Recycling of Aluminium Cans

Aluminium is a soft, durable and lightweight metal, made from Bauxite ore, which is mined from the earth. Bauxite is converted into alumina, a fine white powder, which is then smelted at over 700°C to become aluminium, which is one of the versatile products universally being used by consumers in a number of applications. The process is expensive and uses huge resources, including energy and fuel. Making cans out of aluminium for storing soft drinks and juices is one of the commonly used phenomenons as it takes five tonnes of Bauxite to make just one tonne of aluminium cans.

Many of the food and drink products we buy are packaged in cans made from either aluminium or steel and both of these materials can be easily recycled after we have finished with them to make either new cans or other allied suitable products.

Aluminium cans are very common in our daily life and is often consumed as  drink containers and later thrown as garbage in bins or being littered on streets and open plots. The good thing is that these cans provide source of food and income to many poor people who resort to collect them from the bins and open areas and sell it to the middle recycling shops in exchange of money. This practice is certainly restricting huge quantities of cans going to municipal landfill sites saving valuable space and is prompting informal recyclable material collection.

The aluminium can is the world’s most recycled packaging container. We need to understand that all aluminium cans are 100% recyclable. It can take up to 500 years for aluminium cans to decompose. Aluminium does not degrade during the recycling process, which means it can be repeatedly recycled many a times. Recycling aluminium saves millions of tonnes of greenhouse gasses, energy, electricity and fuel for its transportation. Making aluminium cans from recycled materials requires less than 5% of the energy used to make new aluminium cans from Bauxite.

The recycling of aluminium generally produces significant cost savings over the production of new aluminium even when the cost of collection, separation and recycling are taken into account. Over the long term, even larger national savings are made when the reduction in the capital costs associated with landfills, mines and international shipping of raw aluminium are considered.

It is our environmental and social duty to separate aluminium cans from other domestic waste and either give to recyclers or separately discard it at bins, so that it can be easily collected by poor iterants. Before disposal, ensure that the aluminium cans are empty and not soiled and damaged. The collected cans in the Middle East are then taken to a local recycling facility where they are crushed, compacted, baled and later transported and exported to other countries for recycling, where they are milled and remade into new products.

Important fact is that recycling an aluminium can saves enough energy to run a television for three hours. If we throw away two aluminium cans, we waste more energy than is used daily by each of the billion human beings in the developing world.

We need to conserve our environmental resources and practice environmental friendly habits including aluminium can segregation and recycling. Brazil, recycles more than 98% of its aluminium can production, ranking first in the world followed by Japan with 83% recovery rate. Let us strive to make Middle East a recycling heaven and protecting our resources from any kind of pollution.

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Trash Talk from Doha

recycling-dohaOn arriving a few years ago from a town in the UK that boasts a university course in waste management, and a very efficient weekly recyclable waste collection from our houses, I was a bit shocked, like many Europeans by how difficult it was to recycle in Doha. Having had the moral obligation to recycle drummed into me since I was quite young, I felt guilty throwing away all my waste into one bin, destined to fill up a huge smelly hole in the desert, where it would take a long time, if not forever to biodegrade.

The Real Picture

I was determined to find a place to recycle and was happy when I found out that the park of Dahl al Hammam, just 5 minutes’ drive from my villa, had 7 different large recycling banks. These have to be emptied into trucks daily, due to their enthusiastic filling, mostly by Europeans who make the effort to come from many different compounds that are further away than my own. Waste materials can be sorted into two banks for paper and cardboard, two banks for metal and plastic, two banks for glass and another one for second hand but good quality clothes for charity. 

I have been trying to determine over the last four years if all our conscientious efforts to sort, collect and transport our preciously gathered waste materials have been in vain or not. Are they actually taken to factories where they are recycled into new products or not? I see a lot of small recycling bins in educational institutions, which seem to be more of an experiment to observe human behaviour, and to get people to start separating the things they throw away, rather than a real improvement in recycling. Often all separated waste from these is taken away and put in one bin, and then taken to the normal landfill!

I asked a security officer in Dahl al Hammam, and he reassured me that the materials from the banks are indeed taken to the sorting plant in Al-Messaieed. I am still a little unsure.  In Al-Mesaieed there is a very large Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre (DSWMC). The plant has been online since 2011 and of the waste they receive, 95% is recycled or converted into energy.  Organic material is composted at what is the world’s largest composting plant; plastics and metals recycled and other material incinerated, with the heat generated used to produce 40 MW of electricity. However this $550M plant by 2013, two years after its opening, had already reached its processing capacity of 2300 tonnes daily, for sorting rubbish.

