Recycling of Aluminium Cans

Aluminium is a soft, durable and lightweight metal, made from Bauxite ore, which is mined from the earth. Bauxite is converted into alumina, a fine white powder, which is then smelted at over 700°C to become aluminium, which is one of the versatile products universally being used by consumers in a number of applications. The process is expensive and uses huge resources, including energy and fuel. Making cans out of aluminium for storing soft drinks and juices is one of the commonly used phenomenons as it takes five tonnes of Bauxite to make just one tonne of aluminium cans.

Many of the food and drink products we buy are packaged in cans made from either aluminium or steel and both of these materials can be easily recycled after we have finished with them to make either new cans or other allied suitable products.

Aluminium cans are very common in our daily life and is often consumed as  drink containers and later thrown as garbage in bins or being littered on streets and open plots. The good thing is that these cans provide source of food and income to many poor people who resort to collect them from the bins and open areas and sell it to the middle recycling shops in exchange of money. This practice is certainly restricting huge quantities of cans going to municipal landfill sites saving valuable space and is prompting informal recyclable material collection.

The aluminium can is the world’s most recycled packaging container. We need to understand that all aluminium cans are 100% recyclable. It can take up to 500 years for aluminium cans to decompose. Aluminium does not degrade during the recycling process, which means it can be repeatedly recycled many a times. Recycling aluminium saves millions of tonnes of greenhouse gasses, energy, electricity and fuel for its transportation. Making aluminium cans from recycled materials requires less than 5% of the energy used to make new aluminium cans from Bauxite.

The recycling of aluminium generally produces significant cost savings over the production of new aluminium even when the cost of collection, separation and recycling are taken into account. Over the long term, even larger national savings are made when the reduction in the capital costs associated with landfills, mines and international shipping of raw aluminium are considered.

It is our environmental and social duty to separate aluminium cans from other domestic waste and either give to recyclers or separately discard it at bins, so that it can be easily collected by poor iterants. Before disposal, ensure that the aluminium cans are empty and not soiled and damaged. The collected cans in the Middle East are then taken to a local recycling facility where they are crushed, compacted, baled and later transported and exported to other countries for recycling, where they are milled and remade into new products.

Important fact is that recycling an aluminium can saves enough energy to run a television for three hours. If we throw away two aluminium cans, we waste more energy than is used daily by each of the billion human beings in the developing world.

We need to conserve our environmental resources and practice environmental friendly habits including aluminium can segregation and recycling. Brazil, recycles more than 98% of its aluminium can production, ranking first in the world followed by Japan with 83% recovery rate. Let us strive to make Middle East a recycling heaven and protecting our resources from any kind of pollution.

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Tips for a Green Ramadan

Ramadan is quite different from other months in terms of activities, praying and eating habits. During this month, Muslims should abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset to boost physical and mental endurance and to understand the hardships faced by the poor and needy  who do not have enough resources to satisfy their basic necessities. The true meaning of Ramadan is purifying ourselves, taking care of our body, soul, people, surrounding and ecosystems which is supporting us.

The month of Ramadan is a golden opportunity to consider making a shift towards a ‘green lifestyle’ that is environmental friendly, non-polluting, non-wasteful and aim toward saving of natural resources. The green lifestyle means improving the quality of life and achieving sustainable development.

Like celebrating so many environmental days, Earth Day, World Environment Day etc., why not celebrate the Ramadan as a greening month. Let us create awareness on the subject, think and act positively towards our environment and change our unfriendly habits which are impacting our ecosystem. Let us seize this opportunity provided by Ramadan and offer a model for a green and responsible behavior that addresses the urgent environmental issues.

Go Green During Ramadan

Ramadan witness an overconsumption of meat, vegetables and fruits together with drinks, juices and syrups. We become more extravagant in terms of using food and resources. So, let us exercise moderation on these consumptions, eat healthy and organic food in manageable quantities. Let us grow vegetables and fruits at our available land. Use food items judiciously and avoid any wastage.

Let us be away from sins and habits that pollute our air, soil and water resources. Let us be aware of our wasteful habits which are affecting the environmental and our future generations. Any mismanagement of our precious resources will be having irreversible impacts on our ecology. Let us make concerted effort to encourage and embrace “green”  and ecofriendly practices, especially during Ramadan.

Ramadan presents the perfect opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries for the year. It is a time to seek forgiveness for our misgivings and to reflect upon the signs of creation from Allah. As Muslims, we have a duty as stewards over this planet, and it is our responsibility to ensure that the resources and environment are used in a sustainable manner.

Let this month not only harness our mental and physical ability but also be a turning point for respecting our resources and environment. Some basic tips for a green Ramadan are:

  • Support and utilize local produce.
  • Plan food intake with proper nutrition and at suitable timings.
  • Cut down and eliminate intake of fast food.
  • Reducing the water usage, especially during making ‘wadoo’/ ablution. Be vigilant that the tap is closed. Any dripping should be eliminated to conserve precious water.
  • Reducing our energy and carbon footprint.
  • Generating less quantity of waste. Emphasizing on recycling and reuse.
  • No littering at any places especially common areas, commercial and religious places and shopping areas.
  • Minimum or no use of plastic bags. Using less paper and stationery.
  • Switching off appliances after use like lights, ACs, fans, heaters, iron etc.
  • Using electrical appliances like washing machines, iron, vacuum cleaner and dishwashers in off peak hours.
  • Planting a tree and taking care of plantation.
  • Replacing lights blubs from incandescent to CFLs or LEDs and turning off lights when they are not in use.
  • Similarly, at the mosque, keeping outside doors closed when the air conditioning is on and dimming the lights also reduces energy consumption as well.
  • Eliminate disposables plates, cutlery, cups, containers etc.
  • Avoid using Styrofoam containers and plastic cutlery.

