Waste-to-Energy Pathways

Waste-to-energy is the use of modern combustion and biological technologies to recover energy from urban wastes. The conversion of waste material to energy can proceed along three major pathways – thermochemical, biochemical and physicochemical. Thermochemical conversion, characterized by higher temperature and conversion rates, is best suited for lower moisture feedstock and is generally less selective for products. On the other hand, biochemical technologies are more suitable for wet wastes which are rich in organic matter.

Thermochemical Conversion

The three principal methods of thermochemical conversion are combustion (in excess air), gasification (in reduced air), and pyrolysis (in absence of air). The most common technique for producing both heat and electrical energy from wastes is direct combustion. Combined heat and power (CHP) or cogeneration systems, ranging from small-scale technology to large grid-connected facilities, provide significantly higher efficiencies than systems that only generate electricity.

Combustion technology is the controlled combustion of waste with the recovery of heat to produce steam which in turn produces power through steam turbines. Pyrolysis and gasification represent refined thermal treatment methods as alternatives to incineration and are characterized by the transformation of the waste into product gas as energy carrier for later combustion in, for example, a boiler or a gas engine. Plasma gasification, which takes place at extremely high temperature, is also hogging limelight nowadays.

Biochemical Conversion

Biochemical processes, like anaerobic digestion, can also produce clean energy in the form of biogas which can be converted to power and heat using a gas engine. Anaerobic digestion is the natural biological process which stabilizes organic waste in the absence of air and transforms it into biofertilizer and biogas. Anaerobic digestion is a reliable technology for the treatment of wet, organic waste.  Organic waste from various sources is biochemically degraded in highly controlled, oxygen-free conditions circumstances resulting in the production of biogas which can be used to produce both electricity and heat.

In addition, a variety of fuels can be produced from waste resources including liquid fuels, such as ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, Fischer-Tropsch diesel, and gaseous fuels, such as hydrogen and methane. The resource base for biofuel production is composed of a wide variety of forestry and agricultural resources, industrial processing residues, and municipal solid and urban wood residues. Globally, biofuels are most commonly used to power vehicles, heat homes, and for cooking.

Physico-chemical Conversion

The physico-chemical technology involves various processes to improve physical and chemical properties of solid waste. The combustible fraction of the waste is converted into high-energy fuel pellets which may be used in steam generation. The waste is first dried to bring down the high moisture levels. Sand, grit, and other incombustible matter are then mechanically separated before the waste is compacted and converted into pellets or RDF. Fuel pellets have several distinct advantages over coal and wood because it is cleaner, free from incombustibles, has lower ash and moisture contents, is of uniform size, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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The Menace of Plastic Water Bottles

During the holy month of Ramadan, the use of drinking water increases many folds as water bottles are supplied and provided especially at ‘Fatoor’ and dinner at religious places, hotels, Ramadan tents and private homes. The main consumption is however, at the religious places due to longer stay of people in offering special night prayers (taraweeh and Qiyam ul Lail). These water bottles are provided in bulk by philanthropists, sponsors and people at religious places to quench the thirst of people who gather for the long prayers.

In the Middle East, it is common to see people greatly misuse this resource considering it free, taking a bottle, sipping it half and leaving it at the venue. These used and partially consumed water bottles are then collected and thrown away in municipal garbage bins from where  it is collected and transported to Askar municipal landfill site located some 25 km away from the city center. These water bottles thus have a high carbon footprint and represent enormous wastage of precious water source and misuse of our other fragile resources. In many cases, these water bottles are being littered around the commercial and religious places.

Plastic water bottles are a common feature in our urban daily life. Bottled water is widely used by people from all walks of life and is considered to be convenient and safer than tap water. A person on an average drinks around 2.0 liters of water a day and may consume 4-6 plastic bottles per day. UAE is considered as the highest per capita consumer of bottled water worlwide. 

We need to understand that plastic is made from petroleum.  24 million gallons of oil is needed to produce a billion plastic bottles. Plastic takes around 700 years to be degraded. 90% of the cost of bottled water is due to the bottle itself. 80% of plastic bottles produced are not recycled.

Globally, plastic recycling rate is very low and major quantities of plastics are being disposed in the landfills, where they stay for hundreds of years not being naturally degraded. Recycling one ton of plastic saves 5.74 cubic meters of landfill space and save cost of collection and transportation.

Water bottles manufacturing, transportation, distribution and again collection and disposal after its use create enormous pollution in terms of trash generation, global warming and air pollution. The transportation of bottled water from its source to stores alone releases thousands of tons of carbon dioxide. In addition to the millions of gallons of water used in the plastic-making process, two gallons of water are wasted in the purification process for every gallon that goes into the plastic bottles.

The first step is that once you open a water bottle, you need to complete consume it to fully utilize the resource. Do not throw the plastic bottles as litter. The solution to the plastic bottles usage lies in its minimum use and safe disposal. Alternatively, a flask, thermos or reusable water bottle can be used which can be refilled as required. It is suggested that religious places, hotels and malls should have efficient water treatment plants to reduce the use of plastic water bottles.