Gravity of the Situation

In 2012 a staggering total of 871000 tonnes of solid household waste, or 28 000 tonnes per day were produced by Qatar, a rise of 7% from 2011, increasing at a rate exceeding Qatar’s Government expectations and preparations. The per capita generation of waste in Qatar of 1.6kg to 1.8kg each day is about four times that of Hong Kong and is one of the highest globally. Besides this it has been estimated that 5000 tonnes of waste are produced daily by industry and construction. In 2011 only 8% of waste was recycled.

To cope with the challenge of waste management, Qatar urgently requires more projects like Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre (DSWMC) at Al-Mesaieed

To cope with the challenge of waste management, Qatar urgently requires more projects like Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre (DSWMC) at Al-Mesaieed

Qatar unfortunately has the second largest ecological footprint on the planet, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature’s report in 2014, a substantial contribution to this is the damage to ecosystems and the carbon footprint incurred through all its imports. Being a small peninsula on the edge of the hot and usually arid Arabian Desert, Qatar has to import nearly everything that it needs from far and wide. It would like to be more independent and resilient and is working in that direction. The fall in the price of oil earlier this year, and therefore in the income of Qatar, has added pressure now to reduce expenditure, and to better balance the books. 

The Way Forward

One way it can fulfil these aims is to become more efficient in its use of resources. If it can reuse many of the materials from the products that it uses, then it will reduce the need to import more goods, thereby cutting costs, carbon emissions and ecosystem damage. This it can do this through applying the famous ‘reduce, re-use, and recycle’ motto. A famous English saying is ‘waste not want not’, which means that if you are not wasteful in times of plenty, and make maximum use of everything, then you will have enough left for times of difficulty. The Holy Quran also says, ‘O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer. Eat and drink but waste not through excess, for Allah loves not the wasters’(7:31). The Qatar National Development Strategy 2011-16 aimed to boost waste recycled to 38% by 2016, a definite challenge in the face of rapid development and population increases.

One challenge in Qatar is mixed nature of most of the rubbish. This is partly due to the lack of accessible information about existing collectors of sorted recyclable materials. Another is the insufficient awareness in the most of the population about the importance of not dropping litter, reducing wastage and separating materials. An issue being addressed is the currently insufficient infrastructure to sort and separate mixed rubbish- which represents the majority of rubbish collected today. Also factories that process used materials to improve their quality are rare, and few Qatari industries utilise such salvaged materials as an input. All sectors need to work together concurrently to improve awareness and education, and the sorting, collection and processing of useful materials extracted from waste, to utilise them for the manufacture of new products in Qatar.

To facilitate these, a constantly updated website could be set up to link companies, organisations and institutions, and make them aware of each other’s waste outputs. According to the Qatar Development Bank, the revenue potential from solid waste could be as high as QR 2.24 billion with QR 979.16 million coming from recycling household waste. Hopefully more bright sparks in Qatar will soon spot the great business opportunities available from recycled materials, to help Qatar to be more self-sufficient and reduce Qatar’s ecological footprint.

Note: The article is being republished with the kind permission of The Peninsular Qatar. The original article can be read at this link

Don’t Mess with Dahab – An Introduction

No matter where I were in the world right now, I'd be writing about the same problem – trash –  because it's not just the streets and shores of Dahab that are littered with rubbish. Travel to coastal cities around the world and you'll find many of the beaches in much the same state. Cairo and other places in Egypt are also dealing with their own problems of waste management.

There always seems to be a lot of talk about the obstacles we face in dealing with this problem: Garbage collection services provided by the city government are inefficient. Dumpsters are sparse and broken, causing the trash to be scattered along the road by the wind or hungry goats and sheep. The blame often gets laid on the people in charge of dealing with our trash; rarely do we take the blame ourselves.

It's time we stop for a moment and consider what we, as individuals, can do without the assistance of waste collection services, whether they are private or public. Because if there's one thing we can control, it's the amount of trash we each produce. If each of us “throws away” less rubbish, there will be less rubbish for the wind to blow around, less rubbish for the goats to scamper through, less rubbish finding its way into our seas and deserts, and less rubbish piling up in the streets waiting for someone to clean!

If you've participated in a clean-up event or had a closer look at the piles of rubbish lying around, you've probably realized that a lot of our trash is plastic. There are a lot of environmental and health problems associated with plastic and for the sake of humanity's well being, we cannot wait any longer to do something about the sheer amount of plastic polluting our earth.

