Solid Waste Management in Tunisia

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

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

Borj Chakir Landfill

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

Recycling Situation

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

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

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

Future Outlook

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

Say ‘No’ to Disposables

The waste quantities in all parts of the world are increasing many folds. In the past three decades, the waste quantities have almost been doubled. The per capita waste generation is alarmingly high especially in GCC countries. The municipal and governmental authorities have to spend huge resources in collection, storage, transportation, treatment and disposal of these wastes. With limited recycling facilities and absence of reusing culture, more quantities of the waste is now to be managed.

Major part of our municipal waste is still heading towards our landfill sites where it is being dumped, compacted and covered. The landfills are in quarries areas which are becoming soon filled up with the waste. In Bahrain almost 1.7 cum of space is required to accommodate 1 tons of waste.

Use of disposable cutlery has been increasing exponentially in developing countries

Despite a growing push to recycle and reuse, we must try to correct not the symptoms but the disease, and to do that, we should all avoid and reduce. The use of ‘disposables’ in the Middle East has increased exponentially in recent years and the items and quantities are increasing with each passing day. Here are few suggestions to avoid the use of disposables in our daily lives:

  • Avoid Paper Cups and Plates as paper manufacturing consume trees and are bleached white with chlorine, a process that releases dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals on the planet, and emit methane, a greenhouse gas when trashed and thrown in a landfill.
  • Avoid Polystyrene & Styrofoam which are hazardous, carcinogens, cause air pollution and can cause nervous system impairments among workers. Styrene can leach from containers into our food. Polystyrene cannot be recycled and never biodegrades; it only breaks down into smaller pieces, polluting the environment and harming the animals that mistake it for food.
  • Avoid Bottled Water and use reusable containers for water storage and drinking.
  • Avoid Plastic and Paper Shopping Bags. Keep your own cloth bag ready for all occasions.
  • Avoid Plastic Utensils, paper napkins, plastic cutlery, forks, spoons and knives. Use chinaware or glassware instead.
  • Avoid Use rechargeable batteries instead of single use batteries. •Avoid using disposable diapers and use cloth diapers.
  • Using ink pen rather than ball points and getting a refillables. •Using handkerchief rather than tissue and paper towels.
  • Avoid using disposable stirrers and individually packaged sugar, milk and creamer. Use a spoon for stirring and place the sugar and milk in reusable containers or jugs.
  • Avoid using individual sachets of chilly, mayonnaise or ketchup sauce. Store the sauce in reusable bottles and dispensers instead.
  • Avoid Gift Wrapping and put the gift in a reusable bag instead..

Each time you throw something in the trash, please consider that you have paid its cost and are contributing towards more waste at the landfill.

Please avoid disposables. Be wise and environmental friendly.

What is Waste-to-Energy

Energy is the driving force for development in all countries of the world. The increasing clamor for energy and satisfying it with a combination of conventional and renewable resources is a big challenge. Accompanying energy problems in different parts of the world, another problem that is assuming critical proportions is that of urban waste accumulation.

The quantity of waste produced all over the world amounted to more than 12 billion tons in 2006, which increased to 13 billion tons in 2011. The rapid increase in population coupled with changing lifestyle and consumption patterns is expected to result in an exponential increase in waste generation of upto 18 billion tons by the year 2020.

Waste generation rates are affected by socio-economic development, degree of industrialization, and climate. Generally, the greater the economic prosperity and the higher percentage of urban population, the greater the amount of solid waste produced.

GCC countries are well-known for being the world’s top-ranked per capita waste generators. Reduction in the volume and mass of solid waste is a crucial issue especially in the light of limited availability of final disposal sites in the MENA countries. Millions of tons of waste are generated each year in the Middle East with the vast majority disposed of in open fields or burnt wantonly.

What is Waste to Energy

Waste-to-Energy (or WTE) is the use of modern combustion and biochemical technologies to recover energy, usually in the form of electricity and steam, from urban wastes. These new technologies can reduce the volume of the original waste by 90%, depending upon composition and use of outputs. The main categories of waste-to-energy technologies are physical technologies, which process waste to make it more useful as fuel; thermal technologies, which can yield heat, fuel oil, or syngas from both organic and inorganic wastes; and biological technologies, in which bacterial fermentation is used to digest organic wastes to yield fuel.

