregational prayers in masjids, open areas and parks, get to gather of families and friends at home or restaurants, making and eating special dishes and wearing ceremonial dresses.

Eidul Fitr, like other local, national and religious festivals often have a major impact on the environmental resources. Extra food, drinks and clothings are made, used and consumed. People spend a fortune on these items. The cost and environmental consideration is often being neglected, not considered and forgotten.

The celebrations and festivity are often extravagant and cause pollution and harm to the environmental resources. The day starts with the special prayers whereby men, women and children gather to offer prayers. The site of praying after the ritual is often plagued by litter, rubbish and waste scattered all over the place and even blowing in the air and migrating to nearby safe havens for unaesthetic accumulations.

Special food is prepared in houses which are visited by the relatives and neighbours. This causes great food wastage often due to under utilization as food is prepared more than the number of visitors and with a feeling that it should not be finished. On the other hand, people also eat limited quantity of special food less than expected or prepared which goes waste quickly. This includes special breakfast, lavish snacks, sumptuous lunches and extravagant dinners during the festival days.

To supply the population with the required quantity of food, government makes huge efforts in procuring or rather over-procuring food stuff for local consumption. It includes meat, poultry, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, cereals, grains, packaged food etc. Meat and poultry is lavishly eaten during the Eid holidays. The demand of beef, mutton, chicken etc increases to around 50% of the normal demand, which in itself is very high.

Eidul Fitr also prompts extra and panic buying of food items and eatables, which are out of shelves quickly in the super markets and cold stores during the last days of Ramadan. This trend again leads to more wastage as the food items bought are not being fully and efficiently utilized and ultimately end up in garbage bins.

Over the period of years, the festivities are increasing with more buying of items and eatables per head. Consumption of eatables has increased many folds in the Middle East  and people have become more wasteful due to rise in income, living standards and affordability. But affordability does not mean that wastage should increase.

While planning for Eidul Fitr celebrations, it is now imperative that we need to think twice before buying, procuring any food items, clothing etc and taking environment into consideration.

Let us change our attitude towards festivity and wastage and celebrate the festival in the right spirit.

Tips for Eco-friendly Eidul Fitr

  • Buying clothes and dressings with minimum packaging.
  • Buy food items in calculated quantities based on the actual requirements and number of guests to be served.
  • It is better to serve food in limited quantities rather than extravagantly in large dishes and quantities.
  • Educating guests in avoiding left overs and wasting food.
  • Serving drinks in small glasses
  • Avoid using disposable cutlery, plates, napkins, tissues etc.
  • Giving leftover food to the less privileged and poor people in the neighbourhood

Let us endeavor to celebrate the Eid in an environment-friendly manner.

 

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Food Waste in Ramadan: Trends and Counter-Measures

With the holy month of Ramadan starting, preparations are in full swing to make all necessary arrangements by the government, traders and commercial establishments to provide all utilities, goods and food that are required during Ramadan. Muslims countries, Arab nations in particular, generate huge quantities of food waste which increases substantially during the month of Ramadan and festivals whereby the consumption and wastage of food increase at an alarming level. As per conservative estimates, around 15-25% of all food purchased or prepared during Ramadan find its way to the garbage bin before even being used or consumed.

In Bahrain alone, more than 300 tons per day of organic food waste is being generated as domestic waste in the country which constitutes around 11% of the total municipal waste. The food waste is being discarded along with other domestic waste and is being collected by the local private contractors, which is transported and disposed at the Asker municipal landfill site located some 25 km away from the city center in a quarry area.

Food Waste Trends in Ramadan

The trend shows that during Ramadan, the demand for beef, mutton, chicken and related meat products increases by almost 50% of the normal demand, which in itself is very high. Similar is the fate of other related food items like vegetables, fruits and dairy products etc. which are out of shelves quickly in the super markets and cold stores during special religious occasions.

The enormous food waste generation can be witnessed at all socio-economic levels. It is environmentally and morally considered offensive that as a society we have become so casual about the basic raw materials of life. Over the period of years, the society and people have become more wasteful due to rise in income, living standards, consumerism and affordability. But affording does not mean that wastage should increase as it is contrary to the Islamic principles of sustainability.

During Ramadan, people tend to buy more than their normal requirements for self consumption plus for taking care of guests. Due to the limited quantity of food to be consumed by people this additional quantity of cooked or made food becomes waste as Fatoor is not usually eaten as midnight snacks or as sahoor the other day. The demand for fresh food increases as majority of people are willing to spend an extra amount for the better quality of food.

The rich also sympathize greatly in this month and donate more food for charity which at times is not consumed by the poor section of the society due to late delivery and evening prayers. This trend again leads to more wastage, as the food items bought are not being fully and efficiently utilized and ultimately end up in garbage bins.

Key Counter-Measures

We need to change our attitude of not laying the table with more food than people can eat. This is not hospitality and welcoming the guests.

  • People should not buy in excess to avoid another trip to the grocery store or super market.
  • We need to develop better food habits and respect for the Mother Nature. The problem of food wastage lies in socio-cultural sensitization and behavioral change.
  • Buying in actual quantities especially fruits and vegetables. Making a shopping list first before going to the market will be more useful.
  • Buying items with a longer expiry dates for ease in using it during a longer period.
  • Daily checking of the food items in our fridge/ deep freezer to ensure its utilization before it becomes waste.
  • Inculcating good food utilization and storage habits can also play a key role in waste minimization.

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Sustainability Perspectives for Amman

amman-sustainabilityIs Amman a sustainable city? No, it is not. That isn't a very surprising statement if you've ever lived in or visited Amman. By all means, it's a beautiful city, with plenty to offer visitors and residents alike. It is a diverse city with a wide range of experiences to offer between East and West Amman or Downtown to Abdoun.

The fact remains however that it is not a very sustainable city. We as residents are not being kind to the city we call home. When I look at Amman I happen to see all the things I like, but also all the potential our city has to improve.