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Energy Efficiency in Saudi Cement Industry

Saudi Arabia is the largest construction market in the Middle East, with large development projects under way and many more in the planning stage. The cement industry in the country is evolving rapidly and is expected to reach annual clinker production of 70 million tonnes in 2013 from current figure of 60 million tonnes per year. The cement industry is one of the highest energy-intensive industries in the world, with fuel and energy costs typically representing 30-40% of total production costs. On an average, the specific electrical energy consumption typically ranges between 90 and 130 kWh per tonne of cement. Keeping in view the huge energy demand of the cement industry, the Saudi Arabian government has been making efforts to reduce the energy consumption in the country towards a more sustainable.

Energy Demand in Cement Production

The theoretical fuel energy demand for cement clinker production is determined by the energy required for the chemical/mineralogical reactions (1,700 to 1,800 MJ/tonne clinker) and the thermal energy needed for raw material drying and pre-heating. Modern cement plants which were built within the last decade have low energy consumption compared to older plants.  The actual fuel energy use for different kiln systems is in the following ranges (MJ/tonne clinker):

  • 3,000 – 3,800 for dry process, multi-stage (3 – 6 stages) cyclone preheater and precalcining kilns,
  • 3,100 – 4,200 for dry process rotary kilns equipped with cyclone preheaters,
  • 3,300 – 4,500 for semi-dry/semi-wet processes (e.g. Lepol-kilns),
  • Up to 5,000 for dry process long kilns,
  • 5,000 – 6,000 for wet process long kilns and
  • 3,100–6,500 for shaft kilns.

Energy Efficiency in Cement Industry

With new built, state-of-the-art cement plants, usually all technical measures seem to be implemented towards low energy consumption. So, how to reduce it further?

Energy efficiency is based on the following three pillars

  • Technical optimization
  • Alternative raw materials for cement and clinker production
  • Alternative fuels

In Europe, the new energy efficiency directive from 2011 intends to reduce the energy consumption of the overall industry by 20%, achieving savings of 200billion Euros at the energy bill and with the goal to create 2 million new jobs within Europe. This approach will have a significant influence also on the cement industry. Saving 20% of the energy consumption is a challenging goal, especially for plants with state-of-the-art technology.

In older plants modernizations in the fields of grinding, process control and process prediction can, if properly planned and installed, reduce the electricity consumption – sometimes in a two digit number.

Alternative Fuels

Alternative fuels, such as waste-derived fuels or RDF, bear further energy saving potential. The substitution of fossil fuel by alternative sources of energy is common practice in the European cement industry.The German cement industry, for example, substitutes approximately 61% of their fossil fuel demand. The European cement industry reaches an overall substitution rate of at least ca. 20%.

Typical “alternative fuels” available in Saudi Arabia are municipal solid wastes, agro-industrial wastes, industrial wastes and some amount of crop residues. To use alternative or waste-derived fuels, such as municipal solid wastes, dried sewage sludges, drilling wastes etc., a regulatory base has to be developed which sets

  • Types of wastes/alternative fuels,
  • Standards for the production of waste-derived fuels,
  • Emission standards and control mechanism while using alternative fuels and
  • Standards for permitting procedures.

Alternative Raw Materials

The reduction of clinker portion in cement affords another route to reduce energy consumption. In particular, granulated blast furnace slags or even limestone have proven themselves as substitutes in cement production, thus reducing the overall energy consumption.

To force the use of alternative raw materials within the cement industry, also – and again –standards have to be set, where

  • Types of wastes, by-products and other secondary raw materials are defined,
  • Standards for the substitution are set,
  • Guidelines for processing are developed,
  • Control mechanisms are defined.

Conclusions

To reduce the energy consumption, an energy efficiency program, focusing on “production-related energy efficiency” has to be developed. Substantial potential for energy efficiency improvement exists in the cement industry and in individual plants. A portion of this potential will be achieved as part of (natural) modernization and expansion of existing facilities, as well as construction of new plants in particular regions. Still, a relatively large potential for improved energy management practices exists and can be exhausted by determined approaches.

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Renewable Energy in GCC: Need for a Holistic Approach

The importance of renewable energy sources in the energy portfolio of any country is well known, especially in the context of energy security and impacts on climate change. The growing quest for renewable energy and energy efficiency in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries has been seen by many as both – a compulsion to complement the rising energy demand, and as an economic strength that helps them in carrying forward the clean energy initiatives from technology development to large scale deployment of projects from Abu Dhabi to Riyadh.

Current Scenario

The promotion of renewable energy (RE) is becoming an integral part in the policy statements of governments in GCC countries. Particular attention is being paid to the development and deployment of solar energy for various applications. Masdar is a shining example of a government’s commitment towards addressing sustainability issues through education, R&D, investment, and commercialization of RE technologies. It not only has emerged as the hub of renewable energy development and innovation but is also acting as a catalyst for many others to take up this challenge.

With the ongoing developments in the clean energy sphere in the region, the growing appetite for establishing clean energy market and addressing domestic sustainability issues arising out of the spiralling energy demand and subsidized hydrocarbon fuels is clearly visible. Saudi Arabia is also contemplating huge investments to develop its solar industry, which can meet one-third of its electricity demand by the year 2032. Other countries are also trying to reciprocate similar moves. While rationalizing subsidies quickly may be a daunting task for the governments (as for any other country, for that matter, including India as well), efforts are being made by UAE to push RE in the supply mix and create the market.