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Trash Talk from Doha

recycling-dohaOn arriving a few years ago from a town in the UK that boasts a university course in waste management, and a very efficient weekly recyclable waste collection from our houses, I was a bit shocked, like many Europeans by how difficult it was to recycle in Doha. Having had the moral obligation to recycle drummed into me since I was quite young, I felt guilty throwing away all my waste into one bin, destined to fill up a huge smelly hole in the desert, where it would take a long time, if not forever to biodegrade.

The Real Picture

I was determined to find a place to recycle and was happy when I found out that the park of Dahl al Hammam, just 5 minutes’ drive from my villa, had 7 different large recycling banks. These have to be emptied into trucks daily, due to their enthusiastic filling, mostly by Europeans who make the effort to come from many different compounds that are further away than my own. Waste materials can be sorted into two banks for paper and cardboard, two banks for metal and plastic, two banks for glass and another one for second hand but good quality clothes for charity. 

I have been trying to determine over the last four years if all our conscientious efforts to sort, collect and transport our preciously gathered waste materials have been in vain or not. Are they actually taken to factories where they are recycled into new products or not? I see a lot of small recycling bins in educational institutions, which seem to be more of an experiment to observe human behaviour, and to get people to start separating the things they throw away, rather than a real improvement in recycling. Often all separated waste from these is taken away and put in one bin, and then taken to the normal landfill!

I asked a security officer in Dahl al Hammam, and he reassured me that the materials from the banks are indeed taken to the sorting plant in Al-Messaieed. I am still a little unsure.  In Al-Mesaieed there is a very large Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre (DSWMC). The plant has been online since 2011 and of the waste they receive, 95% is recycled or converted into energy.  Organic material is composted at what is the world’s largest composting plant; plastics and metals recycled and other material incinerated, with the heat generated used to produce 40 MW of electricity. However this $550M plant by 2013, two years after its opening, had already reached its processing capacity of 2300 tonnes daily, for sorting rubbish.

Gravity of the Situation

In 2012 a staggering total of 871000 tonnes of solid household waste, or 28 000 tonnes per day were produced by Qatar, a rise of 7% from 2011, increasing at a rate exceeding Qatar’s Government expectations and preparations. The per capita generation of waste in Qatar of 1.6kg to 1.8kg each day is about four times that of Hong Kong and is one of the highest globally. Besides this it has been estimated that 5000 tonnes of waste are produced daily by industry and construction. In 2011 only 8% of waste was recycled.

To cope with the challenge of waste management, Qatar urgently requires more projects like Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre (DSWMC) at Al-Mesaieed

To cope with the challenge of waste management, Qatar urgently requires more projects like Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre (DSWMC) at Al-Mesaieed

Qatar unfortunately has the second largest ecological footprint on the planet, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature’s report in 2014, a substantial contribution to this is the damage to ecosystems and the carbon footprint incurred through all its imports. Being a small peninsula on the edge of the hot and usually arid Arabian Desert, Qatar has to import nearly everything that it needs from far and wide. It would like to be more independent and resilient and is working in that direction. The fall in the price of oil earlier this year, and therefore in the income of Qatar, has added pressure now to reduce expenditure, and to better balance the books. 

The Way Forward

One way it can fulfil these aims is to become more efficient in its use of resources. If it can reuse many of the materials from the products that it uses, then it will reduce the need to import more goods, thereby cutting costs, carbon emissions and ecosystem damage. This it can do this through applying the famous ‘reduce, re-use, and recycle’ motto. A famous English saying is ‘waste not want not’, which means that if you are not wasteful in times of plenty, and make maximum use of everything, then you will have enough left for times of difficulty. The Holy Quran also says, ‘O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer. Eat and drink but waste not through excess, for Allah loves not the wasters’(7:31). The Qatar National Development Strategy 2011-16 aimed to boost waste recycled to 38% by 2016, a definite challenge in the face of rapid development and population increases.

One challenge in Qatar is mixed nature of most of the rubbish. This is partly due to the lack of accessible information about existing collectors of sorted recyclable materials. Another is the insufficient awareness in the most of the population about the importance of not dropping litter, reducing wastage and separating materials. An issue being addressed is the currently insufficient infrastructure to sort and separate mixed rubbish- which represents the majority of rubbish collected today. Also factories that process used materials to improve their quality are rare, and few Qatari industries utilise such salvaged materials as an input. All sectors need to work together concurrently to improve awareness and education, and the sorting, collection and processing of useful materials extracted from waste, to utilise them for the manufacture of new products in Qatar.

To facilitate these, a constantly updated website could be set up to link companies, organisations and institutions, and make them aware of each other’s waste outputs. According to the Qatar Development Bank, the revenue potential from solid waste could be as high as QR 2.24 billion with QR 979.16 million coming from recycling household waste. Hopefully more bright sparks in Qatar will soon spot the great business opportunities available from recycled materials, to help Qatar to be more self-sufficient and reduce Qatar’s ecological footprint.