 

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

Biochemical processes, like anaerobic digestion, can also produce clean energy in the form of biogas which can be converted to power and heat using a gas engine. In addition, wastes can also yield liquid fuels, such as cellulosic ethanol, which can be used to replace petroleum-based fuels. Cellulosic ethanol can be produced from grasses, wood chips and agricultural residues by biochemical route using heat, pressure, chemicals and enzymes to unlock the sugars in biomass wastes. 

Conclusions

Waste-to-energy systems offer two important benefits of environmentally safe waste management and disposal, as well as the generation of clean electric power in the Middle East. Waste-to-energy is not only a solution to reduce the volume of waste that is and provide a supplemental energy source, but also yields a number of social benefits that cannot easily be quantified. The use of waste-to-energy as a method to dispose of solid and liquid wastes and generate power can significantly reduce environmental impacts of municipal solid waste management in the Middle East. 

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Waste-to-Energy Pathways

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

Thermochemical Conversion

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

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

Biochemical Conversion

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

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

Physico-chemical Conversion

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

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Litani River: A Sorry State of the Affairs

litani-river-pollutionThe Litani River, the largest river in Lebanon, faces a multitude of environmental problems. Due to decades of neglect and mismanagement, the river has become heavily polluted. The main contributors to the degradation of Litani River are industrial pollution from factories and slaughterhouse, untreated sewage, chemicals from agriculture runoffs and disposal of municipal waste. The pollution has reached such a level where it is obvious to the human eye.

The Litani River is a source of income for many families who use it in summer for many recreational activities; moreover, it is used for irrigation. On the banks of the Litani River, many hydroelectric and electric projects have been set up. The Lebanese government had made a dam that is linked to a hydroelectric power plant of 185MW capacity. The dam had been responsible for the formation of Qaraoun Lake; a polluted man-made lake.

In 2016, the World Bank approved a loan of $55 million to address the wastewater and agricultural runoff along the lake and the river.  The problem of the fund is that they did not give a bigger investment to agricultural runoff. The Litani provides irrigation to 80% of agriculture lands in Bekaa and 20% in south Lebanon. Many agricultural projects were implemented on the basin as Joun project and Al-Qasmieh project. Farmers are using the fertilizers and pesticides that are polluting the river with chemicals. On the other hand, farmers are impacted by the water they are using to irrigate their crops since it is polluted with chemicals and full of soil, gravel and sand.

Serious and concerted efforts are urgently required to restore Litani River to its lost glory

Serious and concerted efforts are urgently required to restore Litani River to its lost glory

Two years ago, the Lebanese government announced $730 million project to clean up the pollution of Qaraoun Lake and Litani river. The seven years ambitious plan is divided into four components: $14 million will go to solid waste treatment, $2.6 million for agricultural pollution, $2.6 million for industrial pollution and $712 million for sewage treatment.

The Way Forward

In order to save the Litani River, here are few steps that must be taken urgently:

  • Establish a sewage system especially for the new refugee camps near the river basin.
  • Promote measures to tackle the industrial pollution.
  • Stop industrial effluents from polluting the River.
  • Establish waste treatment plants in the area.
  • Hire staff to operate existing wastewater treatment plants. For example Zahle plant that lacks staff to operate.
  • Build water treatment facilities for the local communities.

Small steps can effectively reduce the pollution and restore the lost glory of the Litani River.  Thousands of people volunteered to clean up the Litani River on the national day of the Litani River. This took place after there was a huge online campaign titled “together to save the Litani River” initiated by activists. Thousands of people engaged online and then onsite to fish out rubbish; bulldozers removed accumulated sands and mud in the river from nearby sand quarries.

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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Waste-to-Energy in Jordan: Potential and Challenges

landfill-jordanEffective sustainable solid waste management is of great importance both for people’s health and for environmental protection. In Jordan, insufficient financial resources, growing population, rapid urbanization, inadequate management and lacking of technical skills represent a serious environmental challenge confronting local government. At the same time, energy remains Jordan’s top challenge for development. The energy needs to be produced in a sustainable way, preferably from renewable sources which have a minimum environmental impact. To face the future problems in waste management, as well as securing the demand of renewable energy, it is necessary to reuse the wasted resources in energy production.

