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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Waste Management Implications of 3D Printing

The rapid deployment of 3D printing is one of the most exciting developments since the appearance of the smart phone. This is technology with some serious potential to change how and where goods are manufactured, transforming supply chains. The New Scientist has gone so far as to herald 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, as ushering in a second industrial revolution. But is anyone thinking about how what this new development means for the waste sector?

Whilst the technology is already being put to some dubious uses, the ability to manufacture pretty much anything wherever and whenever it’s needed is certainly appealing. Interest isn’t confined to those frustrated inventors whose imaginations have been constrained by the tools they can fit in the garden shed; there’s likely to be take-up from businesses, householders – and even space agencies, apparently.

Insights into 3D Printing

By building up layer upon layer of material, a 3D printer can produce objects to any pattern, up to the maximum size it can handle. However, the applications to which these objects can be put to may be limited by the physical properties of the materials that will inputted in to 3D printers – the equivalent of the ink in the printers we’re all familiar with. Clearly, you can’t print a toaster if your 3D printer only uses plastic – but an oven knob, or even a wind-powered robot with dozens of moving parts, is no problem.

A quick scan of 3dprinter.net helpfully outlines the different methods 3D printers are able to deploy, which I’ve summarised here. Each appears to require its own TLA (Three Letter Acronym). Perhaps in the future terms such as Stereolithography (SLA), Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and PolyJet photopolymer will become as ubiquitous as DVD and VHS have been in the past. Each of these techniques is compatible with a selection of materials, primarily plastics – but some are able to use metals, ceramics or even play-dough.

Environmental Implications

Moving significant amounts of manufacturing away from factories (predominately in Asia) to our own door steps will no doubt have profound impacts on the balance of goods and services across the globe. The economic and social implications of the technology have the potential to be significant– as do the environmental implications.

There is potential for greenhouse gas emissions savings from reduced shipping – not just cutting the number of products that make the long journey across the seas from China, but also reducing road freight. Fewer trucks on the motorways could be one of the unexpected effects 3D printing. But what are the waste management issues associated with mass deployment such technologies. And if we are future gazing, is their deployment consistent with the ‘zero waste economy’ envisaged by governments across the Middle East?

For those who haven’t yet thought too hard about what the technology is; think of it like the ‘replicator’ devices as featured in Star Trek. The replicator was a machine capable of creating objects by voice command, from what appeared to be thin air. 3D printing is only a shade less magical.

Waste Management Perspectives

3D printing is something of a double-edged sword when it comes to waste. It creates new recycling problems, but has considerable potential to help prevent waste. It could even be an outlet for recycled plastics. The opportunity for DIY repairs, especially to everyday items that we might otherwise decide were uneconomic to fix, appears enormous.

But with the higher profile that waste management has these days, I feel that we ought to be making 3D printing the first technology to be designed with recycling in mind. The waste management industry is a service industry; and typically it has had to adapt retrospectively to technology changes that it has not been able to influence. After more than a decade, we’re still catching up with the introduction of plastic milk bottles in lieu of glass. But this reactive approach clearly isn’t the best way to achieve a zero waste economy.

3D printing offers numerous challenges and opportunities to the waste management industry. As we, as a society, become more aware of material security, I’d suggest that the best approach would be for the waste management industry to engage positively with the designers and manufacturers of the 3D printing devices, trying to identify opportunities to ensure that the circular economy doesn’t become an afterthought.

The most appealing possibility would be if the machines could recycle waste polymers themselves, and re-use them as feedstock. Could we see a scenario where the machines become the recycling facility, thus greatly reducing the need for even the print medium to be transported? Bringing the nascent 3D printing industry together with experts in waste management could help to make this new technology contribute to rather than challenge our ambitions for a zero waste economy.

Note: The article is being republished with the kind permission of our collaborative partner Isonomia. The original article can be viewed at http://www.isonomia.co.uk/?p=2512

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Recycling Attitudes in Saudi Arabia: A Survey

recycling-bin-jeddahThe waste management and recycling industry in Saudi Arabia is underestimated source of income. The continued increase in population and industrial development in the Kingdom has increased individual waste generation manifolds in the past few decades. The shortage of recycling industries in Saudi Arabia cost around SR 40 billion. The focus of Saudi recycling industry is plastic, papers and metals. If recycling industry targeted only plastic and paper and metals they can meet the need of the Saudi market efficiently. According to Arab League, recycling industry can save over 500 million SR just from iron, paper and plastic waste. The distribution of recycling companies is manly in big cities which make sense for the huge expected amount of waste products. There are several recycling companies operating in the big cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.