Note: The article is being republished with the kind permission of The Peninsular Qatar. The original article can be read at this link

Don’t Mess with Dahab – An Introduction

No matter where I were in the world right now, I'd be writing about the same problem – trash –  because it's not just the streets and shores of Dahab that are littered with rubbish. Travel to coastal cities around the world and you'll find many of the beaches in much the same state. Cairo and other places in Egypt are also dealing with their own problems of waste management.

There always seems to be a lot of talk about the obstacles we face in dealing with this problem: Garbage collection services provided by the city government are inefficient. Dumpsters are sparse and broken, causing the trash to be scattered along the road by the wind or hungry goats and sheep. The blame often gets laid on the people in charge of dealing with our trash; rarely do we take the blame ourselves.

It's time we stop for a moment and consider what we, as individuals, can do without the assistance of waste collection services, whether they are private or public. Because if there's one thing we can control, it's the amount of trash we each produce. If each of us “throws away” less rubbish, there will be less rubbish for the wind to blow around, less rubbish for the goats to scamper through, less rubbish finding its way into our seas and deserts, and less rubbish piling up in the streets waiting for someone to clean!

If you've participated in a clean-up event or had a closer look at the piles of rubbish lying around, you've probably realized that a lot of our trash is plastic. There are a lot of environmental and health problems associated with plastic and for the sake of humanity's well being, we cannot wait any longer to do something about the sheer amount of plastic polluting our earth.

Learning how to use less disposable plastic is something I've been working on personally for the past several years. Last year, I began writing the Don't Mess with Dahab blog to share with others what I've discovered. Now, I'll be contributing here on EcoMENA and I'll be sharing ways that each of us can reduce our use of disposable plastic. While I won't be able to suggest specific stores, restaurants, or companies like I do on Don't Mess with Dahab, I will be sharing ideas for alternatives to single-use plastic. I'll also discuss the different types of plastic, the problems associated with each, recyling plastics and more. As we'll see, these strategies will not only benefit the environment, but also your health and your wallet, as many of these tips will save you money.

It is my hope that my blogs will help us all become more aware, more responsible, and more pro-active when it comes to our personal health and the health of our environment.

And if you're wondering where the title of my blog, Don't Mess with Dahab, comes from, well, that's the Texan in my heart, who remembers with fondness the Don't Mess with Texas anti-litter campaign. Sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation, the campaign was quite successful and over the years the phrase ingrained itself into Texan culture. It's a matter of pride. And while my blog is not focused on litter exactly, I called Texas home for 9 years of my life and the phrase Don't Mess with Texas still puts a smile on my face.

So let's all be proud of our home, native or adopted, wherever we are in the world and work towards making it a cleaner place!

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle


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Waste Management Awareness in Oman: A Pilot Study

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

Insights into the Survey

The questionnaire covered household consumption habits, food waste and other household waste, and awareness of the four Rs, with particular attention to recycling. The main focus of the survey was on food waste. Of the 21 questions, fifteen were multiple-choice, with write-in options for any needed explanation. There were six open-ended questions, inviting respondents to give their opinion or share something of their experiences and knowledge of the topic. 

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

Who take care of grocery shopping?

60 percent of respondents said that in their household, the wife usually took care of the grocery shopping. 20 percent said the husband had that responsibility, and another 20 percent said that both husband and wife regularly did the grocery shopping together. When asked how often (monthly, weekly, daily, or not regularly) the grocery shopping was done in their households, most respondents said that it depended on the commodity. Dry goods such as rice, pulses, flour, sugar, and coffee were purchased in larger quantities on a monthly basis, while most households shopped for fruits, vegetables, milk and bread at least once a week.

Do you prefer to buy food in bulk or pre-packaged?

In response to this question: Do you prefer to buy food in bulk (by the gram/kilogram) or pre-packaged? they answered patiently (but clearly some thought it was a silly question) that of course “it depends on the type of food.” Some foods were fresher and cheaper in bulk, whereas other foods were cleaner and free of impurities when packaged at the factory. Eighty percent of respondents stated that they shopped at a supermarket for most of their household groceries; 50 percent of them said that they regularly shopped at an outdoor market (such as a fish or vegetable market) for certain commodities. No respondents said that they relied on small shops for their grocery shopping.

A few of the middle-aged respondents recalled that when they were children, there was not much choice when one went to the market. Their parents could buy staples such as rice, flour, tea, coffee and sugar, and a few varieties of greens and fruits. Nowadays, one of them remarked, shopping at the supermarket they had trouble deciding between the many processed and packaged products on offer, such as cheeses, yoghurts, juices, sweets, and imported fresh and frozen meats and other produce.

Seventy percent of those surveyed said they used the free ‘disposable’ plastic bags dispensed by the shops, and only 30 percent took their own reusable bag or other reusable receptacle to do their shopping. However, those who did go to the outdoor markets said they often brought their own cartons or plastic vegetable crates in order to carry the produce home in their cars. When asked what their parents or grandparents had used for their shopping, 40 percent said “a basket” and 60 percent said “a box” (meaning either a vegetable crate or a carton). Apparently plastic bags were not an option in “the old days.”

Do you find that your household ends up throwing out food?

The interviewer mentioned to each respondent the statistics that came from the 2012 Sultan Qaboos University study on household food waste in Oman, and posed this question: Do you find that your household/family ends up throwing out food that was not eaten before it spoiled? The responses were somewhat unexpected. Only 30 percent reported that their household regularly had to throw away uneaten food. The other 70 percent said that when there was any food left over from a family meal or a child’s dish, it was fed to animals such as chickens and goats. Several female respondents mentioned that in general they only prepared enough food to feed their own family and perhaps to send a plateful of it to a neighbour.

