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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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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تحسين الوضع الاقتصادي للمجتمعات عن طريق تعزيز مشاريع إعادة التدوير

 

 تعتبر البلديات و المجالس المحلية المسئول المباشر عن إدارة ملف النفايات الصلبة في المدن حول العالم للحفاظ على المدن نظيفة. ففي الوقت التي تحتل فيه التكنولوجيا المتوفرة (جمع النفايات، النقل، إعادة التدوير، التخزين، المعالجة)، تزداد النداءات الدولية لإعادة النظر إلى مجال إدارة النفايات الصلبة كأداة لحل العديد من المشاكل الاقتصادية، الإجتماعية، و البيئية. و من هذه الأصوات الرئيس الأمريكي السابق "بيل كلينتون" عندما صرح في المؤتمر السنوي لمبادرة كلينتون العالمية عام 2010

" إذا أردتم محاربة التغير المناخي، تحسين الصحة العامة، إيجاد فرص عمل للفقراء و خلق مناخ مناسب للروّاد، فإن أفضل الطرق للوصول لهذا الشيئ هو إغلاق مكبات النفايات"

 

فيجب على السلطات أن تنظر إلى ملف إدارة النفايات الصلبة بمنظور أشمل بحيث يشمل تحسن عام في صحة الناس و البيئة، استخدام أمثل للمصادر (موارد الطاقة) و تحسين الوضع الإقتصادي. لهذا أصبحت إدارة النفايات الصلبة تحد صعب للجهات المختصة، رجال الأعمال، و المواطنين، فإدارة النفايات الصلبة تحتاج إلى "خلطة سحرية" تنمزج فيها السياسة الإدارية، المسئولية الإجتماعية، القطاع التجاري، و المواطنين. 

 

فنجاح تطبيق نظام فعّال لإدارة النفايات الصلبة يعتمد بشكل كبير على عوامل محلية و إقليمية متعددة في المجالات الاقتصادية، الاجتماعية، و السياسية في المجتمع المحلي. فباللإضافة إلى نظام إدارة يشمل جميع الحلول المتوفرة، ففهم جيد للآلية التي تؤثر فيها العوامل السياسية، الاجتماعية، و الاقتصادية مهمة لتطوير استراتيجية فعّالة لإدارة النفايات الصلبة. فعلى الجهات المسئولة النظر إلى هذا الملف كفرصة للنهوض بالوضع الاقتصادي للمجتمع من خلال خلق آلاف فرص العمل و إنشاء مجال جديد للاستثمار.

 

فمن أجل التأثير على الطبقة العامة من الناس تجاه إعادة تدوير المخلفات، يجب عليهم أن يشعروا بصورة مباشرة بالفائدة التي تعود عليهم، لذلك كمرحلى أولى يجب تغيير الصورة السيئة في مخيلاتهم عن هذا المجال عن طريق حملات التوعية و المبادرات و الدراسات التفصيلية لكي يشعروا بحجم الفرصة و فوائدها.

 

الفيديو التالي لمشروع إنشاء وحدة إعادة فرز للنفايات الصلبة في مدينة رفح (فلسطين). تم تنفيذ المشروع عن طريق جمعية أصدقاء البيئة  و بتمويل من الوكالة اليابانية للتنمية، فعلي الرغم من الجدل القائم في هذا المجال حول فاعلية المشروع، فقد خلقت العديد من فرص العمل للنساء و ساعدت على تقليل كميات النفايات المرسلة لمكب صوفا. إنها خطوة جيدة في الاتجاه الصحيح و لكن كان الأولى، قبل إنشاء وحدة الفرز، دراسة الحلول و الخيارات للنفايات المفرزة في نهاية خط الانتاج حيث أن هناك الآلاف الأطنان من النفايات المكدسة بسبب عدم وجود أي طريقة لإعادة تدويرها بعد عملية الفرز.

 

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Community Engagement in Recycling Initiatives in Qatar

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

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

An Uphill Battle, But a Necessary One

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

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

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

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

Possible Solutions: Personal and Community Action

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

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

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

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

 

References

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

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The Paper Bag Boy of Abu Dhabi

Abdul Muqeet, also known as the Paper Bag Boy, has risen from being just another ordinary student to an extra-ordinary environmentalist. At just ten years old, Abdul Muqeet has demonstrated his commitment to saving the environment in United Arab Emirates and elsewhere. 

Inspired by the 2010 campaign “UAE Free of Plastic Bags”, Abdul Muqeet, a student of Standard V at Abu Dhabi Indian School, applied his own initiative and imagination to create 100% recycled carry bags using discarded newspapers. He then set out to distribute these bags in Abu Dhabi, replacing plastic bags that take hundreds of years to degrade biologically. The bags were lovingly named ‘Mukku bags' and Abdul Muqeet became famous as the Paper Bag Boy.

Abdul Muqeet’s environmental initiative has catalyzed a much larger community campaign. During the first year, Abdul Muqeet created and donated more than 4,000 paper bags in Abu Dhabi. In addition, he has led workshops at schools, private companies and government entities, demonstrating how to create paper bags using old newspapers. His school along with a number of companies in Abu Dhabi adopted his idea by exchanging their plastic bags for paper bags.