Accelerating Renewable Energy Growth

However, renewable energy initiatives are almost exclusively government-led projects. There is nothing wrong in capitalizing hydrocarbon revenue for a noble cause but unless strong policies and regulatory frameworks are put in place, the sector may not see viable actions from private players and investors. The present set of such instruments are either still weak or absent, and, therefore, are unable to provide greater comfort to market players. This situation may, in turn, limit the capacity/flexibility to reduce carbon footprints in times to come as government on its own cannot set up projects everywhere, it can only demonstrate and facilitate.

In this backdrop, it is time to soon bring in reforms that would pave way for successful RE deployment in all spheres. Some of the initiatives that need to be introduced or strengthened include:

  • Enabling policies for grid connected RE that should cover interconnection issues between RE power and utilities, incentives, facilitation and clearances for land, water, and environment (wherever relevant); and
  • Regulatory provisions relating to – setting of minimum Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) to be met, principles of tariff determination for different technologies, provisions for trading in RE, plant operation including scheduling (wherever relevant), and evacuation of power.
  • Creation of ancillary market for effectively meeting the grid management challenges arising from intermittent power like that from solar and wind, metering and energy accounting, protection, connectivity code, safety, etc.

For creating demand and establishing a thriving market, concerted efforts are required by all the stakeholders to address various kinds of issues pertaining to policy, technical, regulatory, and institutional mechanisms in the larger perspective. In the absence of a strong framework, even the world’s most visionary and ambitious project Desertec which  envision channeling of solar and wind power to parts of Europe by linking of renewable energy generation sites in MENA region may also face hurdles as one has to deal with pricing, interconnection, grid stability and access issues first. This also necessitates the need for harmonization in approach among all participating countries to the extent possible.

Conclusions

It is difficult to ignore the benefits of renewable energy be it social, economic, environmental, local or global. Policy statements are essential starting steps for accelerating adoption of clean energy sources including smaller size capacity, where there lies a significant potential. In GCC countries with affluent society, the biggest challenge would be to create energy consciousness and encourage smarter use of energy among common people like anywhere else, and the same calls for wider application of behavioural science in addressing a wide range of sustainability issues.

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Food Security Strategy in Qatar

Qatar is a water-scarce and arid region which has its own share of demographic and socio-economic problems. The cultivation of food crops is a difficult proposition for Qatar due to scarcity of water supply and limited availability of arable land. The country is vulnerable to fluctuations in international commodity markets because of heavy dependence on imported grains and food items. The increasing dependence on foreign food imports is leading to a growing sense of food insecurity in Qatar.

Understanding Food Security

Food security is the condition in which all people at all times have a physical and economic access to safe, adequate and nutritious food to satisfy their daily calorific intake and allow them to lead an active and healthy life. Individuals who are food secure have an access to a sufficient quantity of food and do not live in fear of hunger and starvation. On the other hand, food insecurity exists simultaneously and inhibits certain groups of individuals from gaining access to nutritionally adequate and safe food. In the case of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries, food insecurity is related to poor quality diets rather than calorie-deficient diets. A typical diet in MENA region is high in saturated fats, sugar and refined foods which is a major cause for increase in chronic diseases in the region.

There are a multitude of factors which may challenge a nation from achieving food security. Some of these factors include; the global water crisis and water deficits which spur heavy grain imports in smaller countries ultimately leading to cutbacks in grain harvests. Similarly, intensive agriculture and farming drastically influence soil fertility and cause a decline in crop yield. Another notable factor limiting food security includes the adverse effects of climate change such as droughts and floods which greatly affect the agricultural sector.

The impacts of declining crop yields will include a change in productivity, livelihood patterns as well as economic losses due to declining exports. According to the Global Food Security Index, countries which are on top of the food security index include USA, Norway and China. The countries suffering from greatest food insecurity include, Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo and Chad.

Food Security Strategy in Qatar

Being one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Qatar is facing large-scale influx of expatriate workers which has resulted in tremendous increase in population in recent years. Limited land availability, chronic water scarcity and constraints in agricultural growth have led to growing concerns about food security. Agriculture plays a strategic role in the nation’s food security. Qatar imports over 90% of its food requirements due to the scarcity of irrigation water, poor quality soils and the inhibitions due to climatic conditions. Infact, the country is facing an agricultural trade deficit of QR. 4.38 billion equivalent to $1.2 billion. 

In response, Qatar has begun to address the situation by aiming to efficiently utilize ‘cutting edge technology’ to establish a sustainable approach to food security for dry land countries. The Qatar National Food Security Program (QNFSP) was established in 2008 and aims to reduce Qatar’s reliance on food imports through self sufficiency. The program will not only develop recommendations for Food Security policy but intends to join with international organizations and other NGOs to develop practices to utilize resources efficiently within the agricultural sector.

Qatar has established a nation-led National Food Security Program to encourage domestic production which will lead to scientific and technological development in two specific areas to increase domestic production. These areas include development in agricultural enhancement and food processing. QNFSP’s approach to expanding the agricultural sector aims to introduce the best practices and establishing a sector which considers its economic efficiency, optimal usage of scarce resources with limited impact on the environment as well as profitable and sustainable agriculture. A key element of this approach will include the deployment of advanced crop production technologies and advanced irrigation systems. The QNFSP will require well managed stakeholder participation, revised agricultural possibilities and of course a comprehensive strategy for agricultural research.

