Waste Management Perspectives for Oman

recycling-OmanGlobalization and modernization have led to increased consumption among the Omani population. Reportedly, the average Omani household throws away one-third of the food it purchases. Conspicuous consumption fuelled by peer pressure and effective advertising brings more goods and products into the home than the family members can actually make use of. And along with the increase in merchandise comes a lot of extra packaging. Product packaging now accounts for the bulk of what is thrown into household rubbish bins.

The urge to keep pace with what one’s neighbours, relatives and peers acquire means higher rates of consumption: a new mobile phone every year instead of every five to ten years, a new car every three years instead of every twenty to thirty years, and so on. Consumption becomes excessive when we cannot make use of what we obtain. The result is waste. Yet the seeds of positive, environmentally-sustainable, community-based waste management are here in the Omani culture and tradition: they just need to be replanted in the right places and nurtured.

Why should anyone be interested in the issue of household waste in Oman? We can start by observing a few important facts—some positive and some negative—about Oman’s relationship with environmental and sustainability issues. As early as 1974, the governmental office of the Advisor on Environmental Affairs was established in Oman. Later on, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs took its place.[i] Environmental protection, sustainable development, and with that, waste management, are stated priorities for the Omani government.[ii]

Yet Oman has a long way to go when it comes to waste management. More than 350 registered landfills and dumpsites are active around the country, in addition to which, illegal and unmonitored dumpsites are often started by residents of underserved areas.[iii] Currently, the Omani population country-wide produces approximately 700 grams of solid waste per person, and in the Muscat area, the average per person is nearly one kilogramme.[iv] Furthermore, the amount generated per person is projected to increase year by year for the next ten years.[v] According to a study in 2012 by Sultan Qaboos University’s Department of Natural Resource Economics, the average Omani family wastes one-third of its food. That is, approximately seventy riyals worth of food per month is thrown out, not eaten.[vi]

Three important statistics to keep in mind as we discuss the situation in Oman: First, immigrants (migrant workers, expatriates, etc.) account for over thirty percent of the total population in Oman, so we cannot say that this is solely an “Omani” issue. It is an issue that affects all residents in Oman: Omanis and non-Omanis alike. Second, sixty percent of Oman’s population live in cities and large towns. Third, household consumption (i.e., purchases by household members to meet their everyday needs and maintain their current standard of living) accounts for 35.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).[vii] Compare Oman’s proportion to that of the United States, where household consumption as a percentage of GDP is almost double, at 70 percent.[viii]

Recycling efforts in Oman

Recycling efforts in Oman have until now been scattered and not coordinated. So far, all recycling programmes have been initiated by private entities such as schools, businesses, charitable organizations and non-profit environmental groups.[ix] Most recycling programmes have been only temporary, such as the Dar al Atta’a initiative to collect and recycle used clothing in 2013,[x] or very limited in geographical extent, such as the paper and plastic recycling efforts of local schools in the Muscat area. Lacking ongoing funding and logistical support from the government sector, many of these initiatives were unable to gain traction and eventually had to shut down.[xi]

Recycling rate in Oman is still very low

Recycling rate in Oman is still very low

The four Rs (reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle) of waste management have not yet entered the everyday discourse of Oman, but does this mean that they are not part of everyday life in Oman? We think the people of Oman can help us to answer this question. For this purpose, a pilot study was designed, a questionnaire was prepared, and in a series of interviews with individual Omanis we recorded their responses.

The Pilot Survey

The questionnaire covered household consumption habits, food waste and other household waste, and awareness of the four Rs, with particular attention to recycling. The main focus of the survey was on food waste. Of the 21 questions, fifteen were multiple-choice, with write-in options for any needed explanation. There were six open-ended questions, inviting respondents to give their opinion or share something of their experiences and knowledge of the topic. In the tradition of an anthropological study, the survey was specifically designed to be presented orally as a series of questions to individual respondents in a face-to-face interview setting. The questions were written in English but presented in Arabic to most of the respondents. Conversely, responses were given orally in Arabic and recorded in writing either in Arabic and then translated, or directly translated into English as they were written down.

The respondents were all adult Omani nationals, ranging in age from their early twenties to their late fifties. All respondents reside in Muscat, but the majority were originally from other provinces and maintained a strong connection with their home village or town. The respondents represented various occupations such as: university student, homemaker, bank clerk, teacher, taxi driver and police officer. The interviews were carried out in March and April 2016.