Jordan has definitely acknowledged that making affordable energy solutions available is critical to support industries, investment, and attain sustainable growth. One option is to use solid waste to generate electricity in centralized plants. Waste-to-energy has been recognized as an effective approach to improve recycling rates, reduce the dependence on fossil fuels, reduce the amount of materials sent to landfills and to avoid pollution.

Waste-to-Energy Potential

According to recent statistics, Jordan population stands at around 9.5 million. The estimated municipal waste generated according to the last five years average production is around 3,086,075 ton/year. This huge amount of waste generated is not only a burden, but a potential resource for use in energy production. Considering the country average waste composition 40% is organic waste e.g. avoidable and unavoidable food waste (1,200,000 ton), 10 % are recyclable e.g. paper, plastic, glass, ferrous metals and aluminum (300,000 ton) and 50% are suitable for incineration e.g. garden and park waste, wood and textiles (1,500,000 ton) with high calorific value and energy potential (8.1 MJ/Kg) that is capable to produce electricity 340 kWh/ton waste. The high organic waste is suitable for methane gas capture technologies which is estimated at 170 m3/ton waste.

Technology Options

Nowadays, there are many technologies available which makes it possible to utilize these energy potentials. The major alternatives conventional technologies for large scale waste management are incineration, landfilling and anaerobic digestion. These technologies are affordable, economical visible and associated with minimum environmental impact. The production of electricity is combined with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the current energy situation (90% of the country energy produced from fossil fuel), the country emission factor is around 819 CO2-eq/kWh. However, the use of waste to energy solutions is considered to be a clean and definitely the amount of GHG emitted is a lot less than the gases generated by ordinary practices (open dumping and unsanitary landfills).

Construction of an incineration plant for electricity production is often a profitable system even though the installation cost is high since production of electricity often leads to a large economic gain. Landfill gas utilization avoids the release of untreated landfill gases into the atmosphere, and produces electricity to sell commercially in an environmental friendly manner. However, landfilling is associated with methane production. Methane is a potent GHG, contributing 21 times more to global warming than carbon dioxide.

Anaerobic digestion technology is another option. Anaerobic digestion not only decrease GHGs emission but also it is the best technology for treatment of high organic waste through converting the biodegradable fraction of the waste into high-quality renewable calorific gas. Currently, with the growing use of anaerobic technology for treating waste and wastewater, it is expected to become more economically competitive because of its enormous advantages e.g. reduction of pathogens, deactivation of weed seeds and production of sanitized compost.

alghabawi-landfill-jordan

Sorting at the place of generation and recycling e.g. paper, plastic, glass and metals needed to be practiced at the country level or at least where these technologies implemented. Incinerated waste containing plastics (not sorted) releases carbon dioxide, toxic substances and heavy metals to the atmosphere and contributes thereby to climate change and to global warming.

Challenges to Overcome

Waste-to-energy technologies offer enormous potentials as a renewable energy sources and to mitigate climate change in Joran. However, these technologies pose many challenges to the country and discussion makers. Currently, the waste sector is administrated by the government. Poor regulation and insufficient financial resources are limiting the available options toward adapting these new technologies. Private investments and collaboration with the private sector is the key solution in this regard.

EcoMENA – Vision and Mission

The MENA region is plagued by a host of issues including water scarcity, waste disposal, food security, industrial pollution and desertification. Providing free access to quality information and knowledge-based resources motivates youngsters in a big way. EcoMENA provides encouragement to masses in tackling major environmental challenges by empowering them with knowledge and by providing them a solid platform to share their views with the outside world.

Salman Zafar, Founder of EcoMENA, talks to the Florentine Association of International Relations (FAIR) about the vision, aims, objectives and rationale behind the creation of EcoMENA. The original version of the interview can be viewed at http://goo.gl/dnfa4K

 

FAIR: What is EcoMENA and what is its primary mission?

Salman Zafar: EcoMENA came into existence in early 2012 with the primary aim to raise environmental awareness in the MENA region and provide a one-stop destination for high-quality information on environment, energy, waste, water, sustainability and related areas.