The nation’s second approach to increase domestic production includes regulations and implementations on food processing. Food processing increases the shelf-life of food, reduces raw food losses and enables the continuity of product availability. By enhancing the shelf-life of food and reducing the amount of food being wasted improves a nation’s food security. The QNFSP aims to develop the nation’s food processing industry by taking advantage of the new industry being established in Qatar which will allow the country to sell its own processed goods on the global market. To meet this objective the nation will need to implement international quality assurance mechanism to be capable of producing high quality products as well as to expand their food reserves and storage facilities.

Sahara Forest Project

In addition to the trenchant efforts being made by the Qatar National Food Security Program, an interesting and promising pilot project named Sahara Forest Project is being rigorously pursed in Qatar. The Sahara Forest Project allows for sustainable production of food, water and energy while revegetating and storing carbon in arid areas.

A one hectare site outside Doha, Qatar, hosts the Sahara Forest Project Pilot Plant. It contains a unique combination of promising environmental technologies carefully integrated in a system to maximize beneficial synergies. A cornerstone of the pilot is greenhouses utilizing seawater to provide cool and humid growing conditions for vegetables, The greenhouses themselves produce freshwater and are coupled with Qatar’s first Concentrated Solar Power plant with a thermal desalination unit.

An important part of the pilot is to demonstrate the potential for cultivating desert land and making it green. Outdoor vertical evaporators will create sheltered and humid environments for cultivation of plants. There are ponds for salt production and facilities for experimentation with cultivation of salt tolerant plants, halophytes. Additionally, the facility also contains a state of the art system for cultivation of algae.

References

Sahara Forest Project. "Sahara Forest Project in Food Security Program on Qatar TV." Sahara Forest Project. N.p., 2012. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.goo.gl/ICjuKN>.

QNFSP. "Qatar Steps up to Food Security and World Hunger." Qatar National Food Security Programme. QNFSP, 2011. Web. 9 Dec. 2013. <http://www.qnfsp.gov.qa>.

Farhad Mirzadeh. "Qatar’s Seeks Solutions to Food Insecurity." American Security Project. N.p., 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 9 Dec. 2013. < http://www.goo.gl/LvY2em />

Bonnie James. "Qatar Food Security Plans Get a Boost." Gulf Times. N.p., 4 Nov. 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.goo.gl/wSc27F>.

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Green Building Rating Systems in MENA

Green buildings not only contribute towards a sustainable construction and environment but also bring lots of benefits and advantages to building owners and users. Lower development costs, lower operating costs, increased comforts, healthier indoor environment quality, and enhanced durability and less maintenance costs are hallmarks of a typical green building.

A wide range of green building rating and assessment systems are used around the world, including LEED and BREEAM. Sustainability is now a top priority in MENA region and countries like Qatar and UAE have come up with their own green building rating system to incorporate socio-economic, environmental and cultural aspects in modern architecture.

Global Sustainability Assessment System (Qatar)

The Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS), formerly known as the Qatar Sustainability Assessment System (QSAS), was developed in 2010 by Gulf Organization for Research and Development (GORD) in collaboration with T.C. Chan Center at the University of Pennsylvania. GSAS aims at creating a sustainable urban environment to reduce environmental impacts of buildings while satisfying local community needs. 

GSAS is billed as the world’s most comprehensive green building assessment system developed after rigorous analysis of 40 green building codes from all over the world. The most important feature of GSAS is that it takes into account the region’s social, economic, environmental and cultural aspects, which are different from other parts of the world. Several countries in the MENA region, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and Sudan, have shown keen interest in the adoption of GSAS as unified green building code for the region.

Qatar has incorporated QSAS into Qatar Construction Standards 2010 and it is now mandatory for all private and public sector projects to get GSAS certification. GSAS combines 140 building sustainability assessment mechanisms and is divided into eight categories including urban connectivity, site, energy, water, materials, indoor environment, cultural and economic value and management and operations. Each category of the system will measure a different aspect of a project’s environmental impact. Each category is broken down into specific criteria that measure and define individual issues. A score is then awarded for each category on the basis of the degree of compliance.

Pearl Rating System (Abu Dhabi)

The Pearl Rating System (PRS) is the green building rating system for the emirate of Abu Dhabi designed to support sustainable development from design to construction to operational accountability of communities, buildings and villas. It provides guidance and requirements to rate potential performance of a project with respect to Estidama (or sustainability).

The Pearl Rating System is an initiative of the part of the government to improve the life of people living in Abu Dhabi, by focusing on cultural traditions and social values. The rating system is specifically tailored to the hot and arid climate of Abu Dhabi which is characterized by high energy requirements for air-conditioning, high evaporation rates, infrequent rainfall and potable water scarcity.

The Pearl Rating System has various levels of certification. ranging from one to five pearls. A minimum certification of one pearl is required for all new development projects within Abu Dhabi. The Pearl Rating System is organized into seven categories where there are both mandatory and optional credits. To achieve a 1 Pearl rating, all the mandatory credit requirements must be met. 

ARZ Building Rating System (Lebanon)

The relatively unknown ARZ Building Rating System is the first Lebanese green building initiative of international standard with its certification process being administered by the Lebanon Green Building Council (LGBC).  It has been established to support the growth and adoption of sustainable building practices in Lebanon, with a specific focus on the environmental assessment and rating system for commercial buildings.