Learning how to use less disposable plastic is something I've been working on personally for the past several years. Last year, I began writing the Don't Mess with Dahab blog to share with others what I've discovered. Now, I'll be contributing here on EcoMENA and I'll be sharing ways that each of us can reduce our use of disposable plastic. While I won't be able to suggest specific stores, restaurants, or companies like I do on Don't Mess with Dahab, I will be sharing ideas for alternatives to single-use plastic. I'll also discuss the different types of plastic, the problems associated with each, recyling plastics and more. As we'll see, these strategies will not only benefit the environment, but also your health and your wallet, as many of these tips will save you money.

It is my hope that my blogs will help us all become more aware, more responsible, and more pro-active when it comes to our personal health and the health of our environment.

And if you're wondering where the title of my blog, Don't Mess with Dahab, comes from, well, that's the Texan in my heart, who remembers with fondness the Don't Mess with Texas anti-litter campaign. Sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation, the campaign was quite successful and over the years the phrase ingrained itself into Texan culture. It's a matter of pride. And while my blog is not focused on litter exactly, I called Texas home for 9 years of my life and the phrase Don't Mess with Texas still puts a smile on my face.

So let's all be proud of our home, native or adopted, wherever we are in the world and work towards making it a cleaner place!

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

 

WordPress Blog: http://dontmesswithdahab.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DontMessDahab

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Attitudes towards Waste Management – The Case in Oman

Plastic-recycling-bin-OmanResponses to the Oman waste management questionnaire were interesting, enlightening, and often unexpected. The Omani interviewees gave thoughtful answers and additional insights and opinions that stemmed from their sociocultural backgrounds as well as from their individual experiences. Often, statements and assertions from these respondents were found to be corroborated by evidence from other types of research, such as the study on the composition of refuse found in dumpsites in Muscat, or the feeding habits of camels cited earlier.

Food waste

On the topic of food waste, respondents generally had a strong belief that such waste was immoral. When asked about the reasons for their convictions, many of them attributed it to Islamic teachings, and recited from memory well-known statements (hadiths) from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) prohibiting food waste, and verses from the Holy Qur’an such as verse 7:31: “…eat and drink, but do not waste by excess, for Allah does not love those who waste.

Water bottles

It seems that the use of non-reusable water bottles was on an exigency basis and was not the default choice for any of the respondents. However, it should be noted that all the households in this sample were either working class or middle class. Responses from a set of wealthy households might yield very different results on this issue.

Household waste

Regarding other sorts of household waste, respondents seemed to be aware that much of what ended up in their trash was packaging from purchased goods, whether food or non-perishables. As some respondents remarked in their responses, they recognized that the use of plastic bags instead of reusable bags at shops and supermarkets contributed to the plethora of plastic in their own household rubbish. One respondent in particular posited a clear causal link between the abundance of packaged, processed foods and the fact that packaging waste made up the bulk of what was in her household garbage bin on a daily basis.

Recycling programs

The majority of respondents were surprised and interested to hear that there were recycling programmes in Oman, but some were not optimistic that these programmes would soon be available in their neighbourhoods. The possibility of recycling electronics, batteries and/or printer ink was not suggested by any of the respondents, so it seems that they were unaware of any alternative to simply dumping such toxic items.

Influence of Islam

In line with the strong religious influence to which most respondents attributed their attitudes on the subjects of consumption and waste, several of them in their responses to the final question of the survey recalled this well-known hadith: “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of people is a guardian and is responsible for his constituents. A man is the guardian of his family and he is responsible for them. A woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and his children and she is responsible for them … Surely, every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock.”

Key Takeaways

This study has presented results based on a pilot study with a very small sample of respondents. However, if we evaluate these responses in terms of what is already documented about Oman, its society, culture and economy, we can draw some useful inferences.

It is taken for granted that, as demographic, Omani men already play a key role in consumption patterns and waste management. As leaders and decision makers in government, in business and in private sector organizations, they establish the vision and best practices of their enterprises and institutions; as heads of households and families, they make and influence consumer choices for the household and the extended family. What our survey has hinted at is that Omani women have strong opinions about consumerism and waste management, too. Furthermore, as a demographic they seem poised to contribute a greater share of the input in this discourse.

Omani women comprise approximately 25 percent of the paid labour force in Oman, and the level of this participation is expected to keep growing. Meanwhile, their substantial contribution as unpaid service providers (in their roles as caregivers, homemakers, household managers, husbandry providers for small livestock, etc.) has yet to be truly measured. Yet like their male counterparts, as managers of their own households and the individuals who make and/or influence consumer choices for the household, they have significant potential influence on how waste is managed at the household level and the community level.