Below I examine only a few factors that contribute to the unsustainability of Amman. These are not the only issues we are facing as Ammanis but they are some of the factors affected by high level policy making in Greater Amman Municipality.

Transportation in Amman
"Amman is a city that is built for the convenience of cars and drivers". This is a statement I heard from a TEDxAmman speaker just weeks after I moved back to Jordan from abroad, and it was a shock to hear it phrased in that way. Although I was aware of the obvious lack of public transport and alternative means of getting around the city, I had never realized the extent of how true that statement is.

Any investment in the city’s transport infrastructure goes to build and improve the quality of our roads, bridges and tunnels with no consideration of public transport investment. The one time that Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) attempted to invest in a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, it turned into a very controversial topic, with accusations of corruption and mismanagement of resources all around with the project still not close to being completed.

Amman is also not a very pedestrian friendly city, with virtually no sidewalks found on the streets. Or even worse, the sidewalks we do have are in fact pots to plant trees which makes it very difficult for pedestrians to use it for what it's meant for; to walk. Additionally, there are barely any pedestrian crossings.

Amman is indeed a city built for the convenience of cars and their owners, with almost a 10% increase in car ownership annually in the city, even in low income families. 

Historically speaking, our current transportation system worked well up until the mid-1900s when the population of the city grew from a few hundred thousand people to 2 million. Recently the city has reached a little under 3 million inhabitants with the same road infrastructure minus a few improvements here and there. 

This is obviously a challenge that our 3 million Jordanians have to endure on a daily basis, whether it is by fighting traffic every day or by long waits on the very little number of buses that we have. 

Even less obvious is the environmental impact of such transport habits, with one estimate being that for each passenger in the city we need to plant 17 trees every year to cover our annual CO2 emissions of 1,464.4kgs. 51 million trees need to be planted every year in Amman to cover our transport emissions!

Waste Management in Amman

"Out of sight, out of mind" is probably best applied to our waste in Amman, or indeed in all of Jordan. We all know that we have garbage trucks passing around the neighborhoods collecting garbage once or twice a week. And we all remember the garbage collecting "crisis" Amman went through in 2012 when garbage was piling up and the out of maintenance trucks couldn't collect it all. 

However what we forget is what happens to all our waste once it's collected. If we had a developed recycling system, we could slightly reduce the amount of waste produced by residents of Amman. Since recycling is not an option we cannot ignore the 1,400 tons of waste produced every year by Ammanis. This translates to more than half of the waste produced in the country – the remaining cities across Jordan only produce 1.1 tons of waste.

This means that 1,400 tons of waste is transported to landfills outside of Amman, but very close to residents of other cities. Once the garbage in those landfills becomes too much to handle, they burn it to empty up space for even more trash. If you've ever been to Zarqa, you are very well aware of the smell from the burning garbage in the landfill along the way.

Urban Sprawl
In my opinion, urban sprawl in Amman is the most important issue Amman is facing. It is also an issue largely ignored by our officials and citizens alike. It has reached a very critical condition because large areas of previously agriculture land is now all converted to residential areas and the very little agricultural land we have left is under immediate threat to be converted to residential neighborhoods. 

I was actually very surprised to find out that areas such as Sweileh, Wadi Alseer, and Al Jubayha were separate towns in the early 1900s and not a part of Amman. Now however they're so urbanized that they're considered another district in the city.

There were actually some recommendations in the 1950s by a group of international experts to separate Amman from these towns by designating green belts around them to limit construction in those areas. All their recommendations were of course ignored. Now other areas are under the same threat of urbanization and loss of agricultural land especially on the road between 7th circle and the Airport.

Of course, till now GAM is licensing agricultural land around Amman for construction of residential areas with no consideration to its importance to our agriculture which is already suffering greatly. 

Ingredient of a Sustainable City

There are quite a few factors combined that affect the sustainability of a city, or lack thereof.  Based on the broad definition of Sustainability (meeting present needs while ensuring that resources are available to meet future needs), the definition of sustainable cities broadly would be cities that ensure that the current needs of its residents are meet without compromising on the needs of its future inhabitants.

Some of the criteria that help create sustainable cities are the following:

  • Resource recovery and waste management – collection and disposal of non-recyclable materials, frequent and adequate collection of bins as well as creating a broader waste management strategy
  • Litter prevention  – well placed litter bins in public areas and city centers, litter education and awareness programs and integration of litter management with a broader waste management strategy
  • Environmental innovation and protection – establishing partnerships between community, government and industry to protect environmental resources, establishing local conservation groups, develop and implement public/open space plans for local community, among many others.
  • Water Conservation – innovative water conservation and re-use initiatives. 
  • Energy Innovation – innovative energy efficiency measures, renewable energy, and addressing climate change issues.

How Can Amman Actually Become Sustainable?
Obviously there is quite a journey ahead of Amman, and Jordan as a whole in fact, in becoming sustainable. While GAM is the main entity able to create the needed environmental regulations, channel investments into sustainable public transport, allow innovations in renewable energy,  and guide the many other initiatives we cannot ignore the role of individual citizens. 

In a micro level, each individuals behavior, regardless of how insignificant it may seem to them does indeed influence the overall sustainability of the city. Enumerating the various water conservation, energy efficiency, or waste management methods would probably be repetitive however one request I make of myself and other Ammanis is to be constantly thoughtful of our impact and try to reduce it as much as possible.

One way to remain thoughtful is to remain informed. We should all be aware what the impact of our actions is. Whether it pertain to CO2 emissions of our cars, or the lack of actual waste management. 

We should be informed to be able to influence decision making as well. There will come a day when we have proper communication channels with GAM and other government officials and we will be able to shape the decisions that will make our city more sustainable.

Till that day comes, don't ignore your responsibility as an aware, thoughtful citizen of our beautiful city.