The ARZ Green Building Rating System was developed by Lebanese expertise of LGBC in partnership with the International Finance Corp. Its aim is to maximize the operational efficiency and minimize environmental impacts. The ARZ rating system is evidence-based approach to assessing how green a building is. The system includes a list of technologies, techniques, procedures and energy consumption levels that LGBC expects to see in green buildings.

An assessor accredited by LGBC will take an inventory of the energy and water consumption, technologies, techniques and procedures that are used in the building and then LGBC will score the building according to how well the inventory matches the list of technologies, techniques and procedures that make up the ARZ rating system requirements. 

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Reuse of Greywater

Greywater includes water from showers, bathtubs, sinks, kitchen, dishwashers, laundry tubs, and washing machines. The major ingredients of greywater are soap, shampoo, grease, toothpaste, food residuals, cooking oils, detergents, hair etc. In terms of volume, greywater is the largest constituent of total wastewater flow from households. In a typical household, 50-80% of wastewater is greywater, out of which laundry washing accounts for as much as 30% of the average household water use. The key difference between greywater and sewage (or black water) is the organic loading. Sewage has a much larger organic loading compared to greywater.

Importance of Greywater Reuse

If released directly into rivers, lakes and other water bodies, greywater can be a source of pollution which can affect marine life, human health, ecology etc. However, after appropriate treatment, greywater is suitable for irrigating lawns, gardens, ornamental plants and food crops, toilet flushing, laundry washing etc. Reusing grey water for irrigation and other non-potable water applications will help in reconnection of urban habitats to the natural water cycle, which will contribute significantly to sustainable urban development.

Reuse of greywater can help in substituting precious drinking water in applications which do not need drinking water quality such as industrial, irrigation, toilet flushing and laundry washing. This will, in turn, reduce freshwater consumption, apart from wastewater generation. For water-scarce regions, countries, such as the Middle East and Africa, greywater recycling can be instrumental in augmenting national water reserves. An increased supply for water can be ensured for irrigation thus leading to an increase in agricultural productivity.

The major benefits of greywater recycling can be summarized as:

  • Reduced freshwater extraction from rivers and aquifers
  • Less impact from wastewater treatment plant infrastructure
  • Nutrification of the topsoil
  • Reduced energy use and chemical pollution from treatment
  • Replenishment of groundwater
  • Increased agricultural productivity
  • Reclamation of nutrients
  • Improved quality of surface and ground water

How is Greywater Reused?

There are two main systems for greywater recycling – centralized or decentralized. In a decentralized system, greywater collected from one or more apartments is treated inside the house. On the other hand, a centralized system collects and treats greywater from several apartments or houses in a treatment plant outside the house.

Greywater reuse treatment systems can be simple, low-cost devices or complex, expensive wastewater treatment systems. An example of a simple system is to route greywater directly to applications such as toilet flushing and garden irrigation. A popular method for greywater reuse is to drain water from showers and washing machine directly for landscaping purposes. Modern treatment systems are complex and expensive advanced treatment processes comprised of sedimentation tanks, bioreactors, filters, pumps and disinfections units.

In order to transform greywater into non-potable water source, water from baths, showers, washbasins and washing machines has to be collected separately from black water, treated and eventually disinfected for reuse. Garden irrigation is the predominant reuse method for situations where greywater can be bucketed or diverted to the garden for immediate use. Advanced greywater recycling systems collect, filter and treat greywater for indoor applications like toilet flushing or laundry washing. Greywater from laundry is easy to capture and the treated greywater can be reused for garden watering, irrigation, toiler flushing or laundry washing.

Water-efficient plumbing fixtures are vital when designing a household greywater reuse system. Some examples are low-flow shower heads, faucet flow restrictors, and low-flow toilets. Greywater systems are relatively easier to install in new building constructions as house or offices already constructed on concrete slabs or crawlspaces are difficult to retrofit.

Protection of public health is of paramount importance while devising any greywater reuse program. Although health risks of greywater reuse have proven to be negligible, yet greywater may contain pathogens which may cause diseases. Therefore, proper treatment, operation and maintenance of greywater recycling systems are essential if any infectious pathways should be intercepted.

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Methods for Aluminium Recycling

The demand for aluminium products is growing steadily because of their positive contribution to modern living. Aluminium is the second most widely used metal whereas the aluminum can is the most recycled consumer product in the world. Aluminium finds extensive use in air, road and sea transport; food and medicine; packaging; construction; electronics and electrical power transmission. The excellent recyclability of aluminium, together with its high scrap value and low energy needs during recycling make aluminium highly desirable to one and all. The global aluminum demand is forecasted to soar to nearly 70 million tons by 2020 from around 37 million tons currently.

Recycling of Aluminium

The contribution of recycled metal to the global output of aluminium products has increased from 17 percent in 1960 to 34 percent today, and expected to rise to almost 40 percent by 2020. Global recycling rates are high, with approximately 90 per cent of the metal used for transport and construction applications recovered, and over 60 per cent of used beverage cans are collected.

Aluminium does not degrade during the recycling process, since its atomic structure is not altered during melting. Aluminium recycling is both economically and environmentally effective, as recycled aluminium requires only 5% of the energy used to make primary aluminium, and can have the same properties as the parent metal. Infact, aluminium can be recycled endlessly without loss of material properties.