The major outcomes of the pilot survey are described in the second part of the article which is available at this link.

References


[i] Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs. n.d. ‘About the Ministry.’ MECA website. https://www.meca.gov.om/ar/module.php?module=pages-showpage&CatID=1&ID=1 (accessed 30/03/2016)

 

[ii] Omanuna Government Entities List. n.d. http://goo.gl/zO4bXZ (accessed 30/03/2016)

 

[iii] Zafar, S. 2015. ‘Solid Waste Management in Oman.’ EcoMena Knowledge Bank. 27 January, 2015 http://www.ecomena.org/solid-waste-oman/ (accessed 20/02/16)

 

[iv] 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)

 

[v] World Bank. 2015. ‘What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management.’ http://go.worldbank.org/BCQEP0TMO0 (accessed 22/04/16)

 

[vi] ‘Average Omani family wastes one-third of food.’ Gulf News. 23 June 2012 (accessed 28/02/16) http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/oman/average-omani-family-wastes-one-third-of-food-1.1039366

 

[vii] Central Intelligence Agency. 2016. The World Factbook. ‘Oman’.  https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mu.html (accessed 20/02/16)

 

[viii] OECD iLibrary. 2009. ‘Household Consumption,’ National Accounts at a Glance 2009.

http://goo.gl/osZAKR (accessed 29/04/16)

 

[ix] Environment Society of Oman. n.d. ‘Project Recycling’. http://www.eso.org.om/index/pdf/ESO_Project_Recycling_En.pdf (accessed 10/04/16)

 

[x] ‘Dar Al Atta’a Raises RO 12,000 by recycling donated clothes.’ Muscat Daily. 19 August 2013. http://goo.gl/KeRkf1 (accessed 22/02/16)

 

[xi] ‘Ecologists in Oman pitch for recycling waste.’ Times of Oman.  4 August 2014.  http://timesofoman.com/article/38045/Oman/Ecologists-in-Oman-pitch-for-recycling-waste (accessed 22/02/16)

 

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How to Make an Environmentally-Conscious Person

The public discourse on industrial pollution, climate change, global warming and sustainable development has made environmental protection a top priority for one and all.  Concerted efforts are underway from governments, businesses and individuals to make Earth a clean and green planet.  When it comes to sustainability, everyone has a role to play. We can contribute to the global environmental movement by adopting changes that are within easy reach.

Here are some tips to prove that you are an environmentally-conscious person:

Use Solar Power

Solar power is the most popular form of alternative energy. Worldwide, millions of businesses and households are powered by solar energy systems. A potential way to harness solar power is to install solar panels on your roof which will not only provide energy independence but also generate attractive revenues through sale of surplus power. Another interesting way to tap sun’s energy is use solar-powered lights for illuminating streets, boundary walls, gardens and other public spaces. Solar-powered lights by Deelat Industrial provide a reliable and cheap source of energy in rural and isolated areas.

Recycle Stuff

Recycling keeps waste out of landfills, thus conserving natural resources. The first step in recycling is to buy a multi-compartment recycling bin for separate collection of paper, plastics, food waste and metal. Paper, plastics and metals can be recycled and reused while food waste can be composted or anaerobically digested to produce biogas and nutrient-rich fertilizer.

Switch to Efficient Bulbs

The traditional incandescent light bulb consumes lot of electricity, and a better alternative is an LED light. LEDs are important because due to their efficiency and low energy, they are beginning to replace most conventional light sources. A LED reduces pollution by a ton per light per year, with almost 80 percent reduction in energy consumption. Although the price of such a bulb is higher, it will surely cover expenses through energy savings.

Unplug Gadgets

A simple method to protect the environment is to remove the power source when you turn off the gadgets. Putting gadgets (or appliances) on stand-by mode consume a lot of power and substantial cost savings can be made by stopping this practice. Prevent energy wastage by unplugging any gadgets not in use or that are fully charged. You may also use smart power strips that cut the power supply to devices that no longer need it. 

Pull that plug!

Use Filtered Water

Buying packaged water is good for your health but this does create a problem. Plastic waste is something that everyone should worry about. At the same time the water you buy will be transported for a long distance until it reaches the supermarket. This means that precious fossil fuel is used in its transportation. An alternative that reduces its environmental impact is to filter your own water and use a refillable water container. Tap water is good for consumption and you can always use filtration systems to increase water quality.