References

  1. The Road Not Taken, Jordan Business, Hazem Zureiqat 
  2. Traffic in Amman, Jordan, Numbeo.com
  3. Municipal Solid Waste Landfills in Jordan – Current Conditions and Perspective Future, Mohammad Al Jaradin & Kenneth Persson
  4. Urban Sprawl, Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE), Mohammad Al Asad
  5. Sustainable City Criteria, 2012

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Solid Waste Management in Tunisia

Solid waste management has emerged as a big challenge for the Mediterranean country of Tunisia. The country, having an estimated population of around 11 million people, produces more than 2.5 million tons of garbage each year. Tunisia is experiencing an average increase in waste volume by 3% with per capita waste generation in urban areas being 0.8 kg per day. Biodegradable organic fraction constitutes around 68% of the MSW stream.

MSW collection is covered at 80% in urban areas and 10% in rural areas. The country has 10 controlled landfills with a capacity of 1,788,000 tons per year and four other semi-controlled landfills in the Valley Medjerda with a capacity of 62,000 tons per year. Five other discharges with a nominal capacity of 0.466 million tons per year are being built and finally five other controlled discharges are planned with an average capacity of 0.433 million tons per year. Many municipal landfills do not meet sanitary standards and waste is often dumped into non-sanitary areas. Interestingly, only five percent of MSW is composted and merely 4% recycled. The expenditure for waste collection and transport constitutes 75-100% of the total solid waste management budget.

Borj Chakir Landfill

Eight kilometers south of Tunis is Borj Chakir, a town that has become infamous for a landfill that has damaging effects on the surrounding environment and quality of life of locals. The Borj Chakir landfill created in 1999 is the largest dumping ground and only regulated landfill in Tunis (which includes the governorates of Tunis, Manouba, Ariana and Ben Arous). The site occupies 120 hectares of what was once agricultural land planted with olive trees and grains. According to the facility specifications published in 1997 the landfill at Borj Chakir is intended for solid waste but current activities shows it operation outside of norms. Over the years the residents of El Attar/Borj Chakir,Jiyara and Sidi Hassine have suffered from compromised health and sanitation as a consequence of the waste collection site that has contaminated air, water, soil and as a result of their exposure to toxic odors of leachate.

Recycling Situation

The country possesses comprehensive environmental laws to encourage the sustainable management and recycling of municipal and industrial waste but there is doubt if the necessary measures for a good application have been provided. The Tunisian Government is often criticized for leaving the responsibility of waste management to the National Waste Management Agency (ANGED).

Borj Chakir landfill is a major cause of environmental and public health concerns.

Every year Tunisians use one billion plastic bags generating 10,000 tons of waste that have wreaked havoc on the environment. Almost 400 Private Companies are authorized by the Ministry of Environment to collect, transport and recycle plastics. Five private collectors and recyclers of used tires were also authorized while paper and cardboard recycling is still in its infancy. There is also a small informal sector for recycling food packaging.

Future Outlook

After the Arab Spring, Tunisia faced additional challenges maintaining existing waste management practices due to repeated strikes and dysfunctioning of municipal and rural council which destabilized cleaning service. There is a general view among the populace that the way waste is managed should be changed towards an integrated management style which entails collection to treatment because of the relationship between environmental impact and effects on human health are apparent. The market for environmental protection, pollution control equipment and technology has significant potential as anticipated tenders for landfills, coastal pollution project and waste water treatment all offer good opportunity for procurement.  

Waste Management Outlook for Qatar

Qatar is counted among the world’s fastest growing economies as well as richest countries in the world. The rapid industrialization of the country and high population growth generates a lot of wastes in the form of municipal wastes, construction & demolition debris, industrial wastes etc. Annual solid waste generation in Qatar has crossed 2.5 million tons, which corresponds to daily waste generation of more than 7,000 tons per day. The country has one of the highest per capita waste generation worldwide which ranges from 1.6 to 1.8 kg per day.

Solid Waste Management Scenario

Solid waste is mainly comprised of organic materials while the rest of the waste is made up of recyclables like glass, paper, metals and plastics. Waste is collected from across the country and predominantly disposed off in landfills. There are three landfills in Qatar; Umm Al-Afai for bulky and domestic waste, Rawda Rashed for construction and demolition waste, and Al-Krana for sewage wastes. This method of waste disposal by landfill is not a practical solution for a country like Qatar where land availability is limited and only 8% of the waste is recycled.

One of the promising developments in solid waste management sector in recent years has been the creation of Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre (DSWMC) at Mesaieed. This centre is designed to maximize recovery of resources and energy from waste by installing state-of-the-art technologies for separation, pre-processing, mechanical and organic recycling, and waste-to-energy and composting technologies. It will treat 1550 tons of waste per day, and is expected to generate enough power for in-house requirements, and supply a surplus of 34.4 MW to the national grid. 

Government Strategy

The Qatar Government has identified the need for better waste management and has made plans to address this issue in Qatar National Development Strategy 2011-2016. According to this plan the Government proposes to contain the levels of waste generated by households, commercial sites and industry and to recycle much more of the waste generated. Accordingly, the plan prioritizes actions to reduce the pressure on the environment, with the most preferable goal being the avoidance of waste. Where waste cannot be avoided, the preferred goals would be to reduce it, reuse it and recycle it, and the least desirable action is to dispose of materials.

The plan also proposes to initiate new policies to encourage firms to export recycled items and manufacturers to use recycled material. The Government is to consider providing subsidies to encourage more firms to enter the recycling business and public awareness campaigns to encourage waste separation. It also plans to improve collection networks and to provide recycling bins.

To generate new recycling activity sponsored demonstrations and public awareness activities are planned. Citizens will be made aware of the opportunity to use recycled products, such as furniture made from recycled wood or compost produced daily in Mesaieed. Citizens are to be encouraged to see waste reduction and recycling as a duty with the welfare of future generations in mind.