EcoMENA has made remarkable progress within a short period of time and has huge knowledge base in English as well as Arabic catering to all aspects of sustainability sector, including renewable energy, resource conservation, waste management, environment protection and water management.

FAIR: How did the idea of such an activity come from?

Salman Zafar: While doing research sometimes back, I noticed lack of easily-accessible information on Middle East environmental sector. EcoMENA was launched to empower masses with updated information on Middle East sustainability sector and latest developments taking place worldwide.

EcoMENA is an online information powerhouse freely accessible to anyone having an interest in sustainable development. Our articles, reports and analyses are well-researched, well-written and of the highest professional standards.

FAIR: What is the “state of the art” in the field of sustainability and environment protection in the MENA countries?

Salman Zafar: Unfortunately environment protection is not given due importance by regional countries, though there has been some high-profile initiatives like Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. Sustainability is, no doubt, making its way in the Middle East but the progress has been slow and unsatisfactory.

The MENA region is plagued by a host of issues including water scarcity, waste disposal, food security, industrial pollution and desertification. A regional initiative with a multi-pronged strategy is urgently required to protect the environment and conserve scarce natural resources.

FAIR: What are EcoMENA aims and initiatives for the future?

Salman Zafar: One of the major objectives of EcoMENA is to provide a strong platform for Middle East youngsters to showcase their talents. We are mentoring young students and providing them opportunities to display their innovativeness, creativity and dedication towards environment protection.

Providing free access to quality information and knowledge-based resources motivates youngsters in a big way. EcoMENA provides encouragement to people in tackling major environmental challenges by empowering them with knowledge and by providing them a solid platform to share their views with the outside world. With soaring popularity of social media, networking plays a vital role in assimilation of ideas, knowledge-sharing, scientific thinking and creativeness.

We have a strong pool of expert writers from different parts of the world, and remarkably supported by a handful of volunteers from across the MENA region. Apart from being an information portal, EcoMENA also provide expert guidance and mentorship to entrepreneurs, researchers, students and general public.

FAIR: Do you think there is enough attention and sensitiveness in the sustainable development?

Salman Zafar: Things are slowly, but steadily, changing in most of the MENA countries and a more concerted and organized effort is required to bring about a real change in the prevalent environmental scenario.

A green MENA requires proactive approach from all stakeholders including governments, corporates and general public. Strong environmental laws, promotion of clean energy and eco-friendly projects, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, institutional support and funding, implementing resource conservation, raising environmental awareness and fostering entrepreneurial initiatives are some of the measures that may herald a ‘green revolution’ in the region.

FAIR: In your opinion, what is the “added value” of your mission?

Salman Zafar: EcoMENA endeavor to create mass awareness about the need for clean and green environment in the Middle East through articles, projects, events and campaigns. EcoMENA is counted among the best and most popular Middle East sustainability initiatives with wide following across the world.

Our goal is to transform EcoMENA into a regional cleantech and environmental hub by providing quality information, professional solutions and high level of motivation to people from all walks of life.

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Waste-to-Energy Outlook for the Middle East

The high rate of population growth, urbanization and economic expansion in the Middle East is not only accelerating consumption rates but also increasing the generation rate of all sorts of waste. High-income Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait are counted as world’s largest waste producers in terms of per capita waste generation which is more than 2kg per day in some countries. The urban waste generation from the region has now crossed 150 million tons per year which has forced policy-makers and urban planners to look for sustainable waste management solutions, including recycling and waste-to-energy.

Let us take a look at solid waste generation in major countries across the Middle East region:

Country

MSW Generation

(million tons per annum)

Saudi Arabia

15

United Arab Emirates

6

Qatar

2.5

Kuwait

2

Bahrain

1.5

Egypt

20

Tunisia

2.3

Morocco

5

Lebanon

1.6

Jordan

2

In addition, huge quantity of sewage sludge is also generated in the Middle East which presents a serious problem due to its high treatment costs and risk to environment and human health. On an average, the rate of wastewater generation is 80-200 litres per person each day and sewage output is rising by 25 percent every year across the region.

Conversion Pathways

Municipal solid waste is a very good source of biomass in the Middle East. Municipal solid waste is comprised of organic fraction, paper, glass, plastics, metals, wood etc. Almost 50% of the solid waste is contributed by organic matter.