The exception to this pattern was when they had guests, in which case it was compulsory to prepare greater quantities than usual. Respondents who brought up the subject of hosting and special occasions explained that in Omani culture it was considered a sign of respect for their guests and a point of honour for their family if they served more food than the guests could actually eat. Therefore, weddings, the arrival of a newborn, the two Eids and other celebrations could be expected to result in substantial quantities of wasted food. However, according to several respondents, “back in the village” this is not what happened. Tribal and local municipal regulations actually prohibited the disposal of large quantities of food waste at dumpsites.

The main reason given was that leaving leftover food outside was “bad for the livestock.” That is, a camel will naturally eat as much food as it finds, and if discarded food such as rice is left out in the open, the camel will continue to eat until it gets sick. This surprising claim about camels eating cooked rice seems to be supported by scientific research: “Yagil (1990) observed that camels selected feed which is highly digestible, especially rich in easily fermentable carbohydrates and having high water contents [sic].” Cooked rice fits all three criteria.

Furthermore, camels are proficient at “eating in excess of their immediate needs and storing the extra as fat in the hump.” So out of necessity to protect the health of the camels, it was forbidden to scatter uneaten food. Instead, whoever hosted an event at which quantities of excess food remained would take the food immediately to any nearby encampment of migrant workers and distribute it there. Alternatively, the hosts would distribute it to needy families in their community. If it was not possible to donate the leftover food to others, it was dried in the sun to preserve it and then fed in small quantities to livestock such as goats and chickens.

Comparison between 'Now' and 'Then'

When asked to compare the level of household food waste generated today and when they were children, there was unanimous agreement among respondents that either no or little food was ever wasted “back then,” whereas modern-day urban living has made it harder to avoid wasting food. The respondent above-mentioned who had remarked on the great variety of options available in supermarkets posited that this meant that people ended up buying more than they could practically consume. Another factor suggested by respondents as leading to increased food waste is simply living in a big city where no one notices what you throw in your rubbish bin: back in the village or small town, neighbours would know exactly what your family has tossed into the local dump, so there was a sort of peer pressure against food waste.

In a big city no one notices what you throw in your rubbish bin

In a big city no one notices what you throw in your rubbish bin

What type of drinking water does your household consume?

As a follow-on to consumption patterns for food, the survey asked what type of drinking water each household consumed. In most parts of Oman, it is assumed that tap water is not safe for drinking. Eighty percent of respondents said they subscribed to a commercial service for drinking water. Of those, two-thirds purchased refillable water dispensers (such as Salsabeel, a local brand), usually delivered to their homes as part of the service; one-third bought water from the ubiquitous blue tanker trucks that also deliver to residences in Muscat and other cities and towns.  No households in the survey used non-refillable plastic water bottles (such as Masafi or Oasis brand) as their primary source of drinking water, but thirty percent said they used them on occasion, especially when travelling by road.

Interviewees were asked which of these components (food, plastic packaging/bags, paper/cardboard, plastic bottles or “other”) made up most of the refuse found in their own household rubbish bins. Half of them asserted it was plastic packaging or plastic bags, one-third believed it to be paper and/or cardboard, and the remaining respondents said it was plastic bottles (such as containers for juice, water and household disinfectants).

Are you aware of any local programme for recycling?

The questions about plastic water bottles and what types of material were trashed led to this next query: Are you aware of any local programme for recycling? Only twenty percent of respondents answered “Yes,” and of those, none were aware of any active recycling programme in their neighbourhood or workplace. One respondent thought that the 2013 Dar al Atta’a clothing recycling initiative was still ongoing, because the bins for paper and cardboard recycling set up by the same charity around Muscat in 2015 looked almost identical to those previous bins for clothing.

A few respondents had heard that plastic bottles were being collected somewhere in the city, but had no idea where. Several respondents mentioned that in the past, they used to see individuals salvaging empty aluminium soft drink cans from municipal rubbish bins near streets and in public parks. A couple of these respondents noted that the remuneration price for those used cans had fallen several years ago, and they believed this to be the reason this type of recycling seemed to have disappeared.

Do you recycle any of these items?

The follow-on question was: Do you recycle any of these items? paper/cardboard, plastic bottles, aluminium/metal, glass, clothing or “other”. The category “other” was intended to catch possible but expectedly rare responses such as batteries, electronics and printer ink cartridges. One would think that this follow-up question would have received “Not applicable” as a response from all respondents. However, a few respondents mentioned that they “recycled” some of their own household’s waste, in that they re-used or repurposed items such as cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, glass jars and old tee shirts. Most (70 percent) said that they regularly donated used clothing to poor families or (especially with children’s clothing) gave them to relatives.

This question spurred a couple of female respondents to comment on clothing “waste” as a problem “particular to Omanis,” as they saw it. They mentioned that Omanis who wear traditional clothing must have most of their clothes tailor made, and that—particularly for women’s wear—the fashions changed quickly from season to season. As a result, many women and girls felt they could not be seen wearing last season’s dresses and scarves, and had to buy the latest styles. One respondent further remarked that the cycle of conspicuous consumption was affecting Omani society at many levels, and was even more problematic when it involved costly commodities such as mobile phones, especially on the part of the youth, who junked their “old” phones for the latest models with astonishing frequency.