The critical step in establishing a solid waste management plan will be to coordinate responsibilities, activities and planning. The plan, to be aligned with the Qatar National Master Plan, will cover households, industry and commercial establishments, and construction and demolition. The plan will also provide classifications for different types of domestic and non- domestic waste, mapping their sources.

Future Perspectives

When the Qatar National Development Strategy 2011-2016 was conceived, the plant at Mesaieed might have been seen as an ideal solution, but by the time the project was completed the capacity of the plant to handle waste has been overwhelmed. The centre in Mesaieed can treat only 1550 tons of the 7000 tons generated everyday and this is only going to increase in future. Qatar needs a handful of such centers in order to tackle the growing menace of urban wastes.

While steps are being taken to handle waste generated in future, the Government needs to focus on creating mass awareness about 4Rs of waste management viz. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recovery. If this can be achieved then the public can be expected to play its part in helping to reduce the generation of waste and in recycling waste by making the process easier by segregating waste at the source. The public needs to be made aware of its responsibility and duty to the future generations. Since Qatar is predominantly a Muslim country, the government may also take help of Islamic scholars to motivate the population to reduce per capita waste generation.

Improvement in curbside collection mechanism and establishment of material recovery facilities and recycling centres may also encourage public participation in waste management initiatives. After a period of public education and demonstration, segregation-at-source needs to be implemented throughout the country. Legislation needs to be passed to ensure compliance, failure of which will attract a penalty with spot checks by the Government body entrusted with its implementation.

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Community Engagement in Recycling Initiatives in Qatar

The current state of environmental custodianship in Qatar leaves much to be desired from the national government and other institutions that publicly endorse initiatives with much fan-fare but do not commit to sustained action. My previous piece titled “Environmental Initiatives in Middle East – Challenges and Remedies” illuminated some of these gaps, but did not provide a detailed description of what underpins this trend and possible solutions might look like. Thus, this article seeks to delve deeper into how state institutions and civil society in Qatar may be able to work cooperatively in staving off further environmental degradation, especially with regards to waste management and recycling.

I believe that real success will be achieved through popular buy-in and a paradigm shift towards recognizing the interconnectedness of humans with their surroundings, which can be encouraged through education. Perhaps more importantly, there needs to be a public acknowledgement that all individuals residing in Qatar have a vested interest in pushing for greater environmental protection enforcement and accountability. In a region that is already faced with a lack of potable water and arable land, allowing the existing course to be maintained is not only risky, it is flat-out dangerous to the nation’s survival.

An Uphill Battle, But a Necessary One

Individuals that either live in or visited a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nation, especially a hydrocarbon-rich rentier state like Qatar, are probably quite familiar with the inadequacies of current recycling initiatives. As someone who has visited the country on three different occasions I can tell you that I have searched high and low for something resembling a recycling bin, can, or other receptacle but to no avail, save for a few located in Education City. One might imagine this to be exceptionally jarring coming from the hyper-attentive, green-obsessed Washington, DC where trash and recycling cans typically are placed together on streets and in buildings.

Further adding to my chagrin is the apparent disconnect between high level, widely publicized recycling improvements and the realities (and consequences) manifesting among general society. For example, last year there was much excitement surrounding the announcement of upcoming environmental reforms in July 2014, but it appears nothing further came to fruition.

The article touches upon some of the apparent hindrances for recycling programs and other environmental initiatives: bureaucracy; paperwork; budgetary constraints. I would add to this list based upon personal experiences: general apathy towards recycling; inaccessibility of bins; perception of additional costs to conducting business.

Fair enough – I acknowledge that some of these issues are out of citizens’ and expats’ hands, but that is no excuse for giving up. The predicted 6.8% GDP growth spurred by the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup and hydrocarbon exports will surely put further pressure on an already fragile ecosystem and lead to an uptick in waste production. This is not meant to stoke unnecessary fear, but the equation here is straightforward; more people present in Qatar, more trash will be created from residential and commercial zones. As noted by fellow EcoMENA contributor, Surya Suresh, the nation presently possesses one solid waste facility at Mesaieed and three landfills devoted to particular items, which now seem to be overwhelmed by growing waste inputs.

Possible Solutions: Personal and Community Action

Given this lag in state responses to the existing recycling crisis and future issues stemming from it, readers may be asking what they can do to help. At the personal level, I would encourage Qatari residents, as well as others in neighboring nations, to begin with educating themselves about the current state of recycling initiatives and conducting an inventory of their daily waste generation. EcoMENA website offers a variety of informative pieces and external resources useful to individuals seeking more information.

My latter point about doing a personal inventory is about consciousness-raising about how we each contribute to a wider problem and identifying means of reducing our impact on the environment. Examples from my own life that I believe are applicable in Qatar include counting the number of plastic bags I used to transport groceries and replacing them with a backpack and reusable bags. I also frequently re-appropriate glass jars for storing items, such as rice, spices, and coffee – make sure to wash them well before reuse! It has taken me several years to get to past the social stigmas surrounding reusing containers and to cultivate the future planning to bring my reusable bags with me, but knowing my actions, aggregated with those of my friends and family, positively affect the environment is quite rewarding and reinforces good behavior. Give it a shot and see what happens.

Furthermore, it may be beneficial for the community at large to begin discussing the topic of recycling and what they would like to see, rather than solely wait on state agencies to address issues. Doing so could initially be formulated on a level that many Qatari residents are probably most familiar with: their place of employment, apartment, or neighborhood. After all, if individuals, specifically employers, are expected to bear the increased costs associated with improved recycling then an understanding of what people want is necessary in hopefully resolving issues effectively and with greater community enthusiasm.

Because of the nature of nation-states’ institutions typically being reactive entities and incapable of being aware of every societal problem, it is up to community-level groups to voice their concerns and be committed to change. Organizations such as the Qatar Green Building Council and the Qatar Green Leaders, offer a variety of informative pieces and training services that may help in establishing dialogues between groups and the government. Perhaps this is too idealistic right now, but Qatari residents have organized popular support for other initiatives, notably in the initial pilot recycling program in 2012. Now let us make that a sustained commitment to recycling!