Making a Switch to Circular Economy

All forms of wealth and security, including climate stability, biodiversity, resource availability, soil fertility, air and water purity and health, are depleted by the systemic error of running a linear economy. Linear economics consumes the basis for future growth so what is now growing fastest is unproductive activity, inactivity and instabilities. The credit crunch marks the withdrawal of faith in growth-as-usual and any reliable revival of growth and prosperity requires a switch of vision.

Circular Economics

The future for growth is circular economics where more economic activity would mean a faster pace of change away from waste-making and towards looking after the world and all its inhabitants. This would preserve and regenerate material value, co-operation and natural capital instead of losing it, so growth would work to build the basis for more growth. Today this may appear idealistic. Yet if circular economics was already practiced, and people were accustomed to prosperity based on resource security, then any proposal to adopt an exploitive self-defeating vision would be laughable.

Promise of Precycling

Economic dependence on waste is perpetuated by managing waste primarily as an addiction to disposal, “how can we get rid of all this junk?” The ‘waste hierarchy’ (reduce, reuse, recycle, then dispose) that has been available since 1975 is commonly quoted but in practice the bulk of effort and funding provides for continuing long-term disposal to ecosystems (by landfill, waste-burning and pollution). The waste hierarchy is being used backwards and no nation has yet attempted to create the incentives for an economy that grows from the work done to end waste dumping and implement circular economics. This is achievable with the concept of ‘precycling’ originally used for public waste education.

Precycling is applicable throughout an economy and may be understood as action taken to prepare for current resources to become future resources. The ‘pre’ prefix emphasises that this cannot be arranged after something becomes waste; it must be done beforehand. The scope of action extends far beyond recycling, to creating the economic, social and ecological conditions for all resources to remain of use to people or nature.

Precycling Insurance

A simple economic tool is available to switch from linear to circular economics and from dumping waste to dumping the habit of wasting. This tool internalises diverse externalities efficiently within markets by paying the price of preventing problems instead of the larger or unaffordable price of not preventing them. Precycling insurance is an extension of the EU WEEE Directive’s ‘recycling insurance’ from just recycling to all forms of preventing all products becoming waste in any ecosystem. This allows a single economic instrument to work with the issues at every stage of product life-cycles. Significant producers would be obliged to consider the risk of their products ending up as waste in ecosystems and to retain responsibility for insuring against that risk.

Life Insurance for Products and Planet

Precycling insurance is a form of regulation to be set-up in every nation but not centrally planned. The volume of regulation can be cut but its effectiveness drastically boosted. For example, emissions can be cut rapidly with no need for any further ineffectual negotiations about capping. Unlike taxes, the premiums from precycling insurance would not be handled by governments (whose role would be to legislate, monitor and ensure full public transparency).

Unlike conventional insurance, the premiums would not be collected up and then paid out following (potentially irrecoverable) planet crunch shocks. Premiums would be distributed by insurers and invested preventively throughout society, to cut the risk of resources being lost as wastes. Support would be provided for the dialogue, understanding, participation, capabilities, designs, efficiencies, facilities and ecological productivity needed to return used matter as new resources for people and for nature. Today’s resources would feed tomorrow’s economy.

A Free Market in Harmony with Nature

Precycling insurance would switch the power of markets to reversing the planet crunch. The speed and scale of change would exceed the expectations of all who are accustomed to ineffectual controls designed to make markets less-bad. All market participants (such as buyers, sellers, investors and governments) would adapt their decisions to the new incentives, profiting by addressing actual needs rather than superficial consumerist wants.

Producers would remain free to choose how to meet customers’ needs without waste, and even free to continue making wasteful products, in competition with other producers cutting their costs (including precycling insurance costs) by cutting their product’s waste risk. Economic growth would no longer be a competitive scramble between people rushing to acquire and discard ever more resources from an every-shrinking stock. The economy would prosper in harmony, rather than in conflict, with nature.

Shrinking Material and Energy Demands

The material requirements of today’s linear economy would rapidly shrink since the new incentives would lead to the most needs being met with the least materials moved the least distance and then regenerated rather than dumped. The energy requirements of today’s linear economy would rapidly shrink since a smaller material flow with higher quality materials closer to where they are needed requires less energy to process. Shrinking energy dependence is the key to energy security, economic recovery, climate restabilisation and prevention of conflict over diminishing non-renewable resources. The resource and energy efficiency of circular economics makes it realistic to plan the necessary reductions in GHG concentrations (ie net-negative emissions).