Another takeaway from this survey is that the role of religion is a crucial one. We saw that respondents directly credited Islamic teachings with shaping their attitudes and opinions on consumption and waste. Indeed, in the body of authentic Islamic texts one finds directives on land stewardship; prohibiting wastage and excess consumption; prescribing conservation of land, water, plant and animal life; and even reducing, reusing, sharing and recycling.

Thus we would extrapolate from these results that the Omani society is ready to engage actively in initiatives to promote more responsible consumption habits and sustainable waste management involving the four Rs. Omani culture has a strong tradition of conservative use, re-use, repurposing and recycling. Many of the traditional practices of family and community living now thought to be ‘outdated’ are actually highly efficient and ecologically sound. Omani men, women and children have the example of their grandparents to guide them in reviving and re-establishing local, traditional, sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices of careful consumption and waste management.  

Recommendations

First of all, this pilot study ought to be taken further and a full scale survey of attitudes and awareness on this topic should be conducted along the lines of the 2015 Sultan Qaboos University Department of Geography investigation on climate change awareness and perceptions in residents of Muscat. Equipped with the information gleaned from such a study, we propose that it will be found that conditions are ripe for the implementation of a network of well-designed, integrated and efficiently executed recycling programmes that are accessible to the Omani population where they live, work and go to school.

Back to Basics

Collective memory to the rescue: Consider returning to some of the ‘old ways’ – the ways the previous generation used to shop for, store, prepare, and dispose of food and other consumables. At the level of the household, families can avoid buying packaged pre-processed foods, use drinking water supply services which provide refillable containers/dispensers instead of buying bottled water, bring their own reusable shopping bags and request that purchases from shops not be placed in plastic bags.

Omani society is ready to engage actively in initiatives to promote sustainable waste management

Omani society is ready to engage actively in initiatives to promote sustainable waste management

Households could aim for ‘zero waste’ by applying the four Rs and participating in composting where possible. This is already being done in local rural areas, and it is a practice that is being restored in urban areas of developed countries in Europe, North America, and elsewhere.

Changing the Rules

Use consumer clout to change the practices of business and industry: It is known that businesses which serve consumers are very sensitive to customer demands. With the food service and hospitality industry, individual consumers in Oman can effect change by demanding less wasteful and more sustainable practices and options from the industry (e.g., compostable packaging, less packaging, appropriate portion sizes and eco-friendly food containers in restaurants, and filtered water instead of bottled water in restaurants and hotels).

Conclusion

This article has evaluated the results of a pilot survey of attitudes and awareness of food waste and related issues, highlighting some relevant past practices and positing that ‘collective memory,’ together with individual and communal will-power, can be harnessed to reverse the current trend and regain control of Oman’s burgeoning waste problem. The solution is local, but it has definite regional and potential global application.

Note: This is the third and final article in our special series on 'Waste Management in Oman'. The first two parts are available at Waste Management Perspectives for Oman and Waste Management Awareness in Oman

References

  1. Palanivel, T.M. and H. Sulaiman. 2014. ‘Generation and Composition of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.’ ICESD 2014. APCBEE Procedia 10(2014): 96–102 (accessed 20/02/16)
  2. Chatty, D. 2000. ‘Women Working in Oman: Individual Choice and Cultural Constraints.’ Int. J. Middle East Stud. 32(2000): 241-254.
  3. ILO and Sultanate of Oman. 2010. Memorandum: Decent Work Country Programme 2010-2013. 1-25 <available on http://www.ilo.org/public/english/bureau/program/dwcp/download/oman.pdf
  4. Al Buloshi, A.S. and E. Ramadan. 2015. ‘Climate Change Awareness and Perception amongst the Inhabitants of Muscat Governorate, Oman.’ American Journal of Climate Change, 4, 330-336.  http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ajcc.2015.44026 (accessed 27/08/2015)
  5. Abdul-Matin, I. 2010. Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
  6. ten Veen, R.C. 2009. 199 Ways to Please God. UK: Fastprint Gold. 

Trash Talk from Gaza

gaza-garbageSolid waste management is considered to be one of the most severe environmental and civic problems in the Gaza Strip. Solid waste in the Gaza strip consists mainly of household waste, building debris, agricultural waste, industrial waste (mainly from worksites), medical wastes, and wastes from car workshops. Solid waste in the Gaza Strip is dumped in the same landfill without separation except for medical waste, which is dumped separately in the main Gaza landfill site. The solid waste generation rate varies between 0.35 to 1.0 kg/capita/day.