During the course of multiple recycling, more and more alloying elements are introduced into the metal cycle. This effect is put to good use in the production of casting alloys, which generally need these elements to attain the desired alloy properties.The industry has a long tradition of collecting and recycling used aluminium products.

Over the years, USA and European countries have developed robust separate collection systems for aluminium packaging with a good degree of success. Recycling aluminium reduces the need for raw materials and reduces the use of valuable energy resources. Recycled aluminium is made into aircraft, automobiles, bicycles, boats, computers, cookware, gutters, siding, wire and cans.

Recycling of Aluminium Cans

Aluminum can is the most recycled consumer product in the world. Each year, the aluminum industry pays out more than US$800 million for empty aluminum cans. Recycling aluminium cans is a closed-loop process since used beverage cans that are recycled are primarily used to make beverage cans. Recycled aluminium cans are used again for the production of new cans or for the production of other valuable aluminium products such as engine blocks, building facades or bicycles. In Europe about 50% of all semi-fabricated aluminium used for the production of new beverage cans and other aluminium packaging products comes from recycled aluminium. The major steps in aluminium can recycling are as followe:

Step 1: Aluminium cans are collected from recycling centers, community drop-off sites, curbside pick-up spots etc.

Step 2: Compressed into highly dense briquettes or bales at scrap processing facilities and shipped to aluminum companies for melting.

Step 3: Condensed cans are shredded, crushed and stripped of their inside and outside dyes. The potato chip-sized pieces are loaded into melting furnaces, where the recycled metal is blended with brand new aluminum.

Step 4: Molten aluminum is converted into ingots which are fed into rolling mills that reduce the thickness to about 1/100 of an inch.

Step 5: This metal is then coiled and shipped to can manufacturers. The cans are then delivered to beverage companies for filling.

Step 6: The new cans, filled with your favorite beverages, are then returned to store shelves in as little as 60 days … and the recycling process begins again!

 

Recycling of Aluminium Packaging

Aluminium packaging fits every desired recycling and processing route. Aluminium packaging needs to be separated from other packing material when intended for material recycling. A growing number of sorting facilities are equipped with eddy current separators which offer a comprehensive means of sorting the aluminium fraction.

Multi-material packaging systems may consist of plastics, tinplate, beverage cartons and paper packaging, apart from aluminium packaging, e.g. beverage cartons. A variety of systems have been developed to extract aluminium from complex packaging systems, such as repulping, mechanical separation and pyrolysis. In pyrolysis, the non-metallic components are removed from the aluminium by evaporation. A newer technology is the thermal plasma process where the three components – aluminium, plastic and paper – are separated into distinct fractions.

Aluminium from Urban Wastes

Aluminium exposed to fires at dumps can be a serious environmental problem in the form of poisonous gases and mosquito breeding. Recycled aluminium can be utilized for almost all applications, and can preserve raw materials and reduce toxic emissions, apart from significant energy conservation.

Aluminium can also be extracted from the bottom ashes of municipal solid waste incinerators as aluminium nodules. In many European countries, municipal solid waste is entirely or partly incinerated; in this case the contained thin gauge aluminium foil is oxidized and delivers energy while thicker gauges can be extracted from the bottom ash.

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Water Crisis in Refugee Camps

The refugee crisis has hit record heights in recent years. According to the UNHCR, as of the end of 2014 there were approximately 60 million refugees worldwide. This is a significant increase from a decade ago, when there were 37.5 million refugees worldwide. Syria’s ongoing civil war, with 7.6 million people displaced internally, and 3.88 million people displaced into the surrounding region and beyond as refugees, has alone made the Middle East the world’s largest producer and host of forced displacement. Adding to the high totals from Syria are displacements of at least 2.6 million people in Iraq and 309,000 in Libya. This significant increase in refuges has only escalated the need for specific water quality and quantity regulations for refugee camps.

Water Shortages in Refugee Camps

A human being can survive a week without food but cannot live more than three days without water. While the abundance of water in our daily lives means most of us take it for granted, the reality on the ground is that millions around the world suffer from lack of access to water – many of which are refugees. Refugee camps often do not have enough water to supply all refugees residing within them.

Majority of refugee camps in the world are unable to provide the recommended daily water minimum of 20 liters water per person per day. In addition, many countries holding refugees are water-scarce. Jordan, for example, is one of the top 10 water-scarce countries in the world and holds more than 1.4 million refugees (mainly from Syria). This has caused tremendous strain on the country’s very low water resources, making it extremely difficult to supply sufficient water for refugees. However the biggest reason behind lack of water at refugee camps across the globe is the lack of water infrastructure.

The lack of water infrastructure makes it very difficult to transport sufficient amounts of water, and provide proper sanitation to all residents of a refugee camp. In fact, a recent study by the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation showed that the country’s sewerage network are being overflowed and are subsequently leaking due to the increase in the number of refugees. Furthermore, studies have shown that water borne diseases are more persistently present when the minimum water requirement (20 liters per person) is not met simply because there is less water for sanitation and cleaning purposes. That is why it is absolutely vital that governments ensure that recommended daily water minimum is provided to all refugees.