Abdul Muqeet was one of the youngest recipients of Abu Dhabi Awards 2011, for his remarkable contribution to conserve environment. The awards were presented by General Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. In 2011, Abdul Muqeet was selected to attend the United Nation’s Tunza conference in Indonesia where he demonstrated his commitment for a cleaner environment through his paper bag initiative. He is actively involved in spreading environmental awareness worldwide, especially UAE, India, USA and Indonesia.

 

Abdul Muqeet continues to make headlines for his concerted efforts towards a plastic-free environment, and has been widely covered by leading newspapers in UAE and other countries. He tirelessly campaigned for the Rio+20 summit, urging world leaders to commit to the Green Economy. “Plant more trees; use less water; reuse and recycle; always remember that everything in this world can be recycled but not time,” offers Abdul.

He has been remarkably supported by his parents and siblings throughout his truly inspiring environmental sojourn. Abdul Muqeet’s monumental achievements at such a tender age make him a torch-bearer of the global environmental movement, and should also inspire the young generation to protect the environment by implementing the concept of ‘Zero Waste’.

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Composting Guidelines for Beginners

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

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Green Resolutions for New Year

green-resolutionsThis year, in addition to our personal goals, let us make another New Year resolution: to make this year the year we really ‘go green’. Supporting environmental initiatives should be one of our main priorities and needs to be reflected through our resolutions and commitment to safeguard it against all forms of pollution and to protect our fragile and finite resources. Depending on our age, work, location etc., our priorities may be different but our actions should be in unison towards environmental protection.

We need to understand that we have very recklessly plundered the global resources in a short span of time that is causing many adversities and catastrophes, but we are the only species that have to take preventive measures to avoid any such occurrences in future. Let us make sincere pledges and serious commitments towards our planet and protecting our environment.

Let us, at the least, try to support the following activities and tasks starting from this year and onward, if we have not practiced earlier:

  • Protect and enhance the green spaces, parks and playgrounds.
  • Utilizing our roof for gardening and creating green areas.
  • Enviauditing of our household and office related activities. Improving tasks that require electricity and water usage.
  • Use minimum water for our daily activities.
  • Wash clothes in normal water and washing only when full loads are in the dishwasher and washing machine.
  • Turn off the faucet while we brush our teeth or shave.
  • Watering our lawn in the morning/ evening to reduce evaporation losses.
  • Changing incandescent bulbs for C.F.L.s.
  • Conserve energy in all forms. Switch lights when not in use.
  • Unplug mobile charger and computer after use as it wastes a lot of energy.
  • Avoid fast fashion. Reduce our insatiable appetite for design apparel and related clothing that we wear for only one season and throw it in next. Only buy what you need.
  • Do green shopping and donate items/ clothes we do not use.
  • Detox your home. Only use safe chemicals and detergents as household cleaning products for furniture, bathrooms and clothes including air fresheners.
  • Reuse and recycle material
  • Plan vehicle trips to avoid peak hours and traffic congestion.
  • Avoiding wasting any food items.
  • Avoid plastic bags and taking our own bag for shopping.
  • Avoid using Styrofoam cups, disposable cutlery and other related items.
  • Avoid un-necessary print outs and photocopy.
  • Minimize using bottled drinking water. This is expensive and generates plastic bottles waste. Instead use filtering equipment at home or use large refillable and reusable bottles.
  • Avoid using paper towels and napkins. Instead use cotton clothes and old used fabrics.
  • Enhancing our awareness by reading and knowing more on environment.

Let us make sincere pledges and serious commitments towards our planet and protecting our environment (Image Courtesy: www.inhabitat.com)

Let us make sincere pledges and serious commitments towards our planet and protecting our environment (Image Courtesy: www.inhabitat.com)

Enjoy the festivities of the season and be a more responsible citizen of the world. Happy New Year!

Recycling of PET Plastic Wastes

Like all other modern urban centers, the Middle East also faces challenges in environmental protection due to tremendous tonnage of waste produced in different forms. The gross urban waste generation from Middle East countries exceeds 150 million tons per annum, out of which 10-15 percent is contributed by plastic wastes. The burgeoning population, growing consumption, and an increasing trend towards a “disposable” culture, is causing nightmares to municipal authorities across the region and beyond.

Plastic consumption has grown at a tremendous rate over the past two decades as plastics now play an important role in all aspects of modern lifestyle. Plastics are used in the manufacture of numerous products such as protective packaging, lightweight and safety components in cars, mobile phones, insulation materials in buildings, domestic appliances, furniture items, medical devices etc. Because plastic does not decompose biologically, the amount of plastic waste in our surroundings is steadily increasing. More than 90% of the articles found on the sea beaches contain plastic. Plastic waste is often the most objectionable kind of litter and will be visible for months in landfill sites without degrading.

Recycling Process

After PET plastic containers are collected they must be sorted and prepared for sale. The amount and type of sorting and processing required will depend upon purchaser specifications and the extent to which consumers separate recyclable materials of different types and remove contaminants.