Scale of the Problem

Trash generation in the Gaza Strip varies between 830 to 894 tons/day in cities and villages and from 276 to 300 tons/day in the refugee camps. Local surveys and estimates indicate that household waste accounts for 45 to 50% of the total solid waste, construction and industrial wastes 22 to 25%, and the remaining types (e.g. commercial and institutional) 25 to 30%. Bad practices in the Gaza Strip with the absence of legislation and inspection mechanisms during the occupation resulted in inefficient and inconsistent waste collection services. On many occasions, waste is being dumped in open areas, in various places in the Gaza Strip. And to add fuel to the fire, present landfills in the Gaza Strip are overloaded. This represents a looming danger to the public health and the environment, and particularly to the ground water resources, which are already poor. Not only that but also, hazardous emissions, which are resulted from waste incineration, contain thousands of carbon tones (CO2 gas), causing the temperature to rise. Thus in turn, would be probably the cause of climate change.

Promising Initiative of AYCM Palestine

As regard with potential solutions, Governments and many NGO's have tried to solve the problem as much as possible or at least alleviate the effects, which are resulted from it. As an example of these efforts, Natuf Organization for Environment & Community Development in partnership with Arab Youth Climate Movement “AYCM” – Palestine,  implemented “ Environmental Leaders toward a Sustainable Community” project which funded by the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme through GEF. During this project, an environmental initiative titled "Separation and recycling of different waste materials into reusable objects" in cooperation with 'Zero Waste MENA' team in Gaza.

The initiative was carried out in Shalehat Resort located at the Gaza beach with the participation of vacationers. The main activities included a 10-day awareness campaign, which targeted more than 200 families (about 1,400 people overall) and focused on the impacts of solid waste as well as the importance of sorting and reuse. On the final day, children event with clowns and games was held in order to raise their interest in environmental issues and encourage them to become future environmental leaders.

Recycling-Gaza1In addition, this initiative aims to create a practical model for waste recycling in the Gaza Strip in order to promote the environmental and the general awareness among residents in Gaza. Such processes, as an illustration, contribute to reducing the consumption of fresh raw materials, energy usage, air pollution (from incineration) and water pollution (from landfilling) by decreasing the need for "conventional" waste disposal and lowering greenhouse gas emissions which are considered as the main cause of climate change. As a result, Recycling can be regarded as a good strategy for waste reduction and mitigation of the climate change impacts in the long term.

Conclusions

To conclude, Gaza Strip has encountered from many serious environmental issues, solid waste management, in particular. Such issues may pose detrimental threats to our environment as well as our health. Consequently, I deeply believe that all of us, governments and individuals, should be responsible and careful about our Earth as much as we can. We should work hard together in order to save the whole environment for all of us and for the future generation.

Detrimental Effects of Littering

Littering is a common menace one can witness in all urban areas. Streets, sidewalks, parking lots, roads and highways are mostly covered with food wrappers, soft drink and water bottles, plastic bags, handbills, cigarette butts, tissues, papers and others. Littering is most likely to take place at locations where litter is already ‘present’.

Growing Menance

Around 1.9 billion tonnes of litter end up in the ocean every year, which clearly shows that people tend to throw things randomly anywhere, more often than they throw waste in garbage bins. Litter is not just an ugly or an aesthetic problem; it has serious environmental consequences that can persist for decades. Styrofoam container takes up to a million years to decompose and break down. A disposable diaper can take more than 500 years; cigarette more than 10 and even orange or banana skins stick around for more than a month.

Litter has the potential to cause harm to human health, safety, welfare, as well as the environment. The harmful impact of litter includes trapping or poisoning animals, killing aquatic life directly through choking and indirectly through its impact on water quality. Littering can be a fire hazard and it attracts pests and rodents. Litter carry germs and rats are carriers of many types of diseases that make people ill. Litter also cause accidents as drivers try to avoid litter on the road. Young children fall on litter in playgrounds and can get injured.

Litter also harms plants, vegetation and natural areas. There are several factors that may impact on littering behaviour. These include inconvenience and laziness, absence of ownership or pride for the area, feeling that someone else will pick it up, number, placement and appearance of litter bins at or near the site, absence of realistic penalties, legislation enforcement, lack of social pressure and lack of knowledge of the environmental impacts of littering. Almost all of us litter in one way or the other. Littering is something we learn from others and unconsciously pass on to our children.