 

Note: This article is part 4 of 8 of author's Advanced Research Workshop paper, Seven Policy Switches for Global Security, for the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme

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Recycling and Artwork

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

Installation Art and Recycling

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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Dealing with Polystyrene Wastes

Polystyrene (also known as EPS Foam or Styrofoam) is a highly popular plastic packaging material which finds wide application in packaging of food items, electronic goods, electrical appliances, furniture etc due to its excellent insulating and protective properties. Polystyrene is also used to make useful products such as disposable cups, trays, cutlery, cartons, cases etc.

Despite the attractiveness of polystyrene, municipalities and organisations are facing a growing problem in disposal of polystyrene packaging and products. Being large and bulky, polystyrene take up significant space in rubbish bins which means that bins becomes full more quickly and therefore needs to be emptied more often. Polystyrene is lightweight compared to its volume so it occupies lots of precious landfill space and can be blown around and cause a nuisance in the surrounding areas. 

Although some companies have a recycling policy, most of the polystyrene still find its way into landfill sites around the world. As per conservative estimates, hundreds of thousands of tons of waste polystyrene is produced in the Middle East and sent to landfills each year.  

Environmental Impacts

While it is estimated that EPS foam (or polystyrene)  products accounts for less than 1% of the total weight of landfill materials, the fraction of landfill space it takes up is much higher considering that it is very lightweight.  Furthermore, it is essentially non-biodegradable, taking hundreds perhaps thousands of years to decompose.  Even when already disposed of in landfills, EPS can easily be carried by the wind and litter the streets or end up polluting water bodies.  When EPS foam breaks apart, the small polystyrene components can be eaten by animals which can cause choking or intestinal blockage. 

Polystyrene can also be consumed by fishes once it breaks down in the ocean.  Marine animals higher up the food chain could eat the fishes that have consumed EPS, thus concentrating the contaminant.  It could be a potential health hazard for us humans who are on top of the food chain considering that styrene, the plastic monomer used in manufacturing EPS has been classified by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a possible human carcinogen.  Styrene is derived from either petroleum or natural gas, both of which are non renewable and are rapidly being depleted, creating environmental sustainability problems for EPS.

Recycling Trends

There seems to be a common misconception that polystyrene is non-recyclable.  Being a thermoplastic, it can actually be melted and molded into many different plastic items.  At present, the recycling of polystyrene (or EPS foam) basically follows the following process:

Segregation – EPS foam products are separated from other wastes and then sorted.

Compaction – The segregated EPS foam products are fed to a compactor in order to reduce its volume.  Some compactor systems have a compaction ratio of up to 50:1, which means that it can reduce the volume by up to 98%.

Shredding – Larger pieces are shredded into flakes.  Packaging “peanuts” – small EPS foam pieces used to cushion fragile items – normally skip this step and are fed directly to the pelletizing machine.

Melting/Extrusion – The flakes are forced through pelletizing extruders where they are heated and melted, then allowed to cool in order to solidify. The resulting material can then be used, through reheating and melting, to produce clothes hangers, picture frames, DVD cases and numerous other plastic products.

Major Bottlenecks

Although the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers have reported that the recycling rate for post-consumer and post-commercial EPS in the United States have risen to 28% in 2010 from around 20% in 2008, this value is still lower than most solid wastes.  According to USEPA, auto batteries, steel cans and glass containers have recycle rates of 96.2%, 70.6% and 34.2% respectively. Because it is bulky, EPS foam takes up storage space and costs more to transport and yet yields only a small amount of polystyrene for re-use or remolding (infact, polystyrene accounts for only 2% of the volume of uncompacted EPS foams). This provides little incentive for recyclers to consider EPS recycling. 

Products that have been used to hold or store food should be thoroughly cleaned for hygienic reasons, thus compounding the costs.  For the same reasons, these products cannot be recycled to produce the same food containers but rather are used for non-food plastic products.  The manufacture of food containers, therefore, always requires new polystyrene.  At present, it is more economical to produce new EPS foam products than to recycle it, and manufacturers would rather have the higher quality of fresh polystyrene over the recycled one.

Silver Lining

The cost of transporting bulky polystyrene waste discourages recyclers from recycling it.  Organizations that receive a large amount of EPS foam (especially in packaging) can invest in a compactor that will reduce the volume of the products. Recyclers will pay more for the compacted product so the investment can be recovered relatively easier.