Water Quality Issues

Poor quality of water in refugee camps has created a “crisis within a crisis” causing outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and hepatitis. This is due to misuse of the water quality regulations present and the lack of time available to implement these regulations on water quality in refugee camps.

In refugee camps, surface water is usually treated in three steps:

  • Sedimentation: The water is stored for a few hours so that the biggest particles can settle to the bottom.
  • Filtration: It is then necessary to get rid of the small, invisible particles by filtering the water through sand filters.
  • Chlorination: The last stage, chlorine solution is added to the water which kills all the microorganisms.

Groundwater, on the other hand, is generally subjected to chlorination. These techniques seem to be sufficient to provide an acceptable quality of drinking water. However, according to Syed Imran Ali, an environmental engineer affiliated with UC Berkley, who worked extensively in refugee camps across Africa and the Middle East, the amount of chlorine used to purify the water is not sufficient enough to completely eliminate all the bacteria in the water used in refugee camps. The reason being that the current emergency guidelines on free residual chlorine concentrations (0.2 – 0.5 mg/L in general, 0.8 – 1.0 mg/L during outbreaks) are based on conventions from municipal piped-water systems (i.e. used in cities) rather than refugee camps.

A study conducted by Ali in South Sudan, where there was an outbreak of hepatitis E and other waterborne diseases, showed that the decay of chlorine added to drinking water is much faster in refugee camps than it is under urban conditions, and within 10-12 hours of household storage and use the chlorine all but disappears. Within a refugee camp, water is distributed from one point within the camp, carried to homes via containers and then stored and used over 24 hours or more. Therefore, due to all these different factors the guidelines used may not be sufficient enough to maintain an acceptable quality of water in all refugee camp settings.

Refugee camps must have specific guidelines created to deal with the water quality provided within the camps to prevent outbreaks and improve livelihood within the refugee camps. In his study in South Sudan, Ali recommended that guidelines for chlorination control to be revised to 1.0 mg/l in the camps there rather than 0.2 – 0.5 mg/l. This would provide protection of at least 0.2 mg/l for up to 10 hours post-distribution, which is consistent with the recommended concentration for point-of-use water chlorination in emergency and nonemergency settings and is within the WHO limits generally considered to be acceptable to users (2.0 mg/L).

Time to Act

With the refugee situation worsening and no permanent solution to this crisis in sight, the minimum that can be done is to provide an adequate amount and quality of water for these refugees. The current purification techniques are not efficient enough to protect refugees from all harmful bacteria. There are a variety of ways that water can be provided.

Wastewater treatment, rain harvesting, humidity harvesting, among others are sustainable sources of water. However, providing water is not sufficient; water quality is just as important as water quantity. There must be water quality regulations specific to refugee camps that take into account the different aspects that might affect the quality of water (transport, storage, temperature). If things are to improve, it is absolutely vital for concerned governments, aid agencies, NGOs, volunteers etc. to band together and create water quality guidelines specific to refugee camps and that are capable to withstand different aspects within these camps. Without these guidelines, the condition of refugees will continue to worsen, and the refugees will continue to flee to Western countries in search of better living conditions.

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Towards Effective Environmental Education

green-hope-uaeChildren are the "Future Generation" and their engagement in environmental conservation is an absolute must. Education is the key to fostering this engagement and hence , all efforts must be made in this regard. One of the main reasons for the current state of environmental degradation is the general apathy of civil society and the only way to address this issue is through intrinsic involvement of all stakeholders, in particular, children,  since it is their future that is at stake.

Involvement of children in environmental conservation initiatives will also ensure that the movement becomes "bottom-up" rather than something that is mandated by legislation — this "bottom-up" approach has always been seen to be more effective in terms of implementation.

Towards Effective Environmental Education

In order to be effective, environmental education needs to be both formally and informally imparted. Otherwise it ceases to be attractive and loses its effect. It becomes just another textbook one has to read and answer questions on. Children are inherently creative and the environmental education curriculum must try to build on this creativity. Rather than prescribing solutions, it must seek to obtain the answers from the children. After all, it is their future that is being decided upon.

Once this fundamental truth is understood, children will come forward with their views and actions to mitigate the environmental challenges. To be effective, environmental education needs to be imparted outside the four walls of the classroom. However, the weather in the Middle East, for most part of the year, is hardly conducive to outdoor activities and this should to be taken into account.

A beach cleanup campaign by Green Hope

A beach cleanup campaign by Green Hope

Green Hope – A Shining Example

My youth organisation, Green Hope, engages and educates young people through our "Environment Academies" which are tailor-made workshops on environmental issues. Till date, we have interacted with several hundred school and university students following all curriculum — our attendees are from all nationalities including native students. I have found them to be immensely concerned and motivated on environmental issues. Being from the region, they also have a lot of traditional knowledge about adapting to the natural environment which is a learning for those who have recently moved here. 

Asbestos Waste Management in MENA

Each year countries from the Middle East and North Africa import large amount of asbestos for use in the construction industry. As per the last known statistics, the Middle East and Africa accounted for 20% of world demand for the material. Iran and the United Arab Emirates are among the biggest consumers of the material. Infact, the entire Middle East has been steadily increasing their asbestos imports, except for Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which are the only two countries that have placed bans on asbestos but with questionable effectiveness. Iran alone has been reported to order 30,000 tons of asbestos each year. More than 17,000 tonnes of asbestos was imported and consumed in the United Arab Emirates in 2007. 