Solving the Problem

The temptation to ‘litter’ is usually motivated by disrespect to the law and its enforcement, as well as ignorance and arrogance in our attitude, thinking that somebody will clean our mess. Significant amount of money is spent to collect and clean up the litter that many people have thoughtlessly tossed out on the streets and other public spaces. The litter collection is a time-consuming and costly exercise with walking marshals collecting the litter from far off places to keep the country tidy.

Litter is a problem that can be controlled. Education is an important tool. People who are aware of the dangers of litter often make more of an effort to always put their trash in bins. They also spread the word to others they see littering and teach them to dispose of garbage the right way. Community clean ups encourage people to take pride in their neighbourhood and maintaining a healthy look. Quick removal of litter keeps it from growing into an unmanageable dump site. Litter can be conquered. People can make a difference. It is our responsibility to clean up the litter in an ‘earth-friendly manner.’

Clean communities have a better chance of attracting new business, residents and tourists. There is no reason for any of us to litter because we can always find a litter bin to throw the trash away. Let us set an example for others, especially children, by not littering and by carrying a litter bag in our vehicle, securely covering trash containers to prevent wind or animals from spreading litter. When visiting parks and recreation areas, make sure to leave the area clean for the next person to enjoy and restrict the distribution and disposal of handbills.

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Tips for Minimizing Food Waste

Food waste has environmental, economic as well as social impacts. The rising per capita income and expenditure, living standards, affordability and our careless behavior towards food is taking a significant toll on our finite resources. In shopping malls, restaurants and eateries, it is common to see plates piled up with uneaten or partially eaten food. Unfortunately, affordability is leading to rampant increase in food waste generation all over the Middle East, especially GCC.

The gravity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that over 300 tons per day of food waste is being generated in Bahrain which constitutes around 11% of the total municipal waste. All this waste is dumped in bins and collected by Municipal Contractors and transported to Askar landfill site located some 25 km away from the city.

People in the Middle East must understand that we are importing major quantity of our food items and throwing it carelessly in the garbage is not feasible. It is estimated that around one fourth of all food purchased becomes rot and find its way to the garbage bin even before being used or eaten.

People tend to buy more than what they require or what they can consume and often leave the ‘ordered’ and ‘bought’ food half uneaten, which is in-appropriate to follow. Leaving the food behind is bad trend leading to more wastage as the food items bought are not being fully and efficiently utilized and ultimately end up in garbage bins. In addition, the food wastage is more witnessed at buffets, where choices of dishes are many and quantity unlimited. The answer or attitude towards our food should be ‘take only what you can eat’.

The cost of uncooked and cooked food has increased sharply in recent years, putting more pressure on domestic budgets of the bread earners who are already struggling to cope with other elevated costs of living, housing, medication, transportation etc. Food waste prevention is the number one task for us to help reduce the amount of biodegradable waste going to the bins and then to the landfill. In addition, if we implement food waste collections, then we remove a large element of the biodegradable fraction from the waste bin. We also know that when food is sent to landfill it produces more greenhouse gases as it biodegrades.

The situation calls for developing better food habits and Take Only What You Can Eat attitude respecting Mother Nature. The “social and cultural solution” lies in the smart way of dealing with food avoiding waste. Let us practice the following tips to minimize food waste in Middle East:

  • Buy specifically what you want and in actual quantities.
  • Buying food items especially fruits and vegetables in smaller quantities depending on use.
  • Optimize use of food items and eating the required food and even left overs.
  • Don’t feel ashamed of taking/ packing ‘left overs’ in the parties, it does not affect your self esteem and reputation.
  • Daily checking the food items in your fridge/ deep freezer and in your fruit basket regarding items that may get rot/ expired. Utilize it or donate it before it becomes waste.
  • We need to follow our elders in “buying less and eating leftover food” which is becoming ‘out of fashion’ and ‘out of date’ due to our ‘modern day habits’.

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Solid Waste Management in Oman

Waste management is a challenging issue for the Sultanate of Oman because of limited land availability and adverse impacts on environment and public health. With population of almost 3.9 million inhabitants, Oman generates more than 1.7 million tons of solid waste each year. The average per capita waste generation is more than 1.2 kg per day, which is equivalent to about 4700 tons of municipal waste every day.  