There are also breakthroughs in studies concerning EPS recycling although most of these are still in the research or pilot stage.  Several studies have found that the bacteria Pseudomonas putida is able to convert polystyrene to a more biodegradable plastic.  The process of polystyrene depolymerization – converting polystyrene back to its styrene monomer – is also gaining ground. 

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, we can start reducing our polystyrene consumption by opting to use products that can be reused, such as bringing our own coffee mugs and food containers to stores that serve their food and drinks in EPS foam.  A small change in our lifestyles can make a big difference for the environment.

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Environmental Impact of Olive Oil Processing Wastes

More commonly known for its popular culinary and medicinal benefits, olive cultivation and olive oil production are a part of the local heritage and rural economy throughout the North African and Mediterranean regions. In 2012, an estimated 2,903,676 tons of olive oil was produced worldwide, the largest olive oil producers being Spain, Italy, and Greece followed by Turkey and Tunisia and to a lesser extent Portugal, Morocco and Algeria. Within the European Union’s olive sector alone, there are roughly 2.5 million producers, who make up roughly one-third of all EU farmers.

The olive oil industry offers valuable opportunities to farmers in terms of seasonal employment as well as significant employment to the off-farm milling and processing industry.  While this industry has significant economic benefits in regards to profit and jobs; the downside is it leads to severe environmental harm and degradation.   

The Flipside

Currently, there are two processes that are used for the extraction of olive oil, the three-phase and the two-phase. Both systems generate large amounts of byproducts.  The two byproducts  produced by the three-phase system are a solid residue known as olive press cake (OPC) and large amounts of aqueous liquid known as olive-mill wastewater (OMW).  The three-phase process usually yields 20% olive oil, 30% OPC waste, and 50% OMW.  This equates to 80% more waste being produced than actual product.  

More contemporary is the two-phase system, in this system “the volume of OMW produced is reduced because less water is used and much of that water and toxic substances are held within the solid olive cake, thus producing a semi-solid residue (SOR).” While the two-phase system produces less OMW, the SOR it produces has a “high organic matter concentration giving an elevated polluting load and it cannot be easily handled by traditional technology which deals with the conventional three-phase olive cake.”

Regardless of system used, the effluents produced from olive oil production exhibit highly phytotoxic and antimicrobial properties, mainly due to phenols.  Phenols are a poisonous caustic crystalline compound.  These effluents unless disposed of properly can result in serious environmental damage.  Troublingly, there is no general policy for disposal of this waste in the olive oil producing nations around the world.  This results in inconsistent monitoring and non-uniform application of guidelines across these regions. 

Environmental Concerns

Around 30 million m3 of olive mill wastewater is produced annually in the Mediterranean area.  This wastewater cannot be sent to ordinary wastewater treatment systems, thus, safe disposal of this waste is of serious environmental concern.  Moreover, due to its complex compounds, olive processing waste (OPW) is not easily biodegradable and needs to be detoxified before it can properly be used in agricultural and other industrial processes. 

This poses a serious problem when the sophisticated treatment and detoxification solutions needed are too expensive for developing countries in MENA such as Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia where it is common for OMW to be dumped into rivers and lakes or used for farming irrigation.  This results in the contamination of ground water and eutrophication of lakes, rivers and canals.  Eutrophication results in reductions in aquatic plants, fish and other animal populations as it promotes excessive growth of algae. As the algae die and decompose, high levels of organic matter and the decomposing organisms deplete the water of oxygen, causing aquatic populations to plummet.

Another common tactic for disposal of olive mill wastewater is to collect and retain it in large evaporation basins or ponds.  It is then dried to a semi-solid fraction. In less developed countries where olive processing wastes is disposed of, this waste, as well as olive processing cake and SOR waste is commonly unloaded and spread across the surrounding lands where it sits building up throughout the olive oil production season.  Over time these toxic compounds accumulate in the soil, saturating it, and are often transported by rain water to other nearby areas, causing serious hazardous runoff. Because these effluents are generally untreated it leads to land degradation, soil contamination as well as contamination of groundwater and of the water table itself. 

Even a small quantity of olive wastewater in contact with groundwater has the potential to cause significant pollution to drinking water sources. The problem is more serious where chlorine is used to disinfect drinking water. Chlorine in contact with phenol reacts to form chlorophenol which is even more dangerous to human health than phenol alone.