Municipal solid waste can be converted into energy by conventional technologies (such as incineration, mass-burn and landfill gas capture). Municipal solid waste can also be efficiently converted into energy and fuels by advanced thermal technologies, such as gasification and pyrolysis.

At the landfill sites, the gas produced by the natural decomposition of MSW is collected from the stored material and scrubbed and cleaned before feeding into internal combustion engines or gas turbines to generate heat and power. In addition, the organic fraction of MSW can be anaerobically stabilized in a high-rate digester to obtain biogas for electricity or steam generation.

Anaerobic digestion is the most preferred option to extract energy from sewage, which leads to production of biogas and organic fertilizer. The sewage sludge that remains can be incinerated or gasified/pyrolyzed to produce more energy. In addition, sewage-to-energy processes also facilitate water recycling.

Relevance for Middle East

The variety of technological options available means that waste-to-energy can be applied at a small, localized scale primarily for heat, or it can be used in much larger base-load power generation capacity whilst also producing heat. Waste-to-energy conversion can thus be tailored to rural or urban environments in the Middle East, and utilized in domestic, commercial or industrial applications in the entire region.

The world’s dependence on Middle East energy resources has caused the region to have some of the largest carbon footprints per capita worldwide. The GCC region is now gearing up to meet the challenge of global warming, as with the rapid growth of the waste management sector. During the last few years, UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have unveiled multi-billion dollar investment plans to Improve waste management scenario. In particular, the establishment of Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre in Qatar has catalyzed public interest in deployment of waste-to-energy systems in the Middle East.

Energy recovery from MSW is rapidly gaining worldwide recognition as the fourth ‘R’ in sustainable waste management system – Reuse, Reduce, Recycle and Recover. A transition from conventional waste management system to one based on sustainable practices is necessary to address environmental concerns and to foster sustainable development in the region.

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Waste Management in Jeddah

Jeddah, a major commercial hub in the Middle East, is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia. Solid waste management is a big problem in Jeddah as the city’s population is increasing at a rapid pace and has now touched 3.5 million. More than 5,000 tons of solid waste is produced every day and Jeddah municipal authorities are finding it increasingly hard to cope with the problem of urban waste.

The management of solid waste in Jeddah begins with collection of wastes from bins scattered across residential and commercial areas. Wastes is collected and sent to transfer stations from where it ultimately goes to the dumping site. Most of the MSW is disposed in the landfill facility at Buraiman which receives approximately 1.5 million tons of waste per year and has an expected lifespan of between 30 and 40 years.

Buraiman or (Almusk) Lake, has been the dumping site of Jeddah's sewage wastewater for more than a decade. Wastewater accumulates in underground cesspools and then transported by truck tankers to the sewage lake. The lake lies in east of Jeddah within the catchment of Wadi Bani Malek at about 130m above mean sea level. It contains more than 10 million cubic meters of sewage water spread over an area of 2.88 km2.

The sewage lake has caused some wells in Jeddah to become poisoned due to raw sewage leaking into aquifers. Some studies have reported that water table under Jeddah is rising at 50cm per year which is attributed to the inflow of untreated sewage. As the only dumpsite for municipal sewage and industrial waste, Buraiman Lake is continuously increasing in size, constantly moving towards the south, and is now reported to be only three kilometres away from city houses.

The lake was created as a stopgap measure to deal with the increasing amounts of wastewater in the growing city. Jeddah's residents use an estimated 200 litres of water per capita per day. The lake was to be used for depositing this water until a functioning sewage system was created. But plans were delayed because of inadequate funding. As 70 percent of Jeddah households are not connected to sewerage pipelines, wastewater accumulates in underground cesspools and later transported by lorries to Buraiman Lake.

About 50,000 cubic metres of water are transported to the 2.5 million square-metre lake each day. Only a small percentage of the waste water from the remaining 30 per cent of Jeddah households goes to treatment plants for purification before being dumped in the Red Sea. Most of the waste water that is accumulated through pipes is dumped directly into the sea without purification.

Keeping in view the prevalent waste management scenario, Jeddah municipality is continuously seeking ways to develop city’s sewage treatment infrastructure. However, the current infrastructure is incapable of handling the present generation of raw sewage, leading to the continued storing untreated sewage at Buraiman Lake and dumping the remaining portion directly into the Red Sea. 