Solid waste in Oman is characterized by very high percentage of recyclables, primarily paper and cardboard (15%), plastics (20.9%), metals (1.8%) and glass (4%) (Source: Waste Characterization and Quantification Survey, Be'ah, 2013). However the country is yet to realize the recycling potential of its municipal waste stream. Most of the solid waste is sent to authorized and unauthorized dumpsites for disposal which is creating environment and health issues. There are several dumpsites which are located in the midst of residential areas or close to catchment areas of private and public drinking water bodies.

Solid waste management scenario in Oman is marked by lack of collection and disposal facilities. Solid waste, industrial waste, e-wastes etc are deposited in scores of landfills scattered across the country. Oman has around 350 landfills/dumpsites which are managed by municipalities. In addition, there are numerous unauthorized dumpsites in Oman where all sorts of wastes are recklessly dumped.

Al Amerat landfill is the first engineered sanitary landfill in Oman which began its operations in early 2011. The landfill site, spread over an area of 9.1 hectares, consists of 5 cells with a total capacity of 10 million m3 of solid waste. Each cell has 16 shafts to take care of leachate. All the shafts are interconnected in order to facilitate movement of leachate to the leachate pump. The project is part of the government’s initiatives to tackle solid waste in a scientific and environment-friendly manner. Being the first of its kind, Al Amerat sanitary landfill is expected to be an example for the future solid waste management projects in the country.

Future Planning

Solid waste management is among the top priorities of Oman government which has chalked out a robust strategy to resolve waste management problem in the Sultanate. The country is striving to establish 13 engineered landfills and 36 waste transfer stations in different parts of the country by 2015. 

Modern solid waste management facilities are under planning in several wilayat, especially Muscat and Salalah. The new landfills will eventually pave the way for closure of authorized and unauthorized garbage dumps around the country. 

 

The state-owned Oman Environment Services Holding Company, now known as Be'ah, which is responsible for waste management projects in Oman, has recently started the tendering process for important projects. Be'ah has launched its waste management strategy and has awarded numerous tenders, while a host of other tenders are under evaluation or bidding phase. Be'ah has invited tenders from specialised companies for engineered landfils, material recovery facilites, transfer stations and waste management services in the upcoming Special Economic Zone at Duqm (SEZAD), among others. Among the top priorities is that development of Barka engineered landfill as the existing Barka waste disposal site, which serve entire wilayat and other neighbouring wilayats in south Batinah governorate, is plagued by environmental and public health issues.

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Waste Management in Morocco

Solid waste management is one of the major environmental problems threatening the Mediterranean Kingdom of Morocco. More than 5 million tons of solid waste is generated across the country with annual waste generation growth rate touching 3 percent. The proper disposal of municipal solid waste in Morocco is exemplified by major deficiencies such as lack of proper infrastructure and suitable funding in areas outside of major cities. 

According to the World Bank, it was reported that before a recent reform in 2008 “only 70 percent of urban MSW was collected and less than 10 percent of collected waste was being disposed of in an environmentally and socially acceptable manner. There were 300 uncontrolled dumpsites, and about 3,500 waste-pickers, of which 10 percent were children, were living on and around these open dumpsites.”  

The Menace of Trash Burning

It is not uncommon to see trash burning as a means of solid waste disposal in Morocco.  Currently, the municipal waste stream is disposed of in a reckless and unsustainable manner which has major effects on public health and the environment.  The lack of waste management infrastructure leads to burning of trash as a form of inexpensive waste disposal.  Unfortunately, the major health effects of burning trash are either widely unknown or grossly under-estimated to the vast majority of the population in Morocco.

Burning of trash is a particular health concern because of the substantial amount of dioxins it produces.  A dioxin is a highly toxic environmental pollutant that is released when household waste is burned.  Most of the dioxins that are released into the air during the burning process end up on the leaves of green vegetation.   These plants are then eaten by dairy animals such as cows,sheep and goats which results in the dioxins being stored and accumulating in the animal’s fatty tissues.  Once this occurs, dioxins are difficult to avoid and people are exposed to them primarily by eating meat and other dairy products, especially those high in fat. 

Furthermore, this type of open burning also causes particle pollution.  Particle pollution refers to microscopic particles that end up in the lungs and cause enormous amounts of human health problems, such as asthma and bronchitis.  Unfortunately, children and the elderly who are exposed to dioxins are among the highest at risk for contracting these illnesses.   Other harmful carcinogens like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) are consequences of outdoor burning.   These pollutants have been known to cause numerous amounts of health problems ranging from skin irritation to liver and kidney damage and even in some more serious cases have been linked to cancer. 