Current Remedies

The problems associated with olive processing wastes have been extensively studied for the past 50 years.  Unfortunately,research has continued to fall short on discovering a technologically feasible, economically viable, and socially acceptable solution to OPW.  The most common solutions to date have been strategies of detoxification, production system modification, and recycling and recovery of valuable components.  Because the latter results in reductions in the pollution and transformation of OPW into valuable products, it has gained popularity over the past decade.Weed control is a common example of reusing OPW; due to its plant inhibiting characteristics OPW once properly treated can be used as an alternative to chemical weed control.

Research has also been done on using the semisolid waste generated from olive oil production to absorb oil from hazardous oil spills.  Finally, in terms of health, studies are suggesting that due to OPW containing high amounts of phenolic compounds, which have high in antioxidant rates, OPW may be an affordable source of natural antioxidants. Still, none of these techniques on an individual basis solve the problem of disposal of OMW to a complete and exhaustive extent.

At the present state of olive mill wastewater treatment technology, industry has shown little interest in supporting any traditional process (physical, chemical, thermal or biological) on a wide scale.This is because of the high investment and operational costs, the short duration of the production period (3-5 months) and the small size of the olive mills.

Conclusion

Overall, the problems associated with olive processing wastes are further exemplified by lack of common policy among the olive oil producing regions, funding and infrastructure for proper treatment and disposal, and a general lack of education on the environmental and health effects caused by olive processing wastes.   While some progress has been made with regards to methods of treatment and detoxification of OPW there is still significant scope for further research.  Given the severity of environmental impact of olive processing wastes, it is imperative on policy-makers and industry leaders to undertake more concrete initiatives to develop a sustainable framework to tackle the problem of olive oil waste disposal. 

References

Art, H. W. (1995). The Dictionary of Ecology and Environmental Science. New York, New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Borja, R., Raposo, F., & Rincón, B. (2006). Treatment technologies of liquid and solid wastes from two-phase olive oil mills. 57, 32-46. http://digital.csic.es/bitstream/10261/2426/1/Borja.pdf

Boz, O., Ogut, D., Kir, K., & Dogan, N. (2009). Olive Processing Waste as a Method of Weed Control for Okra, Fava Bean, and Onion. Weed Technology, 23, 569-573.

Caba, J., Ligero, F., Linares, A., Martınez, J., & De la Rubia, T. (2003). Detoxification of semisolid olive-mill wastes and pine-chip mixtures using Phanerochaete flavido-alba Chemosphere, 51, 887–891. http://hera.ugr.es/doi/14978611.pdf

El Hajjouji, H., Guiresse, M., Hafidi, M., Merlina, G., Pinelli, E., & Revel, J. (2007). Assessment of the genotoxicity of olive mill waste water (OMWW) with the Vicia faba micronucleus test Morocco.

FAOSTAT. (2013).   Retrieved 11/30/2013, from http://faostat.fao.org/site/636/DesktopDefault.aspx?PageID=636#ancor

Niaounakis, M., & Halvadakis, C. P. (2006). Olive Processing Waste Management, 2nd Edition (2nd ed.): Pergamon.

Olives and the Olive Tree. (2010).   Retrieved 11/30/2013, 2013, from http://www.zaitt.com/honoring-tradition/olive-tree

Spandre, R., & Dellomonaco, G. (1996). POLYPHENOLS POLLUTION BY OLIVE MILL WASTE WATERS, TUSCANY, ITALY. Journal of Environmental Hydrology, 4, 1-13. http://www.hydroweb.com/jeh/jeh1996/spandre.pdf

The olive oil sector in the European Union (2002).   Retrieved 12/01/2013, from http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/publi/fact/oliveoil/2003_en.pdf

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Reuse and Recycling of Textbooks

For every academic term or semester, thousands of new textbooks are being printed, bought and used. On the other hand, almost the same number of textbooks and course material are being discarded after its use and find its way to the garbage bins ultimately landing at the landfill site where they are being buried, compacted and disposed occupying precious land area. Usually these textbooks are not being reused or recycled generating huge quantities of paper waste.

In many of the private schools, the textbooks have to be bought in every term due to change in edition or minor revisions putting an extra burden on parents to buy the new books that cannot be used for their other children in coming years. Due to rise in standard of living, it is not a common sight that the text books are being donated, exchanged, re-used or utilized by other family members. Such practices are yielding more generation of paper waste.