What factors influenced their beliefs and attitudes about wasting food or throwing away useful items?

Interviewees were asked what factors influenced their beliefs and attitudes about wasting food or throwing away useful items. Sixty percent said that religion (Islam) played the greatest role in this. Thirty percent said family upbringing was the main influence and another ten percent attributed their attitudes to their culture. Education and tradition were mentioned by the majority of respondents as the secondary factors.

What do you think that people in Oman can do to help reduce the amount of waste they are making?

The final question in the survey was: What do you think that people in Oman can do to help reduce the amount of waste they are making? This open-ended question elicited a variety of responses: “Be responsible for yourself and your family”; “don’t buy more than you need”; “donate extra food and clothing instead of throwing it away”; and “re-use items in your home and at your farm.”

Note: This is the second article in our special series on 'Waste Management in Oman'. The first part can be read at this link.

The third and final part analyses the results of the survey and makes a wide range of recommendations to improve the waste management situation in Oman.



Trash Talk from Gaza

gaza-garbageSolid waste management is considered to be one of the most severe environmental and civic problems in the Gaza Strip. Solid waste in the Gaza strip consists mainly of household waste, building debris, agricultural waste, industrial waste (mainly from worksites), medical wastes, and wastes from car workshops. Solid waste in the Gaza Strip is dumped in the same landfill without separation except for medical waste, which is dumped separately in the main Gaza landfill site. The solid waste generation rate varies between 0.35 to 1.0 kg/capita/day.

Scale of the Problem

Trash generation in the Gaza Strip varies between 830 to 894 tons/day in cities and villages and from 276 to 300 tons/day in the refugee camps. Local surveys and estimates indicate that household waste accounts for 45 to 50% of the total solid waste, construction and industrial wastes 22 to 25%, and the remaining types (e.g. commercial and institutional) 25 to 30%. Bad practices in the Gaza Strip with the absence of legislation and inspection mechanisms during the occupation resulted in inefficient and inconsistent waste collection services. On many occasions, waste is being dumped in open areas, in various places in the Gaza Strip. And to add fuel to the fire, present landfills in the Gaza Strip are overloaded. This represents a looming danger to the public health and the environment, and particularly to the ground water resources, which are already poor. Not only that but also, hazardous emissions, which are resulted from waste incineration, contain thousands of carbon tones (CO2 gas), causing the temperature to rise. Thus in turn, would be probably the cause of climate change.

Promising Initiative of AYCM Palestine

As regard with potential solutions, Governments and many NGO's have tried to solve the problem as much as possible or at least alleviate the effects, which are resulted from it. As an example of these efforts, Natuf Organization for Environment & Community Development in partnership with Arab Youth Climate Movement “AYCM” – Palestine,  implemented “ Environmental Leaders toward a Sustainable Community” project which funded by the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme through GEF. During this project, an environmental initiative titled "Separation and recycling of different waste materials into reusable objects" in cooperation with 'Zero Waste MENA' team in Gaza.

The initiative was carried out in Shalehat Resort located at the Gaza beach with the participation of vacationers. The main activities included a 10-day awareness campaign, which targeted more than 200 families (about 1,400 people overall) and focused on the impacts of solid waste as well as the importance of sorting and reuse. On the final day, children event with clowns and games was held in order to raise their interest in environmental issues and encourage them to become future environmental leaders.

Recycling-Gaza1In addition, this initiative aims to create a practical model for waste recycling in the Gaza Strip in order to promote the environmental and the general awareness among residents in Gaza. Such processes, as an illustration, contribute to reducing the consumption of fresh raw materials, energy usage, air pollution (from incineration) and water pollution (from landfilling) by decreasing the need for "conventional" waste disposal and lowering greenhouse gas emissions which are considered as the main cause of climate change. As a result, Recycling can be regarded as a good strategy for waste reduction and mitigation of the climate change impacts in the long term.


To conclude, Gaza Strip has encountered from many serious environmental issues, solid waste management, in particular. Such issues may pose detrimental threats to our environment as well as our health. Consequently, I deeply believe that all of us, governments and individuals, should be responsible and careful about our Earth as much as we can. We should work hard together in order to save the whole environment for all of us and for the future generation.

Waste Management Perspectives for Oman

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

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

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

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

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

Recycling efforts in Oman

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

Recycling rate in Oman is still very low

Recycling rate in Oman is still very low

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

The Pilot Survey

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

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

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


[i] Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs. n.d. ‘About the Ministry.’ MECA website. (accessed 30/03/2016)


[ii] Omanuna Government Entities List. n.d. (accessed 30/03/2016)


[iii] Zafar, S. 2015. ‘Solid Waste Management in Oman.’ EcoMena Knowledge Bank. 27 January, 2015 (accessed 20/02/16)


[iv] Palanivel, T.M. and H. Sulaiman. 2014. ‘Generation and Composition of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.’ ICESD 2014. APCBEE Procedia 10(2014): 96–102 (accessed 20/02/16)


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


[vi] ‘Average Omani family wastes one-third of food.’ Gulf News. 23 June 2012 (accessed 28/02/16)


[vii] Central Intelligence Agency. 2016. The World Factbook. ‘Oman’. (accessed 20/02/16)


[viii] OECD iLibrary. 2009. ‘Household Consumption,’ National Accounts at a Glance 2009. (accessed 29/04/16)


[ix] Environment Society of Oman. n.d. ‘Project Recycling’. (accessed 10/04/16)


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


[xi] ‘Ecologists in Oman pitch for recycling waste.’ Times of Oman.  4 August 2014. (accessed 22/02/16)


Zero-Waste Kitchens and Low-Energy Cooking

Food is the single largest source of waste. Worldwide, we throw away about a third of our food. More food ends up in landfills than plastic or paper. The enormous amount of wasted food depends on our cooking and eating habits.  Generally, it is easy to be sitting at home, in front of your television, consuming whatever you want then throwing every‑thing in the trash. But have we ever thought, where does the garbage go?