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Earth Day 2014 – Focus on Green Cities

Earth Day, celebrated annually on April 22, marks the birth of modern environmental movement. Earth Day has now grown into a global tradition making it the largest civic observance in the world and is one of the widely celebrated events in which over one billion people from over 190 countries participate by taking suitable actions for saving our mother Earth. The Earth Day was first organised in 1970 to promote respect for life on the planet and to encourage awareness on air, water and soil pollution. Each year a different theme or topic is selected.

Earth Day 2014

Earth Day 2014 will focus on ‘Green Cities’ as a unique environmental challenge to make our livelihood environmental friendly. Due to rising population, more migration is taking place from rural to urban areas. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities with urbanisation rates rising and impacts of climate change have prompted the need to create sustainable communities. The Earth day is observed believing that nothing is more powerful than the collective action of a billion people.

It is a fact that people are crowding cities and with the increase in population density, pollution of all sorts is increasing as well. Many cities are finding it difficult to cope with this fast urbanisation and to provide basic facilities like shelter, infrastructures, water, sanitation, sewerage, garbage, electricity, transportation etc. to its inhabitants.

People who live in high-density air pollution area, have 20 per cent higher risk of dying from lung cancer, than people living in less polluted areas. Children contribute to only 10 per cent of the world’s population but are prone to 40 per cent of global diseases. More than 3 million children under the age of 5 years die every year due to environmental factors like pollution.

Earth Day 2014 will seek to create awareness amongst people to act in an environmental friendly manner, promote and do smart investments in sustainable urban system transforming our polluted cities into a healthier place and forge a sustainable future. It’s exceptionally challenging for our communities and cities to be green.

Action Plan

It’s time for us to invest in efficiency and renewable energy, rebuild our cities and towns, and begin to solve the climate crisis. Over the next two years, with a focus on Earth Day 2014, the Green Cities campaign will mobilise a global movement to accelerate this transition. Most of the Middle East nations have limited land area and are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change which is affecting the social and environmental determinants of health, clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.

We need to audit our actions and see what are we contributing towards your environment and community? Earth Day is a day for action; a chance to show how important the environment is to us. Earth Day is about uniting voices around the globe in support of a healthy planet. The earth is what we all have in common.

Let us be a part of this green revolution, plan and participate in Earth Day activities moving from single-day actions, such as park cleanups and tree-planting parties to long-term actions and commitments and make our city a healthier place to live as the message of the Earth Day is to “Actively participate and adopt environmental friendly habits”.

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Islamic Principles on Sustainable Development

A huge number of verses in Qura’n and several sayings of the Prophet Muhammad indicate the great importance that has been given to environmental concerns and the responsibility of man to the environment. The concept of sustainable development in Islam can be defined as “The balanced and simultaneous realization of consumer welfare, economic efficiency, attainment of social justice, and ecological balance in the framework of a evolutionary knowledge-based, socially interactive model defining the Shuratic process”The Shuratic process is the consultation or participatory ruling principle of Islam.

The over arching principle in the use of nature is derived from the prophetic declaration that states: "There shall be no damage and no infliction of damage". The right to benefit from the essential environmental elements and resources such as water, minerals, land, forests, fish and wildlife, arable soil, air and sunlight is in Islam, a right held in common by all members of society.  Each individual is entitled to benefit from a common resource subject to establishing the degree of need, (needs have to be distinguished from wants) and the impact on the environment.

Earth is mentioned 61 times in the Qura’n. According to Islam, the universe has been created by Allah (God) with a specific purpose and for a limited time. The utilization of natural resources (ni‘matullah – the gifts of Allah) is a sacred trust invested in mankind; he is a mere manager and not an owner, a beneficiary and not a disposer. Side by side, the Islamic nation has been termed as) ummatan wasatan) the moderate nation in the Qur’an, a nation that avoids excesses in all things. Thus, Muslims in particular have to utilize the earth responsibly for their benefit, honestly maintain and preserve it, use it considerately and moderately, and pass it on to future generations in an excellent condition. This includes the appreciation of its beauty and handing it over in a way that realizes the worship of Allah.