Collected PET plastic containers are delivered to a materials recovery facility to begin the recycling process. Sorting and grinding alone are not sufficient preparation of PET bottles and containers for re-manufacturing. There are many items that are physically attached to the PET bottle or containers that require further processing for their removal. These items include the plastic cups on the bottom of many carbonated beverage bottles (known as base cups), labels and caps.

Dirty regrind is processed into a form that can be used by converters. At a reclaiming facility, the dirty flake passes through a series of sorting and cleaning stages to separate PET from other materials that may be contained on the bottle or from contaminants that might be present. First, regrind material is passed through an air classifier which removes materials lighter than the PET such as plastic or paper labels and fines.

The flakes are then washed with a special detergent in a scrubber. This step removes food residue that might remain on the inside surface of PET bottles and containers, glue that is used to adhere labels to the PET containers, and any dirt that might be present. Next, the flakes pass through a “float/sink” classifier. During this process, PET flakes, which are heavier than water, sink in the classifier, while base cups made from high-density polyethylene plastic (HDPE) and caps and rings made from polypropylene plastic (PP), both of which are lighter than water, float to the top.

After drying, the PET flakes pass through an electrostatic separator, which produces a magnetic field to separate PET flakes from any aluminum that might be present as a result of bottle caps and tennis ball can lids and rings. Once all of these processing steps have been completed, the PET plastic is now in a form known as “clean flake.” In some cases reclaimers will further process clean flake in a “repelletizing” stage, which turns the flake into “pellet.” Clean PET flake or pellet is then processed by reclaimers or converters which transform the flake or pellet into a commodity-grade raw material form such as fiber, sheet, or engineered or compounded pellet, which is finally sold to end-users to manufacture new products.

 

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Significance of E-Waste Management

Electronic waste (or e-waste) is the fastest growing waste stream, and its disposal is a major environmental concern in all parts of the world. More than 50 million tons of e-waste is generated every year with major fraction finding its way to landfills and dumpsites. E-waste comprises as much as 8% of the municipal solid waste stream in rich nations, such as those in GCC. Globally only 15 – 20 percent of e-waste is recycled while the rest is dumped into developing countries. However, in the Middle East, merely 5 percent of e-waste is sent to recycling facilities (which are located in Asia, Africa and South America) while the rest ends up in landfills.

What is E-Waste

The term ‘e-waste’ stands for any electrical or electronic appliance that has reached its end-of-life, such as refrigerators, washing machines, microwaves, cell phones, TVs and computers. Such waste is made up of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics, glass, wood, circuit boards, ceramics, rubber etc. The major constituent of e-waste is iron and steel (about 50%) followed by plastics (21%), and non-ferrous metals (13%) like copper, aluminum and precious metals like silver, gold, platinum, palladium etc. E-waste also contains toxic elements like lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, selenium and chromium.

E-waste is different from municipal and industrial wastes and requires special handling procedures due to the presence of both valuable and expensive materials. Recycling of e-waste can help in the recovery of reusable components and base materials, especially copper and precious metals. However, due to lack of recycling facilities, high labour costs, and tough environmental regulations, rich countries either landfill or export e-waste to poor countries which is illegal under the Basel Convention.

Health Hazards

Recycling techniques for e-waste include burning and dissolution in strong acids with few measures to protect human health and the environment. E-waste workers often suffer from bad health effects through skin contact and inhalation. Workers, consumers and communities are exposed to the chemicals contained in electronics throughout their life cycle, from manufacture through use and disposal. The incineration, land-filling, and illegal dumping of electronic wastes all contribute toxic chemicals to the environment.

Electronics recycling workers have been shown to have higher levels of flame retardants in their blood, potentially from exposure to contaminated indoor air. Similar exposures are likely for communities where recycling plants are located, especially if these plants are not adequately regulated. Much of the electronics industry in the Middle East, Europe and North America has outsourced manufacturing and disposal to developing countries of Southeast Asia, China and India. Uncontrolled management of e-wastes is having a highly negative effect on local communities and environment in these countries.

E-Waste Recycling and Metal Industry

Electrical and electronic equipment are made up a wide range of materials including metals, plastics and ceramics. For example, a mobile phone may contain more than 40 elements including base metals like copper and tin, special metals such as cobalt, indium and antimony, and precious metals like silver, gold and palladium. Infact, metals represents almost one-fourth of the weight of a phone, the remainder being plastic and ceramic material. Taking into account the fact that worldwide mobile device sale totaled 1.8 billion in 2010, this will translate into significant metal demand each year.

If we consider the high growth rate of electronic devices, including cell phones, TVs, monitors, MP3 players, digital cameras and electronic toys, it becomes obvious that these equipment are responsible for high demand and high prices for a wide range of metals. These metal resources are available again at final end-of-life of the device which could be used for manufacture of new products if effective recycling methods are implemented.

Mining plays a vital role in the supply of metals for electrical and electronic industry. The environmental impact of metal production is significant, especially for precious and special metals. For example, to produce 1 ton of gold or palladium, 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide is generated. If recycling processes are used to recover metals from e-waste, only a fraction of CO2 emissions will occur, apart from numerous other benefits.

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