 

References

  1. Andrew Clark, “Environmental Initiatives in Middle East – Challenges and Remedies,” on EcoMENA.org, http://www.ecomena.org/environment-middle-east/.
  2. Doha News Staff, “Official: New, Sorely Needed Recycling Policies in Qatar Afoot,” on Dohanews.co, http://dohanews.co/official-new-sorely-needed-recycling-policies-in/.
  3. Qatar National Bank, “Qatar Economic Insight 2013,” on www.qnb.com.qa  
  4. Surya Suresh, “Waste Management Outlook for Qatar,” http://www.ecomena.org/waste-qatar/
  5. Doha News Staff, “Responding to Community Calls, Qatar Rolls Out Pilot Recycling Program,” http://dohanews.co/responding-to-community-calls-qatar-rolls-out-pilot/.

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Composting Guidelines for Beginners

It seems everyone is concerned about the environment and trying to reduce their “carbon footprint”.  Let us hope that this trend will continue and grow as a worldwide phenomenon.  Composting has been around for many years and is a great way to keep biodegradables out of the landfill and to reap the reward of some fabulous “black gold”.  That’s what master gardeners call compost and it’s great for improving your soil.  Plants love it. 
Check out few Rules to Remember About Composting.
  1. Layer your compost bin with dry and fresh ingredients: The best way to start a compost pile is to make yourself a bin either with wood or chicken wire.  Layering fresh grass clippings and dried leaves is a great start.
  2. Remember to turn your compost pile: As the ingredients in your compost pile start to biodegrade they will start to get hot.  To avoid your compost pile rotting and stinking you need to turn the pile to aerate it.  This addition of air into the pile will speed up the decomposition.
  3. Add water to your compost pile: Adding water will also speed up the process of scraps turning into compost.  Don’t add too much water, but if you haven’t gotten any rain in a while it’s a good idea to add some water to the pile just to encourage it along.
  4. Don’t add meat scraps to your pile: Vegetable scraps are okay to add to your compost pile, but don’t add meat scraps.  Not only do they stink as they rot, but they will attract unwanted guests like raccoons that will get into your compost bin and make a mess of it.
  5. If possible have more than one pile going: Since it takes time for raw materials to turn into compost you may want to have multiple piles going at the same time.  Once you fill up the first bin start a second one and so on.  That way you can allow the ingredient in the first pile to completely transform into compost and still have a place to keep putting your new scraps and clippings.  This also allows you to always keep a supply of compost coming for different planting seasons.
  6. Never put trash in your compost pile: Just because something says that it is recyclable it doesn’t mean that it should necessarily go into the compost bin.  For example, newspapers will compost and can be put into a compost pile, but you will want to shred the newspapers and not just toss them in the bin in a stack.  Things like plastic and tin should not be put into a compost pile, but can be recycled in other ways.
  7. Allow your compost to complete the composting process before using: It might be tempting to use your new compost in your beds as soon as it starts looking like black soil, but you need to make sure that it’s completely done composting otherwise you could be adding weed seeds into your beds and you will not be happy with the extra weeds that will pop up.
  8. Straw can be added if dried leaves are not available: Dried materials as well as green materials need to be added to a compost bin.  In the Fall you will have a huge supply of dried leaves, but what do you do if you don’t have any dried leaves?  Add straw or hay to the compost bin, but again these will often contain weed seeds so be careful to make sure they are completely composted before using them.
  9. Egg Shells and Coffee grounds are a great addition: Not only potato skins are considered kitchen scraps.  Eggshells and coffee grounds are great additions to compost piles because they add nutrients that will enhance the quality of the end product.
  10. Never put pet droppings in your compost pile: I’m sure you’ve heard that manure is great for your garden, but cow manure is cured for quite a while before used in a garden.  Pet droppings are far to hot and acidic for a home compost pile and will just make it stink.

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النفايات الصلبة في قطاع غزة

لم تكن التحذيرات التي أطلقها منسق الشئون الإنسانية  بالأمم المتحدة "ماكسويل جيلارد" بالأمر المفاجئ أو الغريب على أكثر من مليون و نصف غزّي يسكنون في تلك البقعة من العالم. هذه التحذيرات بنيت على دراسة تابعة للأمم المتحدة صدرت في شهر أغسطس 2012 و أشارت إلى أن قطاع غزة لن يكون "ملائماً للحياة" بحلول عام 2020. فقطاع غزة يعاني من مشكلات كثيرة منذ أكثر من عقد من الزمان مع بدء الانتفاضة الثانية عام 2001 و ما تلاه من حصار خانق بعد فوز حركة المقاومة الإسلامية حماس في الانتخابات التشريعية عام 2006.

في أيامنا هذه و مع وصول أول سفينة فضائية لكوكب المريخ، ما زال قطاع غزة يعاني الكثير من المشاكل البيئية بسبب الوضع السياسي، الاجتماعي، الاقتصادي، التنظيمي ، و التقني السائد في مدن القطاع. خلال الأسطر القادمة، سأصطحبكم لكي نلقي الضوء على إحدى المشاكل التي نعيشها منذ عقود من الزمان. و قبل البدء أريد أن أوضح بأني لا أملك العصا السحرية لتغيير الحال بين عشية و ضحاها و لست بالدبلوماسي لأقوم بإلقاء التهم على جهة معينة أو فرد بعينه ولكن المقصد هو إلقاء الضوء على هذه القضية عسى أن تصل رسالتي كمواطن لأصحاب القرار.