Fallouts from Wars and Revolutions

Asbestos is at its most dangerous when exposed to people who are not protected with masks and other clothing. In times past, such considerations were not thought about. At the moment, most people think of asbestos exposure as part of the construction industry. This means demolition, refurbishment and construction are the prime times that people can be exposed to the fibres.

In the Middle East and North Africa, however, turbulent times have increased the danger of exposure for people across the region. Since 2003, there has been the Iraq War, revolutions in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, plus the uprising in Syria. Not to mention a raft of conflicts in Lebanon, Palestine and Israel. The upshot of this is that a building hit by an explosive, which contains asbestos, is likely to put the material in the local atmosphere, further endangering the lives of nearby.

Asbestos Waste Management

In many countries around the world companies, institutions and organizations have a legal responsibility to manage their waste. They are banned from using substances that are deemed hazardous to the general public. This includes a blanket ban on the use of asbestos. Where discovered it must be removed and dealt with by trained individuals wearing protective clothing. In the Middle East and North Africa, it is vitally important for there to be the development of anti-asbestos policies at government and business levels to further protect the citizens of those countries.

Not a single Middle East country has ratified International Labour Organization Law Number 162, which was instituted at the 1986 Asbestos Convention. The ILO No. 162 outlines health and safety procedures related to asbestos, including regulations for employers put forth in an effort to protect the safety of all workers. Asbestos waste management in the MENA region needs to take in several distinct action phases. Education and legislation are the first two important steps followed by actual waste management of asbestos. 

Largely speaking, the MENA region has little or no framework systems in place to deal with this kind of problem. Each year more than 100,000 people die worldwide due to asbestos-related diseases and keeping in view the continuous use of asbestos use in the region, it is necessary to devise a strong strategy for phasing out of asbestos from the construction industry.

Future Strategy

Many may argue that there is still a philosophical hurdle to overcome. This is why education must go in tandem with legislation. As of 2006, only Egypt and Saudi Arabia had signed up to a ban on asbestos. Even then, there is evidence of its continued use. Whether as part of official pronouncements or in the papers, on the TVs or in schools, it is vitally important that bans are backed up with information so the general public understand why asbestos should not only be banned, but removed. It is important that other countries consider banning the material and promoting awareness of it too.

Governments have the resources to open up pathways for local or international companies to begin an asbestos removal programme. In many places education will be required to help companies become prepared for these acts. Industrial asbestos removal begins with a management survey to identify what asbestos materials are in a building and where. This is followed up by a refurbishment and pre-demolition survey to best see how to remove the asbestos and replace it with better materials. These come in tandem with risk assessments and fully detailed plans.

Asbestos management cannot be completed without such a survey. This may prove to be the most difficult part of implementing widespread asbestos waste management in the Middle East and North Africa. Doing so will be expensive and time consuming, but the alternative is unthinkable – to rip out the asbestos without taking human safety into account. First, therefore, the infrastructure and training needs to be put into place to begin the long work of removing asbestos from the MENA region.

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Agricultural Scenario in MENA

Agriculture plays an important role in the economies of most of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa.  The contribution of the agricultural sector to the overall economy varies significantly among countries in the region, ranging from about 3.2 percent in Saudi Arabia to 13.4 percent in Egypt.  Large scale irrigation is expanding, enabling intensive production of high value cash and export crops, including fruits, vegetables, cereals, and sugar.

Egypt is the 14th biggest rice producer in the world and the 8th biggest cotton producer in the world. Egypt produced about 5.67 million tons of rice and 635,000 tons of cotton in 2011. The area of cotton crop cultivation accounts for about 5% of the cultivated area in Egypt. The total amount of crop residues is about 16 million tons of dry matter per year. Cotton residues represent about 9% of the total amount of residues. These are materials comprising mainly cotton stalks, which present a disposal problem.

Although the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is widely thought of as a desert, it has regions where the climate has favored agriculture. By implementing major irrigations projects and adopting large scale mechanization, Saudi Arabia has made great progress in developing agricultural sector. The Kingdom has achieved self-sufficiency in the production of wheat, eggs, and milk, among other commodities, though it still imports the bulk of its food needs. Wheat is the primary cultivated grain, followed by sorghum and barley. Dates, melons, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash are also important crops.

Despite the fact that MENA is the most water-scarce and dry region worldwide, many countries across the region, especially those around the Mediterranean Sea, are highly dependent on agriculture.  For example, the Oum Er Rbia River basin contains half of Morocco’s public irrigated agriculture and produces 60 percent of its sugar beets, 40 percent of its olives, and 40 percent of its milk.

Agricultural output is central to the Tunisian economy. Major crops are cereals and olive oil, with almost half of all the cultivated land sown with cereals and another third planted. Tunisia is one of the world's biggest producers and exporters of olive oil, and it exports dates and citrus fruits that are grown mostly in the northern parts of the country.

Agriculture in Lebanon is the third most important sector in the country after the tertiary and industrial sectors. It contributes nearly 7% to GDP and employs around 15% of the active population. Main crops include cereals (mainly wheat and barley), fruits and vegetables, olives, grapes, and tobacco, along with sheep and goat herding.

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