The new orientation of Saudi Arabia as a country is toward the global investment as per Vision 2030 released by Chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.  The envisioned industrial growth of Saudi Arabia emphasizes the need to adopt modern recycling practices and encourage recycling attitude in public. 

Recycling Attitude in Saudi Arabia

The government did its part by encouraging recycling industry and while I was searching I noticed that there are many recycling companies in the Kingdom.  The question is not why the recycling attitude is not active or obvious, rather than how to make it a daily habit? At the beginning, I did a personal interview with few people in their 50-60 years old about recycling and why they should do it? The answers were disappointing because of lack of knowledge and awareness. Then I thought to switch to the young generation who are more educated and knowledgeable.  

I did a short survey to get a sense of young generation recycling attitude in Saudi Arabia. The survey was addressed to the University students in the age group of 18-24 years. I asked about several issues and whether if they agree with the recycling act or not? And if there are recycling services nearby where they live? The survey showed that majority of people acknowledged the importance of recycling act and would like to contribute.  

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The survey showed that 74% of the sample think that recycling is very important but 45% of them recycle their house waste sometimes, while 44% don’t recycle at all. The challenge for 50% of the people on survey sample was the lack of recycling containers near where they live. However, around 15% of the sample think that sorting material is difficult while 12% think that recycling is not important.  

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Key Takeaways

It seems that majority of the young generation in Saudi Arabia accept the fact that recycling is a healthy choice and important to the environment but lack the facilities or containers other than embedding the attitude of recycling in their daily behavior. The need to embed the healthy recycling behavior is very important especially in this era of economic challenge. To enhance the recycling act, we should start from school to implant recycling importance in education. Although decision makers are predominantly from the older generation but discussing the present and future issues should be always directed to the young generation since they represent majority of the population in Saudi Arabia. As per latest data, the population of Saudi Arabia is 32,384,951, with median age of 28 years old and 15 person per km2 population density. The urban population represents 78% of Saudis with 1.5 percent growth rate.

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The global issues associated with unbalanced environment should be more clear to the public. The global warming, the plastic virtual life, how many years until all these products degraded and do not affect the microflora and other creatures. The importance of diversity in creatures and soil, air, water microorganisms. Why we should care when we through stuff without sorting? Why recycling is a sign of high manners? All these questions and more should be answered and included in education.  

The other major step is to establish environmental center under the government supervision to provide containers and production lines. The step of environmental care center establishment should be accompanied with recycling industry business broadcasted on all sort of media. Social media such as Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram became the broadcasting tool for the young generation. Using the media nowadays is necessity as a part of transparency. Applying transparency is an essential key to gain people trust and attention to their contribution toward any case. Making recycling attitude as an obvious contribution of people encourages them to continue the healthy act.  

Guide to Green Shopping

With the advent of December, many festivities, celebrations and seasonal parties are planned globally. These events require feverish shopping leading to usage and wastage of more resources. In addition, December is also famous for the shopping mania that grips people from all walks of life. ‘Shopping’ is certainly one of the most famous ‘indoor sport’ being practiced equally by people of developed and developing countries depending on their life style and budget and is mainy being done by the female gender.

‘Going green’ is a way forward for all of us as it is a life style change including improving our shopping and purchasing habits so that the additional environmental burden can be reduced. The market forces, industries, manufacturers are supported by extensive media and marketing campaigns which lure us to buy more and unnecessary commodities.

The responsibility of environmental stewardship lies on us to control and behave and move to ‘green shopping’ altering our pampered purchasing habits. Start by auditing your lifestyles and shopping list and see where improvement can be achieved to reduce pollution.

Being a green consumer we need to conserve resources, save  energy, and prevent waste by buying  products that are energy efficient, are used or reusable, made with  recycled content or are  recyclable and have no  or less packaging.