The ash itself that is produced when trash is burned often contains mercury, lead, chromium, and arsenic.  “Garden vegetables can absorb and accumulate these metals, which can make them dangerous to eat. Children playing in the yard or garden can incidentally ingest soil containing these metals. Also, rain can wash the ash into groundwater and surface water, contaminating drinking water and food.” This is not even mentioning the population of garbage-pickers who are putting their health on the line while sorting municipal wastes. 

Silver Lining

The good news about the future of Morocco’s MSW management is that the World Bank has allocated $271.3 million to the Moroccan government to develop a municipal waste management plan.  The plan’s details include restoring around 80 landfill sites, improving trash pickup services, and increasing recycling by 20%, all by the year 2020. While this reform is expected to do wonders for the urban population one can only hope the benefits of this reform trickle down to the 43% of the Moroccan population living in rural areas, like those who are living in my village.

Needless to say, even with Morocco’s movement toward a safer and more environmentally friendly MSW management system there is still an enormous population of people including children and the elderly who this reform will overlook.   Until more is done, including funding initiatives and an increase in education, these people will continue to be exposed to hazardous living conditions because of unsuitable funding, infrastructure and education.  

 

References

The World Factbook Africa: Morocco. (2013, 8/22/2013). The World Factbook.  Retrieved 11/02/2013, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mo.html

Morocco: Municipal Solid Waste Sector. (2013).   Retrieved 11/01/2013, 2013, from http://goo.gl/k91kry

Wastes – Non-Hazardous Waste – Municipal Solid Waste. (2012, 11/15/2012).   Retrieved 10/31/2013, from http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/backyard/health.htm

 

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Waste Management in Gaza Strip

Solid waste management in Gaza Strip is a matter of grave concern. With population of approximately 1.75 million, waste management is one of the most serious challenges confronting the local authorities because of high volumes of solid waste generation and economic blockade by Israel. The daily solid waste generation across Gaza is more than 1300 tons which is characterized by per capita waste generation of 0.35 to 1.0 kg.

Scarcity of waste disposal sites coupled with huge increase in waste generation is leading to serious environmental and human health impacts on the population. The severity of the crisis is a direct consequence of continuing blockade by Israeli Occupation Forces and lack of financial assistance from international donor.

Israeli Occupation Forces deliberately destroyed most of the sewage infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, during 2008-2009 Gaza War inflicting heavy damage to sewage pipes, water tanks, wastewater treatment plants etc. Infact, Israeli forces, time and again, target Gaza's infrastructure and inflict heavy damage during repeated incursions in the Gaza Strip. 

Landfills in Gaza

There are three landfills in Gaza Strip – one each in southern and central part of Gaza and one in Gaza governorate. In addition, there are numerous unregulated dumpsites scattered across rural and urban areas which are not fenced, lined or monitored. Domestic, industrial and medical wastes are often dumped near cities and villages or burned and disposed of in unregulated disposal sites which cause soil, air and water pollution, leading to health hazards and ecological damage. The physical damage caused to Gaza’s infrastructure by repeated Israeli aggression has been a major deterred in putting forward a workable solid waste management strategy in the Strip.

Sewage Disposal Problems

The sewage disposal problem is assuming alarming proportions. The Gaza Strip’s sewage service networks cover most areas, except for Khan Yunis and its eastern villages where only 40% of the governorate is covered. There are only three sewage water treatment stations in Gaza Strip – in Beit Lahia, Gaza city and Rafah – which are unable to cope with the increasing population growth rate.

The total quantity of produced sewage water is estimated at 45 million m3 per annum, in addition to 3000 cubic meters of raw sewage water discharged from Gaza Strip directly into the sea every day. Sewage water discharge points are concentrated on the beaches of Gaza city, Al Shate' refugee camp and Deir El Balah.

Raw Sewage on a Gaza beach

The continuous discharge of highly contaminated sewage water from Gaza Strip in the Mediterranean shores is causing considerable damage to marine life in the area. The beaches of Gaza city are highly polluted by raw sewage. In addition, groundwater composition in Gaza Strip is marked by high salinity and nitrate content which may be attributed to unregulated disposal of solid and liquid wastes from domestic, industrial and agricultural sources.

Recently, the ongoing electricity and fuel shortage caused sewage from Gaza City wastewater treatment plant to overflow into residential areas causing a grave humanitarian and environmental crisis. Several more sewage stations across the Gaza Strip are on the verge of overflowing which could be disastrous from the entire region. The prevalent waste management scenario demands immediate intervention of international donors, environmental agencies and regional governments in order to prevent the situation from assuming catastrophic proportions.

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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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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