A Novel Initiative in Bahrain

The recent initiative taken by Bahrain’s Ministry of Education is laudable whereby the textbooks have to be returned by the students after completion of the academic year and will be reused for the incoming students. Reuse of textbooks will conserve resources, finances and will generate less paper waste besides educating the children to reuse and recycle and taking care of the environment. Some private initiatives have also being launched to support needy students by providing free textbooks to them to be collected from students and parents. It is expected that around 1,000 of these book sets will be distributed to students, while those deemed unusable will be recycled as part of a dual program being operated by the organization in Bahrain.

In addition to books, poor students will also get free stationery including notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers, rulers and sharpeners. There is a greater need that text books are shared and re-utilized while establishing a culture of environmental responsibility. Though such practices are being done at individual level, it needs to be done at community and at school level. Text book collection boxes are to be kept and maintained at school level by the school authorities or by the parent teachers association or any NGO. In addition, students should be made responsible towards protecting the environmental resources.

The Way Forward

In almost all developed countries, there are book banks and libraries from where the text/ course books can be purchased both used and un-used one and can be returned or resold after use. Many online shops are available which deliver the books at nominal cost. In addition, many charity, community and non-governmental organizations set up text books bins, booths and boxes for such purpose of books collection and re-utilization. In line with the Government initiative, all private schools and vocational institutions should also initiate the text book re-utilization and recycling programs.

Reuse of textbooks will not only conserve the environment but also help in educating children in less-privileged communities.

Reuse of textbooks will not only help in environmental conservation but also help in education of children in less-privileged countries.[/caption]

The local charities and area committees can also include text book collection/ donation program within their scope, which then needs to be publicized by the local media enabling students and their parents to generously donate these books for further re-use within the country or can be exported out to other poor neighboring countries where cost of books prohibit the children to go to school. Such habits and awareness of conserving environmental resources will go a long way in inculcating environmental related habits in our younger generation who will take charge of this planet in near future.

An Environmental Message

We need to understand that it takes around three tons of trees to make one ton of paper which also utilize huge quantity of water per ton than any other product in the world. Paper making also produces high levels of air and water pollution which can be avoided. Each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees and 7,000 gallons of water. It takes one tree to make 25 books.

By recycling our books, we are giving that tree a new purpose and reducing deforestation. It is suggested that schools should hold semi-annual book sales to clear out old inventory. Special bins/ containers for these books are to be made and appropriately placed in schools. We need to clear our shelves, and get unused books back into circulation.

We need to understand that recycling is a responsibility of today for a better tomorrow.

Solid Waste Management in Tunisia

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

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

Borj Chakir Landfill

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

Recycling Situation

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

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

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

Future Outlook

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

Plastic Upcycling Initiative in Egypt

The sheer volume of plastic waste generated coupled with energy and material resources required for production, as well as emissions resulting from these processes paint a grim picture of the environmental havoc created by plastic bags. Single-use plastic bags are a huge threat to the environment as an estimated 1 trillion such bags are consumed worldwide every year.

Plastic bags are notorious for their interference in natural ecosystems and for causing the death of aquatic organisms, animals and birds. In 2006, The United Nations Environment Programme estimated that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean and upto 80 percent of marine debris worldwide is plastic which are responsible for the death of a more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year from starvation, choking or entanglement.

Re: Genuine Plastic Bags

The problems associated with single-use plastic bags forced two Egyptian youngsters – Yara Yassin and Rania Rafie – to think of a way of reusing plastic bags. Their upcycling venture, Re: Genuine Plastic Bags, makes innovative handbags sewn from throwaway plastic.  Re: Genuine plastic bag is a start up business that aims to recollect existing plastic bags and re-design them in a form of fashionable bags that can be used in day-to-day life, in order to prolong the life of plastic bags, thus producing lesser amount of wastes. They endeavor to create bags that are self-designed and meant for various kinds of stores, brand names, graphical elements and different lifestyles of consumers

The models are produced through a new technique of fusing plastic bags together. The new fused material becomes dryer and more firm, when left to dry, which takes maximum 40 seconds. The outcome is based on the thickness and type of plastic bags fused; if the plastic bag is too thin (LDPE), then it needs several layers to be fused without completely melting. The outcome is also imprecise, as it may shrink from the heat, and maintaining a straight line is almost impossible.