Green shopping involves learning how to buy smartly and keeping environmental considerations in mind. Here are some useful eco-friendly shopping tips:

  • Check if the item is ‘really’ or ‘urgently’ required. May be you do not have an immediate use or can postpone it to any later date.
  • Check what quantity and content of the item is required and for what duration?
  • What are the alternatives to the item in terms of cost, size, number etc?
  • Buy durable products instead of disposable items. Buy things which last longer and can be reused like rechargeable batteries and avoiding plastic cutlery and plates.
  • Avoid excess packaging. Look for products that have less packaging or buy in bulk meaning less garbage generation, disposal and transportation.  
  • Share items with friends. Another way to save resources and energy is to swap and exchange with friends and family instead of buying brand-new products. This includes sharing video games, CDs, DVDs etc. instead of individuals owning them.
  • Buy energy-efficient appliances and electronic items and promote energy-efficient products.
  • Buying useful presents and gifts aiming at its use and not cost.
  • Select items made with recycled-content materials.
  • When selecting between two similar products, go for the one you can re-use or re-fill later, or the one that hasn't wasted resources on a wrapper you'll throw away as soon as you get home.
  • Buy sustainable products which have the ability to be produced (over and over again) without doing much harm to the environment.
  • Buy locally made or grown food. Local foods are fresher and keep local farmers in business, while avoiding the pollution caused by transporting products around the country or region.

Let us inspire ourselves to live a greener more environmentally friendly, healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

Become a Green Shopper. Explore, Enjoy and Make A Difference! 

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Environmental Best Practices for MENA Cement Industry

Cement production in MENA region has almost tripled during the last 15 years, mainly on account of high population growth rate, rapid urbanization, increasing industrialization and large-scale infrastructural development. The growth of cement industry in MENA is marked by factors that are directly connected with sustainability, energy efficiency and raw material supply. Although the factors differ from country to country and cannot be generalized, there are major concerns regarding shortage of raw materials, GHG emissions, dependence on fossil fuels and lack of investment in technological innovations.

For the MENA cement sector, key points for an environment-friendly industry are use of alternative raw materials and alternative fuels, energy-efficient equipment and green technologies. As the use of alternative fuels and raw materials is still uncommon in the Middle East, guidelines and regulatory framework have to be defined which can set standards for the use of alternative or waste-derived fuels like municipal solid wastes, dried sewage sludge, agricultural wastes, drilling wastes etc.

Sewage Sludge

An attractive disposal method for sewage sludge is to use it as alternative fuel source in a cement kiln. Dried sewage sludge with high organic content possesses a high calorific value. Due to the high temperature in the kiln the organic content of the sewage sludge will be completely destroyed. The resultant ash is incorporated in the cement matrix. Infact, several European countries, like Germany and Switzerland, have already started adopting this practice for sewage sludge management.

The MENA region produces huge quantity of municipal wastewater which represents a serious problem due to its high treatment costs and risk to environment, human health and marine life. Sewage generation across the region is rising by an astonishing rate of 25 percent every year. Municipal wastewater treatment plants in MENA produce large amounts of sludge whose disposal is a cause of major concern.

For example, Kuwait has 6 wastewater treatment plants, with combined capacity of treating 12,000m³ of municipal wastewater per day, which produce around 250 tons of sludge daily. Similarly Tunisia has approximately 125 wastewater treatment plants which generate around 1 million tons of sewage sludge every year. Currently most of the sewage is sent to landfills. Sewage sludge generation is bound to increase at rapid rates in MENA due to increase in number and size of urban habitats and growing industrialization.

The use of sewage sludge as alternative fuel is a common practice in cement plants around the world, Europe in particular. It could be an attractive business proposition for wastewater treatment plant operators and cement industry in the Middle East to work together to tackle the problem of sewage sludge disposal, and high energy requirements and GHGs emissions from the cement industry.

Use of sludge in cement kilns will led to eco-friendly disposal of municipal sewage

Use of sludge in cement kilns will led to eco-friendly disposal of municipal sewage

Sewage sludge has relatively high net calorific value of 10-20 MJ/kg as well as lower carbon dioxide emissions factor compared to coal when treated in a cement kiln. Use of sludge in cement kilns can also tackle the problem of safe and eco-friendly disposal of sewage sludge. The cement industry accounts for almost 5 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions worldwide. Treating municipal wastes in cement kilns can reduce industry’s reliance on fossil fuels and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

Municipal Solid Wastes and Biomass

Alternative fuels, such as refuse-derived fuels or RDF, have very good energy-saving potential. The substitution of fossil fuel by alternative sources of energy is common practice in the European cement industry. The German cement industry, for example, substitutes approximately 61% of their fossil fuel demand. Typical alternative fuels available in MENA countries are municipal solid wastes, agro-industrial wastes, industrial wastes and crop residues.