Zero-Waste Kitchens

Given that most of the domestic waste originates in the kitchen, a green home should definitely include a zero-waste kitchen. Zero waste kitchens is not about recycling more of our kitchen waste from plastics containers, metal cans and glass jars. It is about acting on needless waste and stopping it from coming into our homes in first place. Bea Johnson  introduced the concept of the 5Rs in her book Zero Waste Home which are Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. The first and the second R address the prevention of waste, the third R encourage thoughtful consumption while the fourth and fifth Rs are the last stage processing of discards.

The Egyptian cuisine is considered one of the most time consuming and tiring kitchens with a lot of organic wastes. On top of that it is not energy efficient because of long cooking time. A lot of initiatives in Egypt started to promote for the idea of zero waste food. They collect food leftovers and pack them nicely and give them to needy people. Other NGOs can come to your door step and take for example cooking oil. Some also pay for it as incentives to encourage people not to throw it away. Throwing oil is not only a waste but also cause blockage for the sewage system. Food waste can be transformed to several sources of energy like biogas and biodiesel or even can be transformed to liquid fertilizers and compost.

Low Energy Cooking

Every winter we notice an increase in demand for gas cylinders.  Gas consumption increase during winter season due to long cooking time to prepare warm meals. It is not only waste of energy but waste of time as well.  We can reduce cooking time by following some simple practical tips.

  • Marinate the meat that we will consume along the month or even a week and then freeze them. They will take less time when cooked grilled or baked.
  • Another simple tip that is often overlooked way to reduce cooking time. Cook items you eat often in bulk – such as beef, chicken, rice and beans, or pasta – and freeze the leftovers for later use. If you’re freezing cooked pasta, drizzle a little oil over it to prevent sticking when you defrost.
  • Always make essential food components in a large quantity and freeze them. Like chopped onions, garlic, tomato sauce, broth etc.
  • It is important to match the size of any pot or casserole you use on the stove top elements.
  • Turn the heat down to the lowest setting after reaching boiling point. Higher heat just escapes round the side of the pot or boils the liquid faster but doesn't cook its contents faster.
  • Optimize the use of a preheated oven by cooking several dishes, either at once, or in a row.
  • Don't turn on the oven too soon before using. Just a few minutes is enough for pre-heating.
  • Turn off the oven or stovetop a few minutes early. The residual heat will keep cooking the food.
  • Use pressure cooker. It uses less energy than standard cooking pans. Reduction ranges from 70% up to 90 % and consequently reduces cooking time.
  • Adding one spoon of vinegar on meat reduce cooking time because it makes it more tender.
  • Do not add salt till late in cooking. Salt increase cooking time when added to beef for example. Add salt only if you are boiling water, as it makes it quicker to reach boiling point.
  • When you use the blinder, mixer or food processor, use it once for adequate amount not every day for small amounts. Freeze the extra amount for another use.

To conclude, it is not difficult to have a zero waste kitchen and it is easy to transform your kitchen's trash into valuable cash. Cooking can also be enjoyable, quick and yet energy efficient. We need always to remember that zero-waste kitchen is not only a physical kitchen, but it is mainly a mindset and lifestyle. 

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Greening Your Business

With growing awareness among consumers for eco-friendly products, it is becoming highly important for businesses in the Middle East to adopt and implement green strategies. It is not only the requirement of customers but also compliance to regulations and reduction in operating costs that drive the implementation of environment-friendly methods in business. Corporate social responsibility (or CSR) is now driven by pollution prevention, energy efficiency, eco-friendly design, and industrial ecology across all industrial sectors. 

Components of a Green Business

A green business appears to be an expensive and cumbersome process. On the contrary it is quite easy to have a green business. The first and easiest step towards going green is the reduction in carbon footprint of your organization. Carbon footprint should be calculated and then reduced by taking some simple measures like:

  • Focusing on direct as well as indirect emissions;
  • Implementing cost-effective and energy efficient technologies; and
  • Developing low carbon energy sources.

Energy management is another vital ingredient of a green business. This includes assessing, controlling and saving energy. Energy management involves getting a detailed data of the energy consumption patterns and keeping a check on the conservation progress. In simple terms, energy management means reducing waste and promoting recycling.

If we take look around, nature has provided us with an endless supply of alternative energy in the form of solar, wind, hydro energy and so on. Alternative energy is not only environment-friendly but also economical. For instance, if you switch to green power, there will be a considerable reduction in carbon emission as well as the electricity bill. A solar panel on the roof of your building can take care of most of your basic energy needs. Alternative energy facilities require less maintenance and produce little or no waste products. And most importantly it is sustainable and will never run out.

Changing Landscape in the Middle East

Many of the world’s biggest companies now realise the importance of eco-friendly brand image. There are a host of simple environment saving solutions that are not only good for the business but also make a company greener, thus serving as an attractive PR and marketing tool. Seeing companies in Europe and US take a green lead, many businesses in the Middle East are now trying to catch up. New commercial thinking in the development of better ways to make things is being driven by the green agenda of sustainability and environment.