يعاني قطاع غزة من مشكلة متفاقمة في ادارة النفايات الصلبة، نتيجة لوصول مكبات النفايات إلى الحد الاستيعابي الأقصى، و غياب الاهتمام من قبل الجهات المعنية على العمل لحل الأزمة. ففي عام 2010، قدرت وزارة التخطيط كمية النفايات التي نتجت من قطاع غزة ب 1300 طن/يومياً على أن تتضاعف هذه الكمية لتصل إلى 2350 طن/يومياً بعد عشرين عاماً. فهذه الأرقام، مصحوبة بتصريحات السيد "ماكسويل جيلارد" بأن عدد السكان في قطاع غزة سيزيد إلى 2.1 مليون في عام 2020، جعلت من الأهمية أن أتطرق لهذا الموضوع و نطرحه على الطاولة للنقاش. فالمشكلة كبيرة  و أسبابها عديدة و لكن و من باب الانصاف يجدر القول أن إدارة المخلفات الصلبة قد شهدت تحسنا ملحوظا في السنوات الأخيرة بفضل المشاريع الدولية التي نفذت في هذا المجال و الشعور بخطورة ما وصل إليه الحال في مناطق القطاع المختلفة.

أسباب وجود هذه المشكلة

و في بداية الحديث عن حلول قد تساعد على التخفيف من هذه المشكلة المتفاقمة، يجدر بنا أن ندرس الأسباب التي أحدثت هذه القضية . فمن خلال البحث و التدقيق، توصلت إلى أن الأسباب هي كالتالي:

أولاً: عدم كفاءة النظام الحالي بسبب غياب الدراسات التفصيلية و عدم وجود الرؤية الموحدة بين الجهات المعنية بإدارة الملف. فعلي سبيل المثال، قانون البيئة رقم (7) لعام 1999 غير مطبق حتى الآن مما يفقد الجهات المختصة السلطة و القوة لفرض سيطرتها من أجل تحسين الوضع العام.

ثانياً: الزيادة المفرطة في عدد السكان في القطاع مصحوباً بزيادة كميات المخلفات و عدم وجود الأماكن المناسبة لطمر المخلفات بطرق سليمة.

ثالثاً: عدم إدراك عامة الشعب بحساسية الموضوع و ضرورة التعاون مع الجهات المختصة لحل الأزمة.  مما سبق، يمكن أن نستنتج الآلية التي أرى أنها قد تساعد على أن تغير الحال الحالي.

أولى هذه الخطوات هي توفر سياسة و رؤية موحدة  ما بين كل الجهات الحكومية المعنية في هذا الشأن بالإضافة إلى البلديات من أجل وضع خطة شاملة تعمل على تحسين الوضع العام لنظام إدارة النفايات الصلبة في قطاع غزة.

هذا المبدأ لابد أن يقوم أساساً على نموذج 3R الأكثر اتباعاً في أيامنا هذه و يشمل ثلاث مقترحات لإدارة الأزمة بطريقة صحيحة و هي (تقليل كمية النفايات الناتجة Reduce ، إعادة استخدام Reuse، إعادة التدوير Recycle) و فيما يلي توضيح لهذه الخطوات:

أولا: تقليل النفايات Reduce

بالغالب تزيد كمية النفايات الناتجة من أي مجتمع بزيادة عدد أفراده. فخلال السنوات الماضية، شهدت الكميات الناتجة ارتفاعاً ملحوظاً دون إدراك عامة الشعب لخطورة الأزمة. و لهذا وجب علينا أن نركز على هذه القضية و نعمل على تغيير ما بأنفس الناس و دعوتهم أن يكونوا على قدر المسئولية و أن يقوموا بدورهم في هذا الملف عن طريق العمل على تقليل المخلفات الصادرة من منازلهم. كما أنه يجب على البلديات إعداد برامج خاصة لإدارة النفايات الصلبة للقطاع التجاري وفرض قيود على أصحاب الأعمال للتقليل من كميات المخلفات الناتجة من أنشطتهم التجارية.

ثانيا: إعادة الاستخدام Reuse

إعادة استخدام المخلفات ليس حل لمشكلة المخلفات و حسب، بل إنه من الأمور التي قد تدفع العجلة الاقتصادية إلى الأمام  من خلال تقليص ميزانية شراء المواد الخام لبعض الصناعات,  و زيادة رأس المال لصناعات الأخرى. فمن خلال هذه الطريقة، يمكن لأصحاب الصناعات بيع كل ما يزيد عن أنشطتهم التجارية لجهات أخرى و جني دخل إضافي للمؤسسة التجارية.

و كمثال آخر، يمكن لهذا المبدأ أن يستخدم كأداة للعديد من المؤسسات غير الربحية عن طريق بيع ما يتبرع به المواطنون من أدوات ليسوا بحاجة لها فيما يعرف بمحلات " الأدوات المستعملة"  و لكن النظرة المجتمعية لهذه الفكرة سلبية و غير مرحب بها لاعتبارات اجتماعية و لكن يجدر الإشارة إلى فوائد هذا النوع من المشاريع و منها:

  • زيادة نسبة المواد المعاد استخدامها بين المواطنين ( أثاث، كتب، أدوات كهربائية).
  • زيادة الدخل المالي لهذه المؤسسات مما يزيد من أنشطتها الميدانية للمواطنين.
  • تغيير بعض العادات السلوكية بين المواطنين و تشجيع الاندماج و التعاون بين كافة أفراد المجتمع.

ثالثا: إعادة التدوير Recycle  

أشارت دراسات إلى أن نسبة إعادة التدوير في قطاع غزه 4.2 % لعام 2002 بمعدل 9 طن/يومياً يتم إعادة تدويرها بمبادرة فردية لبعض الصناعات المحلية. ترجع النسبة الضئيلة هذه إلى عدة عوامل منها:

 أولاً: غياب الدعم الحكومي لمشاريع إعادة التدوير.