The utilization of all natural resources – land, water, air, fire (energy), forests, oceans – are considered the right and the joint property of the entire humankind. Since Man is Khalifatullah (the vicegerent of Allah) on earth, he should take every precaution to ensure the interests and rights of others, and regard his mastery over his allotted piece of land as a joint ownership with the next generation. 

Land Reclamation

Prophet Muhammad said, "Whosoever brings dead land to life, for him is a reward in it, and whatever any creature seeking food eats of it shall be reckoned as charity from him". The Prophet in another occasion said, "There is no Muslim who plants a tree or sows a field for a human, bird, or animal eats from it, but it shall be reckoned as charity from him"; and, "If anyone plants a tree, no human nor any of the creatures of Allah will eat from it without it being reckoned as charity from him". This testifies the importance the Prophet in the early days of Islam has given to reclamation of land and the equal rights of all God’s creatures to benefit from the resources of earth. 

Wildlife Protection

Wildlife and natural resources are protected under Shariah (Rules of Islam) by zoning around areas called “hima”. In such places, industrial development, habitation, extensive grazing, are not allowed. The Prophet himself, followed by the Caliphs of Islam, established such “hima” zones as public property or common lands managed and protected by public authority for conservation of natural resources.

Water Rights

In the Shariah, there is a responsibility placed on upstream farms to be considerate of downstream users. A farm beside a stream is forbidden to monopolize its water. After withholding a reasonable amount of water for his crops, the farmer must release the rest to those downstream. Furthermore, if the water is insufficient for all of the farms along the stream, the needs of the older farms are to be satisfied before the newer farm is permitted to irrigate. This reflects the sustainable utilization of water based on its safe yield.

Environment Protection

The rights to benefit from nature are linked to accountability and maintenance or conservation of the resource. The fundamental legal principle established by the Prophet Muhammad is that "The benefit of a thing is in return for the liability attached to it.” Much environmental degradation is due to people's ignorance of what their Creator requires of them. People should be made to realize that the conservation of the environment is a religious duty demanded by God. God has said.  “And do good as Allâh has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the earth. Allâh does not love the corrupters”, (Al Qasas 28:77.(

Waste Generation

Islam calls for the efficient use of natural resources and waste minimization. God says in Qura’n: “Eat and drink, but waste not by excess; “He” loves not the excessive”, (Al-A'raf 7:31). "And do not follow the bidding of the excessive, who cause corruption in the earth and do not work good”, (Ash-Shu'ara 26: 151-152). “And do not cause corruption in the earth, when it has been set in order”, (Al-A'râf 7:56).

Water Pollution

Water also plays another socio-religious function: cleaning of the body and clothes from all dirt, impurities, and purification so that mankind can be presentable at all times. Only after cleaning with pure (colorless, odorless and tasteless) water, Muslims are allowed to pray. One can only pray at a place that has been cleaned. In light of these facts, Islam stresses on preventing pollution of water resources. Urinating in water (discharging wastewater into water stream) and washing or having a bath in stagnant water are forbidden acts in Islam. The Prophet said: "No one should bathe in still water, when he is unclean”. 

Water Conservation

The teachings of Prophet Muhammad emphasize the proper use of water without wasting it. The Prophet said: “Don’t waste water even if you are on a running river”. He also said: “Whoever increases (more than three), he does injustice and wrong”.  

Sustainable Forestry

Islamic legislation on the preservation of trees and plants finds its roots in Qura’nic teachings of Prophet. They include the following:Whoever plants a tree and looks after it with care, until it matures and becomes productive, will be rewarded in the Hereafter” and “If anyone plants a tree or sows a field and men, beasts or birds eat from it, he should consider it as a charity on his part". He is also reported to have encouraged tree planting as a constructive practice, saying that even if one hour remained before the final hour and one has a palm-shoot in his hand, he should plant it. Even at times of war, Muslim leaders, such as Abu Baker, advised their troops not to chop down trees and destroy agriculture or kill an animal.

Public Participation

The protection, conservation, and development of the environment and natural resources is a mandatory religious duty to which every Muslim should be committed. This commitment emanates from the individual's responsibility before God to protect himself and his community.  God has said, "Do good, even as God has done you good, and do not pursue corruption in the earth. God does not love corrupters”.

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