For most companies it means assessing manufacturing and distribution processes, quantifying carbon footprints and finding ways to minimize their impacts on the environment. Of importance is reducing waste, recycling, changing to renewable sources of energy, and setting targets to improve performance throughout the manufacturing and distribution chains.

The specter of oil depletion is also creating more concern in the Middle East. More and more, the part of the world that’s produced so much of the oil we all rely on appears to be coming to the realization that business as usual isn’t sustainable. All of these factors are pushing the Middle East towards more sustainability and Middle Eastern companies towards green business.

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Food Waste Woes in Qatar

food-waste-qatarFood waste is a huge issue in Qatar. In 2012, a massive 1.4 million metric tonnes of food was consumed and wasted in Qatar. This figure, divided by the then population of 2.05 million, equates to an average of 636 kilograms (kg) of food per person for the year, or 1.74 kg per day. Given the benchmark of two kg per person per day (preferably nutritious fare that does not contain too many kilojoules), that does not sound too excessive. But if you remove the young, elderly, short-term visitors/workers and people who consume less than two kg per day from the equation, it is clear that much more than two kg per adult is either consumed or wasted. This only compounds the country’s rapidly growing and expensive obesity problem.

Added to the wasted food are the litres of bottled water and soft or hot drinks that are consumed every day. The average Qatari resident uses 675 litres of water per day (drinking, washing and waste), at a rate double that of the average European.

Over and above the 1.4 million tonnes of wasted food, an additional 14 percent – representing nearly 20 million kilograms – is also discarded or destroyed before it even reaches the Qatari end-consumer. This food is either past its sell-by date or spoilt due to problems with the cooling chain. On one hand, this is due to a lack of effective agricultural planning, and decades of environmental degradation (after all, even the local fish industry is but a shadow of its former self). But on the other hand, Qatar’s growing and increasingly affluent population means that money is no deterrent in terms of the quantity and quality of food demanded. Huge banquets, often with expensive exotic food, are commonplace, and Qatar is the fastest-growing food consumption market among Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

According to data published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2014, the average local inhabitant wastes up to 250 kg worth of food per year, compared to just 70 kg in other regions. But while Qatar as a country, and the GCC as a region, are among the biggest culprits, food waste is a global problem. Nearly 30 percent of all food fails to end up in someone’s mouth, and if the total worldwide food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third largest CO2 offender on the planet.

Qatar-based sustainability advocacy group EcoMENA estimates that about half of the waste sitting in Qatar’s landfills is made up of leftover food. The combination of the country’s very high consumption rate and very low recycling rate, mean that mountains upon mountains of food are being dumped. Furthermore, only a minimal portion of this discarded food is being composted, despite the short supply of good soil. EcoMENA’s research shows that up to 25 percent of all food prepared during Ramadan is eventually thrown away – even at a time when the distribution of leftover food to the poor is traditionally at its highest.

Framework for IWRM: An Islamic Perspective

The Islamic perspective on Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) framework provides a holistic approach to look at the entire spectrum of water management components, i.e, water resources, uses, treatment and resue. Islam provides policies and principles that address all elements of the framework for Integrated Water Resources Management. At the resource level, Islam teaches that the Universe and humans are created by God. And the source of water is from God, the creator, however, Islam believes in the rational and pragmatic explanations of science. The first verse in Quran is “Read” and there are many references in Quran that urge humans to think and contemplate about the universe, nature and the creation of God. Islam teaches that “everything is created from water” and that water at the global level is finite “bekadar” and is in balance and “mawzoon”.  

Harmony between Human and Nature

The key characteristic of Islam is the belief in one God (Allah) and the belief in the Day of Judgment (Hereafter). These are the core of the social and environmental responsibility for both individuals and the corporate sector. The relationship between the Human and Nature is based on harmony, since all creatures obey the laws (sunan) of God.  Harmonization of human’s will with the teachings of Islam leads to responsible, balanced and good life (Hayat Tayebah).  Being mindful of the purpose and meaning of every single human endeavor, every human activity is given a transcendent dimension; it becomes meaningful, of value, and goal-centered.

The Islamic worldview is based on an eco-cosmic understanding of the harmony between human and nature and the value of nurturing the aesthetic and natural intelligence of humans as trustees. The Islamic notion of Zohd which means living lightly on earth and having low ecological footprints is a key for securing a healthy planet. All forms of environmental problems like pollution and global warming and climate change according to the Islamic interpretation is attributed to human mis-conduct or mischief (Fassad).

Islamic IWRM Framework

At the water uses level, Islam believes that water should be allocated to different uses with priority to water for drinking (Haqo Al-shafa). Besides, Islam recognizes the right for environment. The emphasis on balance, conservation and harmony is key to the Islamic view of water uses.


For wastewater, greywater and saline water, Islam instructs the mind that regardless of the quality of water whether it is fresh “Athb” or saline water “Milh Ujaj” but still it can of use and value for many purposes like a source for food from sea, a source for jewelry “diamonds” and a means for shipping, trade and transport. By interpretation and using the notion of  public interest “Maslaha”, it is safe to say that greywater and waste water can be of use and value for human use if treated with proper processes. This was confirmed by a judgment and ruling “Fatwa” by scholars from different disciplines who confirmed that wastewater can be used for human used if treated properly.  The Fatwa issued in 1978 by the Council of Leading Islamic Scholars (CLIS) in Saudi Arabia postulated that:

Impure waste water can be considered as pure water and similar to the original pure water, if its treatment using advanced technical procedures is capable of removing impurities with regard to taste, colour and smell, as witnessed by honest, specialized and knowledgeable experts. Then it can be used to remove body impurities and for purifying, even for drinking.