ثانياً: عدم اهتمام عامة الشعب لهذه المشاريع و تقدير القيمة الاقتصادية لها. ففي حقيقة الأمر، و نتيجة لزيادة أسعار المواد الخام في الأسواق العالمية، فقد زادت أسعار بعض الأنواع من المخلفات لتصل إلى أكثر من 100دولار/ طن      ( فعلى سبيل المثال: سعر طن البلاستيك PET  250-300   دولار/طن، و سعر الورق المقوى (كرتون) يتراوح بين 240-260  دولار/طن)

و من هنا تنبع ضرورة الاهتمام بهذا النوع من المشاريع من أجل دفع العجلة الاقتصادية للقطاع. و من ناحية عملية يمكن أن يتم البدء بهذه المشاريع بإدارة عليا من البلديات و لكن عن طريق انشاء عدد من الشركات و خصخصتها من أجل تحقيق التنمية الاقتصادية و البيئية في آن واحد. 

في الختام و من خلال التحليل السابق يتضح أن قضية إدارة النفايات الصلبة تتطلب خطوة  مشتركة بين الدولة و الشعب عن طريق وضع أهداف واضحة و محددة المعالم و من ثم العمل على النهوض بالوضع البيئي في قطاع غزة.

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Food Waste, Ramadan and the Middle East

With the holy month of Ramadan only a few days away, huge food wastage in the Middle East is again hogging limelight. It is a widely acccepted fact that almost half of the municipal solid waste stream in the Middle East is comprised of food wastes and associated matter. The increasing amount of food waste in the Middle East urgently demands a strong food waste management strategy to ensure its minimization and eco-friendly disposal. 

Food Waste in Ramadan

Middle East nations are acknowleded as being the world’s top food wasters, and during Ramadan the situation takes a turn for the worse. In 2012, the Dubai Municipality estimated that in Ramadan, around 55% of household waste (or approximately 1,850 tons is thrown away every day. In Bahrain, food waste generation in Bahrain exceeds 400 tons per day during the holy month, according to Rehan Ahmad, Head of Waste Disposal Unit (Bahrain). As far as Qatar is concerned, it is expected that almost half of the food prepared during Ramadan will find its way into garbage bins.

The amount of food waste generated in Ramadan is significantly higher than other months. There is a chronic inclination of Muslims towards over-indulgence and lavishness in the holy month, even though the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), asked Muslims to adopt moderation in all walks of life. Socio-cultural attitudes and lavish lifestyles also play a major role in more food waste generation in Ramadan in almost all Muslim countries.

Economic Implications

The greater the economic prosperity and the higher percentage of urban population, the greater the amount of waste produced. A good example is the case of oil‐rich GCC which figures among the world’s most prolific per capita waste generators. High-income groups usually generate more food waste per capita when compared to less-affluent groups. Hotels, cafeterias, restaurants etc are also a big contributor of food wastes in the Middle East.

Food waste generation is expected to steadily with the rapid growth of regional economies boom. The per capita production of solid waste in Arab cities such as Riyadh, Doha and Abu Dhabi is more than 1.5 kg per day, placing them among the highest per capita waste producers in the world. These statistics point to loss of billions of dollars each year in the form of food waste throughout the Arab world.

Parting Shot

The foremost steps to reduce food wastage are behavioral change, increased public awareness, strong legislations, recycling facilities (composting and biogas plants) and community participation. Effective laws and mass sensitation campaigns are required to compel the people to adopt waste mimization practices and implement sustainable lifestyles. During Ramadan, religious scholars and prayer-leaders can play a vital role in motivating Muslims to follow Islamic principles of sustainability, as mentioned in the Holy Quran and Ahadith The best way to reduce food waste is to feel solidarity towards millions and millions of people around the world who face enormous hardships in having a single meal each day.

 

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Waste Management Perspectives for Egypt

Egypt occupies 7th position in the list of countries with the most mismanaged plastic waste, according to a recent report published in Science magazine. The report was based on data collected in 2010 and one must wonder whether the results of the report would have been different if the zabbaleen had been allowed to continue their work unhindered.

A History of the Zabbaleen

The zabbaleen, or garbage collectors, are the descendants of farmers from Upper Egypt who moved to Cairo in the 1940s. Together with another migrant group, they have made a living in Cairo collecting, sorting, salvaging, and recycling the waste of the city's nearly 20 million residents. With the help of NGOs, the zabbaleen recycled up to 80% of the waste they collected, more than three times the amount of waste recycled by garbage collectors in major cities in developed nations. The zabbaleen collected the garbage free of charge; they were part of Cairo's informal public sector. Their work was not supported by the government. Their income came from selling the recyclable material and from the pigs they raised on the organic waste. Many residents also gave monetary tips to the garbage collectors. This meager income barely supported the zabbaleen, who live together in different settlements around the city, all of them extremely poor.

Believing the zabbaleen's system to be backwards and unhygienic, in 2003, the government sold contracts to three multinational companies (and one local company) to collect Cairo's waste, pushing the zabbaleen out of the system. These companies were required to recycle only 20% of the waste collected, the other 80% making its way to landfills. It did not take long for residents to complain about this new service. They now had to pay for their garbage collection and that did not include door-to-door pick-up. There were not enough bins in the streets to hold all the waste and streets quickly filled with the overflowing garbage. The new companies simply could not keep up with the waste being produced. Not only did this have a devastating effect on the waste management situation in Cairo, it destroyed the zabbaleen's way of life as they lost access to the garbage that was the foundation of their economic activities. At one point, the private companies realized they needed the zabbaleen and tried to subcontract them, but the zabbaleen were highly underpaid and the system failed. Some residents, though, continued to hire the zabbaleen on their own.

Adding to both the city's garbage woes and the plight of the zabbaleen, in 2009, in response to the H1Ni influenza outbreak, the government ordered the culling of all the zabbaleen's pigs. These pigs were an essential part of the zabbaleen's recycling program. The pigs consumed all of the organic waste that was sorted from the garbage. When they lost their pig herds, the zabbaleen stopped collecting organic waste and the effect was felt almost immediately. Again, residents complained about the trash piling up on the streets. The trash piles became home to rats and disease. And once again, the zabbaleen suffered as they were no longer able to earn enough money to support themselves and had lost an important food source.