The gross urban waste generation quantity from Middle East countries has crossed 150 million tons per annum. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait rank in the top-ten worldwide in terms of per capita solid waste generation. Solid waste disposal is a big challenge in almost all MENA countries so conversion of MSW to RDF will not ease the environmental situation but also provide an attractive fuel for the regional cement industry. Tens of millions of tyres are discarded across the MENA region each year. Scrap tyres are are an attractive source of energy and find widespread use in countries around the world.

Agriculture plays an important role in the economies of most of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa region.  Despite the fact that MENA is the most water-scarce and dry region in the world, many countries in the region, especially those around the Mediterranean Sea, are highly dependent on agriculture. Egypt is the 14th biggest rice producer in the world and the 8th biggest cotton producer in the world. Similarly Tunisia is one of the biggest producers and exporters of olive oil in the world. Such high biomass production rates should be welcomed by the cement industry since these materials comprise cotton stalks, rice husks and rice straw which serve ideally as alternative fuels. However it is ironical that olive kernels – the waste from Tunisian olive production – is exported to European power plants in order to save fossil fuel-derived CO2 emissions there, while Tunisia imports approximately 90% of its energy demand, consisting of fossil fuels.

Drilling Wastes as Alternative Raw Material

The reduction of clinker portion in cement affords another route to reduce energy consumption. In particular, granulated blast furnace slags or even limestone have proven themselves as substitutes in cement production, thus reducing the overall energy consumption. The Middle East oil and gas industry has made a lot of effort in order to reduce the environmental impact of their activities. The use of drilling wastes and muds is preferable in cement kilns, as a cement kiln can be an attractive, less expensive alternative to a rotary kiln. In cement kilns, drilling wastes with oily components can be used in a fuel-blending program to substitute for fuel that would otherwise be needed to fire the kiln.

Conclusions

The cement industry can play a significant role in the sustainable development in the Arab countries, e.g. by reducing fossil fuel emissions with the use of refused derived fuels (RDF) made from municipal solid waste or biomass pellets. The cement companies in the Middle East can contribute to sustainability also by improving their own internal practices such as improving energy efficiency and implementing recycling programs. Businesses can show commitments to sustainability through voluntary adopting the concepts of social and environmental responsibilities, implementing cleaner production practices, and accepting extended responsibilities for their products.  

The major points of consideration are types of wastes and alternative fuels that may be used, standards for production of waste-derived fuels, emission standards and control mechanisms, permitting procedures etc. Appropriate standards also need to be established for alternative raw materials that are to be used for clinker and cement production.

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Solid Waste Management in the Middle East – Major Challenges

Middle East is one of the most prolific waste generating regions of the world. Lavish lifestyle, ineffective legislations, infrastructural roadblocks, indifferent public attitude and lack of environmental awareness are the major factors responsible for growing waste management problem in the Middle East. High standards of living are contributing to more generation of waste which when coupled with lack of waste collection and disposal facilities have transformed ‘trash’ into a liability.

Major Hurdles

The general perception towards waste is that of indifference and apathy. Waste is treated as ‘waste’ rather than as a ‘resource’. There is an urgent need to increase public awareness about environmental issues, waste management practices and sustainable living. Public participation in community-level waste management initiatives is lackluster mainly due to low level of environmental awareness and public education. Unfortunately none of the countries in the region have an effective source-segregation mechanism.

Solid waste management in the Middle East is bogged down by deficiencies in waste management legislation and poor planning. Many countries lack legislative framework and regulations to deal with wastes. Insufficient funds, absence of strategic waste management plans, lack of coordination among stakeholders, shortage of skilled manpower and deficiencies in technical and operational decision-making are some of the hurdles experienced in implementing an integrated waste management strategy in the region. In many countries waste management is the sole prerogative of state-owned companies and municipalities which discourage participation of private companies and entrepreneurs.

Though Islam put much stress on waste minimization, Arab countries are among the world’s highest per capita waste generator which is really unfortunate. Due to lack of garbage collection and disposal facilities, dumping of waste in open spaces, deserts and water bodies is a common sight across the region. Another critical issue is lack of awareness and public apathy towards waste reduction, source segregation and waste management.