For wastewater re-use, it was evident from the above Fatwa that wastewater can be used for other purposes. Hence, the Islamic model of IWRM adopted a closed loop of  IWRM framework. Islam does not allow waste among even lifeless things, to the extent that it disapproves the wasteful use of water, even if there is no scarcity of water.  It teaches to avoid waste in every conceivable form and to make the best use of all resources. Islam reforms the notion of  “waste” and enlighten the human mind to re-think the concept of waste by learning from nature and the ecological processes. The analogy of human life is being made with the ecology and its transformations (the four seasons and the process of renewal and growth using natural energy and resources). Moreover, the Fatwa made scholars in Saudi Arabia paved the way to make waste water reuse possible and to have a closed water loop in IWRM model.


Islam is not limited to the confined domain of a religion and spirituality (relation between man and God) but rather it is a way of life. Islam offers a holistic framework for looking at the cosmos, nature and the purpose and the role of the human being.  Besides, Islam nowadays has contextualized a number of economic institutions (Islamic banking and Waqf funds) and social institutions (health care, education).  It would be of value to develop a new framework and contextualize for Islamic IWRM. This means that IWRM will not only be informed by culture and local knowledge but also reformed and transformed by Islam through a process of re-construction of knowledge and the revival of the human consciousness. 

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Waste Management in Morocco

Solid waste management is one of the major environmental problems threatening the Mediterranean Kingdom of Morocco. More than 5 million tons of solid waste is generated across the country with annual waste generation growth rate touching 3 percent. The proper disposal of municipal solid waste in Morocco is exemplified by major deficiencies such as lack of proper infrastructure and suitable funding in areas outside of major cities. 

According to the World Bank, it was reported that before a recent reform in 2008 “only 70 percent of urban MSW was collected and less than 10 percent of collected waste was being disposed of in an environmentally and socially acceptable manner. There were 300 uncontrolled dumpsites, and about 3,500 waste-pickers, of which 10 percent were children, were living on and around these open dumpsites.”  

The Menace of Trash Burning

It is not uncommon to see trash burning as a means of solid waste disposal in Morocco.  Currently, the municipal waste stream is disposed of in a reckless and unsustainable manner which has major effects on public health and the environment.  The lack of waste management infrastructure leads to burning of trash as a form of inexpensive waste disposal.  Unfortunately, the major health effects of burning trash are either widely unknown or grossly under-estimated to the vast majority of the population in Morocco.

Burning of trash is a particular health concern because of the substantial amount of dioxins it produces.  A dioxin is a highly toxic environmental pollutant that is released when household waste is burned.  Most of the dioxins that are released into the air during the burning process end up on the leaves of green vegetation.   These plants are then eaten by dairy animals such as cows,sheep and goats which results in the dioxins being stored and accumulating in the animal’s fatty tissues.  Once this occurs, dioxins are difficult to avoid and people are exposed to them primarily by eating meat and other dairy products, especially those high in fat. 

Furthermore, this type of open burning also causes particle pollution.  Particle pollution refers to microscopic particles that end up in the lungs and cause enormous amounts of human health problems, such as asthma and bronchitis.  Unfortunately, children and the elderly who are exposed to dioxins are among the highest at risk for contracting these illnesses.   Other harmful carcinogens like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) are consequences of outdoor burning.   These pollutants have been known to cause numerous amounts of health problems ranging from skin irritation to liver and kidney damage and even in some more serious cases have been linked to cancer. 

The ash itself that is produced when trash is burned often contains mercury, lead, chromium, and arsenic.  “Garden vegetables can absorb and accumulate these metals, which can make them dangerous to eat. Children playing in the yard or garden can incidentally ingest soil containing these metals. Also, rain can wash the ash into groundwater and surface water, contaminating drinking water and food.” This is not even mentioning the population of garbage-pickers who are putting their health on the line while sorting municipal wastes. 

Silver Lining

The good news about the future of Morocco’s MSW management is that the World Bank has allocated $271.3 million to the Moroccan government to develop a municipal waste management plan.  The plan’s details include restoring around 80 landfill sites, improving trash pickup services, and increasing recycling by 20%, all by the year 2020. While this reform is expected to do wonders for the urban population one can only hope the benefits of this reform trickle down to the 43% of the Moroccan population living in rural areas, like those who are living in my village.

Needless to say, even with Morocco’s movement toward a safer and more environmentally friendly MSW management system there is still an enormous population of people including children and the elderly who this reform will overlook.   Until more is done, including funding initiatives and an increase in education, these people will continue to be exposed to hazardous living conditions because of unsuitable funding, infrastructure and education.  



The World Factbook Africa: Morocco. (2013, 8/22/2013). The World Factbook.  Retrieved 11/02/2013, from

Morocco: Municipal Solid Waste Sector. (2013).   Retrieved 11/01/2013, 2013, from

Wastes – Non-Hazardous Waste – Municipal Solid Waste. (2012, 11/15/2012).   Retrieved 10/31/2013, from


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