Change is in the Air

Since the 2011 revolution, many changes have taken place in Egypt, spurred on by environmentally-minded individuals, small businesses, and new government ministers. One of the more hopeful changes involves the collection of garbage. The government has finally implemented a proposal for officially employing the zabbaleen, replacing the international companies with smaller zabbaleen-run companies. Once registered, the local companies are given uniforms, government vehicles and business training from an NGO. The system had a test-run and debuted in a few areas late last year. If successful, there are plans to expand over the next two years. This is good news for Cairo's waste management and even better news for the zabbaleen.

Other private-sector initiatives are tackling recycling as well.  Recyclobekia is a new company that offers electronic waste recycling services. The company collects, sorts, and dismantles e-waste – old laptops, computers, cameras, phones, and more – and in return companies and individuals are given credit for an online shop or even cash if they recycle more than 500 kg of waste. GreenTec is an exciting recycling initiative that offers Automated Recycling Machines. With these machines, individuals can deposit their plastic water bottles and receive credit for their mobile phones. Another new venture coming out of Cairo is Refuse, a company that upcycles plastic bags and creates backpacks, tote bags, laptop covers, and other accessories with this waste. They also offer workshops to teach others how to upcycle.  Gamayit El-Misbah El-Mudii, started in 2005, provides free collection and recycling of paper, plastic, glass, and other items. They collect from individuals, schools, and businesses. Resala, a charity organization, also offers recycling services. As these initiatives and companies continue to grow, so will the awareness and action of individuals in terms of waste management and recycling.

Individual Action

While our local and national authorities attempt to improve the collection and recyling of our waste at the city level, it is important to remember that we as individuals can do a lot as well. The first and simplest action we can take it to sort our trash into organic and non-organic waste. Our garbage collectors, whoever they may be, will appreciate this effort and it will keep any paper or board waste clean so that it can be recycled. Once you've sorted your trash, make sure it's getting recycled. If the zabbaleen do not collect in your area, contact one of the organizations listed above. The most important action we can take is to reduce the amount of waste we are creating in the first place. Less waste produced means less waste needing to be managed. We can start by refusing to use or purchase disposable plastic. Bring your own reusable bags to the supermarket so that you don't need the plastic ones. Invest in a water filter and a reusable bottle so you can drink your tap water and skip the plastic water bottles. Avoid buying food packaged with polystyrene; it's not recyclable. Read this guide to a plastic-free life and search other websites for tips and ideas on reducing plastic waste. You'll find that most of the suggestions will be better for your health and the health of our environment, and at the same time, save you money. If we all do our part by taking these steps, perhaps Egypt won't make the top ten list of worst plastic offenders again.

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Waste-to-Energy Outlook for the Middle East

The high rate of population growth, urbanization and economic expansion in the Middle East is not only accelerating consumption rates but also increasing the generation rate of all sorts of waste. High-income Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait are counted as world’s largest waste producers in terms of per capita waste generation which is more than 2kg per day in some countries. The urban waste generation from the region has now crossed 150 million tons per year which has forced policy-makers and urban planners to look for sustainable waste management solutions, including recycling and waste-to-energy.

Let us take a look at solid waste generation in major countries across the Middle East region:

Country

MSW Generation

(million tons per annum)

Saudi Arabia

15

United Arab Emirates

6

Qatar

2.5

Kuwait

2

Bahrain

1.5

Egypt

20

Tunisia

2.3

Morocco

5

Lebanon

1.6

Jordan

2

In addition, huge quantity of sewage sludge is also generated in the Middle East which presents a serious problem due to its high treatment costs and risk to environment and human health. On an average, the rate of wastewater generation is 80-200 litres per person each day and sewage output is rising by 25 percent every year across the region.

Conversion Pathways

Municipal solid waste is a very good source of biomass in the Middle East. Municipal solid waste is comprised of organic fraction, paper, glass, plastics, metals, wood etc. Almost 50% of the solid waste is contributed by organic matter.

Municipal solid waste can be converted into energy by conventional technologies (such as incineration, mass-burn and landfill gas capture). Municipal solid waste can also be efficiently converted into energy and fuels by advanced thermal technologies, such as gasification and pyrolysis.

At the landfill sites, the gas produced by the natural decomposition of MSW is collected from the stored material and scrubbed and cleaned before feeding into internal combustion engines or gas turbines to generate heat and power. In addition, the organic fraction of MSW can be anaerobically stabilized in a high-rate digester to obtain biogas for electricity or steam generation.

Anaerobic digestion is the most preferred option to extract energy from sewage, which leads to production of biogas and organic fertilizer. The sewage sludge that remains can be incinerated or gasified/pyrolyzed to produce more energy. In addition, sewage-to-energy processes also facilitate water recycling.

Relevance for Middle East

The variety of technological options available means that waste-to-energy can be applied at a small, localized scale primarily for heat, or it can be used in much larger base-load power generation capacity whilst also producing heat. Waste-to-energy conversion can thus be tailored to rural or urban environments in the Middle East, and utilized in domestic, commercial or industrial applications in the entire region.

The world’s dependence on Middle East energy resources has caused the region to have some of the largest carbon footprints per capita worldwide. The GCC region is now gearing up to meet the challenge of global warming, as with the rapid growth of the waste management sector. During the last few years, UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have unveiled multi-billion dollar investment plans to Improve waste management scenario. In particular, the establishment of Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre in Qatar has catalyzed public interest in deployment of waste-to-energy systems in the Middle East.

Energy recovery from MSW is rapidly gaining worldwide recognition as the fourth ‘R’ in sustainable waste management system – Reuse, Reduce, Recycle and Recover. A transition from conventional waste management system to one based on sustainable practices is necessary to address environmental concerns and to foster sustainable development in the region.

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