A country with an abundance of raw materials, cheap labor, and a rising demand for energy, Qatar needed to diversify its industrial sector in the 1970s. From then onwards, the use of fertilizers, petrochemicals, and gas liquefaction plants have grown exponentially. The magnitude of hazardous waste and the pollution to be produced from different streams have not been thoroughly considered, but Qatar has taken serious steps to implement commitments for sustainable development by passing laws and treaties, such as law No.4 in 1981 issuing safeguards and providing requirements for the protection of the environment, and by signing onto treaties such as the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and Their Disposal.
The Growing Threat
A nation with one of the highest per capita generations of waste at 1.6 kg – four times that of Hong Kong – is a party to the Basel Convention. Qatar is mindful of the growing threat the increased generation of waste and complexity of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes pose to human health and the environment. At the moment, Qatar has not exported hazardous waste and manages hazardous waste within its boundaries through incineration, recycling, recovery, and storage at its respective Q-Chem facilities.
All waste generated in Qatar requires the approval of respective city authorities and the concurrence of the Ministry. As a result, both hazardous and non-hazardous wastes are managed in accordance with appropriate environmental guidelines and industrial cleaning services operating with high-end safety and environmental standards.
Hazardous Wastes in Qatar
Hazardous waste is commonly associated with biomedical waste, but the national definition of hazardous waste in Qatar, in accordance with the Basel Convention, includes any waste that is harmful to human health or the environment. In other words, if waste exhibits characteristics as being explosive, flammable, toxic, or corrosive, it falls under the scope of hazardous waste. Hazardous waste is usually produced in small amounts in households and in comparatively larger amounts in commercial and industrial services when transforming raw materials into usable products. According to the Mesaieed Treatment Facility and the Ras Laffan Plant, for incineration or treatment, hazardous waste is most commonly generated at administrative buildings, fire stations, security buildings, and laboratories.
Hazardous Waste Management
Waste is first characterized as either hazardous, non-hazardous, or inert. Hazardous waste includes waste water treatment plant (WWTP) sludge, hydrocarbon filters, incinerator ash, contaminated soils, and chemicals etc. The waste is then collected in color coordinated drums where yellow drums indicate hazardous waste. They are later collected from the plant site and sent to an authorized waste treatment authority such as the Mesaieed Industrial City’s Treatment Facility, Boom Waste Treatment, or Al Haya, to be treated, stabilized, recycled, or incinerated. If not, the wastes are properly secured and stored in labelled containers until re-use, destruction or ultimate disposal.
According to the Ministry of Developmental Planning and Statistics, Qatar is currently disposing 50% of collected hazardous waste at landfills and recycling 34%, and the remaining 16% was used for other purposes such as restoring. The recycling process involves changing the characteristics of hazardous waste into a less dangerous waste for careful handling and interim storage.
Although there is currently no specific procedure for identifying hazardous waste in Qatar, the Q-Chem facilities have adopted the Environmental Guidelines provided by the Ministry of Municipality and Environment in addition to following the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency procedures. Mandatory weekly inspections are conducted at all hazardous waste storage facilities and all findings are required to be documented and kept in records.
The process from the waste generation to the storage inventory are compiled monthly and reported on a quarterly basis. The summaries include records on the amounts of main waste types generated, incinerated, recycled, landfilled, and helps to identify changes in the classification of wastes or the generation of new types of waste.
Progress on the Ground
Qatar is currently working on banning the use of toxic chemicals where substitutes are present, inviting the monitoring of pesticide use to seek for room to cut down, and instituting a system of industrial inspection for the storage of hazardous waste chemicals in efforts to reduce the potential possibility of accidents. Efforts are being made on minimizing the generation of toxic wastes through engineering improvements and other techniques whilst also developing infrastructure for the disposal of expired chemicals and pesticides.
Qatar’s plans are consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030 and the Qatar National Vision 2030 aiming to transform Qatar into a developed country of achieving sustainable development and providing a promising life for future generations. Qatar is working on developing plans to conduct job security analyses to minimize the manual handling of hazardous waste by laborers. Qatar is consistently working with the other GCC countries and United Nations agencies such as the International Register of Potentially Toxic Chemicals (IRPTC) in the exchange of knowledge on the use of toxic chemicals, their appropriate disposal and precautionary methods.