Yara and Rania feel that the eco-friendly bags are a great way to motivate people towards behavioral change, especially in the Middle East. More information about Re: Genuine Plastic Bags can be found at this link

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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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Waste Management Outlook for Qatar

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

Solid Waste Management Scenario

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

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

Government Strategy

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

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

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

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

Future Perspectives

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

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

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

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The Menace of Marine Litter

Marine litter, long a neglected topic, has started to garner some attention. Marine litter is composed of a diverse mix of items from various sources and so a one-size fits all solution is unlikely to be effective. Abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear (ALDFG), plastic packaging (bottles, caps, bags, etc.) and plastic manufacturing pellets are amongst the most common and persistent items found. Comparing the feasibility and the financial case for recovery versus prevention for each of these groups reveals a worrying gap in our attempts to deal with the problem.

Scale of the Problem

Abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) is arguably the most damaging type of marine debris as it continues to fish the oceans, trapping and killing animals for years after it goes overboard. Nets are often located in high numbers around known fishing grounds making targeted recovery possible. Even in such hotspots, recovery is costly and tends to fall to the third sector. An effectively priced deposit scheme with port and shore facilities to support the collection and recycling of damaged gear should reduce the amount of fishing gear discarded and fund the recovery of the remaining items.

While it is thought that 80% of marine litter originates on land, it seems clear that there is an on-going flux between terrestrial and marine environments. Floods can increase the flow of litter down rivers to the sea, while storms stir up the ocean, leading to litter that has already entered the marine environment being deposited in greater than usual amounts on beaches.

In 2013 the European Commission published three studies looking into the composition and sources of marine litter in European seas. In a chapter integrating the results it noted that:

“Plastics are the most abundant debris found in the marine environment and comprise more than half of marine litter in European Regional Seas. More than half of the plastic fraction is composed of plastic packaging waste with plastic bottles and bags being predominant types of plastic packaging…

Therefore, measures within a strategy to close the largest loopholes in the plastic packaging cycle should target plastic bottles and plastic bags.”

Capping the Problem

Plastic packaging is one of the most common items of marine debris with grave impacts upon marine wildlife. Foraging birds are known to ingest large quantities of plastic, especially caps and lids, turtles eat plastic bags mistaking them for jellyfish, and many species are recorded as trapped and disfigured by beverage can yokes.

However the impacts are even further reaching. As plastics break down they are ingested by smaller and smaller organisms. Recent studies have found that plankton ingest tiny fragments of plastic which are then passed up the food chain through predation. In fact, there may already be plastic in the tissue of the fish that we consume.

Despite hype about profitable schemes that will clean the ocean gyres in five years, the breakdown of material makes recovery almost impossible. Plastic debris may outweigh plankton by a ratio of 6:1 in the areas of highest concentration but widespread skimming of the ocean surface will also harvest vast amounts of the phytoplankton, zooplankton and other organisms living there. The majority of marine life lives at the surface and so, considering the risk of disruption to the entire marine food chain, the plankton baby is one that you really don’t want to throw out with the plastic-polluted bathwater.

Whilst debris recovery efforts may be able to remove small quantities of plastic packaging, in particular the larger items, it cannot deal with the full spectrum and so is largely ineffective as a response to the litter problem. The real challenge is not to clear litter once it is in the ocean doing damage, but to prevent it from getting there in the first place. Container deposit schemes and plastic bag levies have been shown to be highly effectual means of reducing litter on land; and by extension, will help to prevent marine litter.

Ex-Pellets from the Oceans

Plastic manufacturing pellets, or nurdles as they are known in the industry, are often underreported debris items as they are so small that they often escape observation. They are typically less than 5mm in diameter and unusually for marine debris are from known sources as they are only used in the manufacturing of plastic products.

Locating and separating such small objects from the world’s oceans is clearly a mammoth task of considerable expense. Instead the manufacturing industry has initiated a programme of environmental responsibility to limit the loss of the pellets. Praised as an effective and affordable program, the initiative would have even greater impact if adopted as an industry standard world-wide, especially if combined with further efforts to reduce pellet loss during transport.

There are no effective natural processes that remove marine debris. The flow of material into the oceans vastly exceeds any practicable man-made method of extracting this growing soup of litter. The only way to tackle the issue is to prevent litter entering the oceans in the first place. Effective measures to prevent this pollution at source already exist. Some, such as levies on single use carrier bags, are becoming more widespread, but others such as deposit refund schemes are still very limited, both in terms of geography and the types of packaging targeted. 

 

Note: The article is being republished with the kind permission of our collaborative partner Isonomia. The original article can be viewed at this link.

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