A sustainable waste management system demands high degree of public participation, effective legislations, sufficient funds and modern waste management practices/technologies. The region can hope to improve waste management scenario by implementing source-segregation, encouraging private sector participation, deploying recycling and waste-to-energy systems, and devising a strong legislative and institutional framework.

Silver Lining

In recent year, several countries, like Qatar and UAE, have established ambitious solid waste management projects but their efficacy is yet to be ascertained. On the whole, Middle East countries are slowly, but steadily, gearing up to meet the challenge posed by waste management by investing heavily in such projects, sourcing new technologies and raising public awareness. However the pace of progress is not matched by the increasing amount of waste generated across the region. Sustainable waste management is a big challenge for policy-makers, urban planners and other stake-holders, and immediate steps are needed to tackle mountains of wastes accumulating in cities throughout the Middle East.

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Waste Management Perspectives for Egypt

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

A History of the Zabbaleen

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

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

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

Change is in the Air

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

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

Individual Action

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

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Garbage Woes in Cairo

Cairo, being one of the largest cities in the world, is home to more than 15 million inhabitants. Like other mega-cities, solid waste management is a huge challenge for Cairo municipality and other stakeholders.  The city produces more than 15,000 tons of solid waste every day which is putting tremendous strain on city’s infrastructure. Waste collection services in Cairo are provided by formal as well as informal sectors. While local authorities, such as the Cairo Cleanliness and Beautification Authority (CCBA), form the formal public sector, the informal public sector is comprised of traditional garbage-collectors (the Zabbaleen).

Around 60 percent of the solid waste is managed by formal as well as informal waste collection, disposal or recycling operations while the rest is thrown on city streets or at illegal dumpsites. The present waste management is causing serious ecological and public health problems in Cairo and adjoining areas. Infact, disposal of solid waste in water bodies has lead to contamination of water supplies is several parts of the city. Waste collection in Cairo is subcontracted to ‘zabbaleen’, local private companies, multinational companies or NGOs. The average collection rate ranges from 0 percent in slums to 90% in affluent residential areas.

The Zabbaleen of Cairo

The Zabbaleen, traditional waste collectors of Cairo, have been responsible for creating one of the world’s most efficient and sustainable resource-recovery and waste-recycling systems. Since 1950's, the Zabbaleen have been scouring the city of Cairo to collect waste from streets and households using donkey carts and pickup trucks. After bringing the waste to their settlement in Muqattam Village, also called Cairo’s garbage city, the waste is sorted and transformed into useful products like quilts, rugs, paper, livestock food, compost, recycled plastic products etc. After removing recyclable and organic materials, the segregated waste is passed onto various enterprises owned by Zabbaleen families.

The Zabbaleen collect around 60 percent of the total solid waste generated in Cairo and recycle up to 80 percent of the collected waste which is much higher than recycling efficiencies observed in the Western world.  Over the last few decades, the Zabbaleen have refined their collection and sorting methods, built their own labor-operated machines and created a system in which every man, child and woman works.

Tryst with International Companies

In 2002, international waste management companies started operations in Egypt, particularly Cairo, Alexandria and Giza governorates, and the Zabbaleen were sidelined. However after ten years of participation in solid waste management in Cairo, their performance has been dismal. Infact, in 2009 Egyptian government acknowledged that solid waste management has deteriorated alarmingly after the entry of foreign companies.

The waste management situation in Greater Cairo has assumed critical proportions because of high population, increased waste generation and lack of waste collection infrastructure and disposal facilities. Garbage accumulation on streets, along highways and in waterways is a common sight. As a result of the bad performance of multinational private sector companies in SWM in Egypt during the last decade, the level of street cleanliness deteriorated and the pollution resulting from open-burning of trash increased significantly.

Moreover, the Zabbaleen suffered loss of livelihood after the entry of foreign solid waste management companies due to restricted access to their main asset. The mass slaughtering of pigs in 2009, after fears of swine flu epidemic, has lead to accumulation of organic wastes in many parts of the city.

The waste management situation in Cairo is at a serious juncture and concerted efforts are required to improve waste collection and disposal services across the city. The involvement of Zabbaleen is essential to the success of any waste management plan and the Egyptian government must involve all stake-holders is putting together a sustainable waste management for Cairo.

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