Solid Waste Management in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has been witnessing rapid industrialization, high population growth rate and fast urbanization which have resulted in increased levels of pollution and waste. Solid waste management is becoming a big challenge for the government and local bodies with each passing day. With population of around 29 million, Saudi Arabia generates more than 15 million tons of solid waste per year. The per capita waste generation is estimated at 1.5 to 1.8 kg per person per day.

More than 75 percent of the population is concentrated in urban areas which make it necessary for the government to initiate measures to improve recycling and waste management scenario in the country. Solid waste generation in the three largest cities – Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam – exceeds 6 million tons per annum which gives an indication of the enormity of the problem faced by civic bodies.  

Waste Management Scenario

In Saudi Arabia, garbage is collected from individual or community bins and disposed of in landfills or dumpsites. Saudi waste management system is characterized by lack of waste disposal facilities and absence of tipping fees. Most of the landfills are expected to reach their capacities within the next 10 years. Recycling, reuse and energy recovery is still at an early stage, although they are getting increased attention. Waste sorting and recycling are driven by an active informal sector. Recycling rate ranges from 10-15%, mainly due to the presence of the informal sector which extracts paper, metals and plastics from municipal waste.

Dumping of wastes in deserts is a common sight in the Middle East

Recycling activities are mostly manual and labor intensive. Composting is also gaining increased interest in Saudi Arabia due to the high organic content of MSW (around 40%).  Efforts are also underway to deploy waste-to-energy technologies in the Kingdom. All activities related to waste management are coordinated and financed by the government.

Government Initiatives

The Saudi government is aware of the critical demand for waste management solutions, and is investing heavily in solving this problem. The 2017 national budget allocated SR 54 billion for the municipal services sector, which includes water drainage and waste disposal. The Saudi government is making concerted efforts to improve recycling and waste disposal activities.  Recently the Saudi Government approved new regulations to ensure an integrated framework for the management of municipal wastes. The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs will be responsible for overseeing the tasks and responsibilities of the solid waste management system.

However, more serious efforts are required to improve waste management scenario in the Kingdom. A methodical introduction of modern waste management techniques like material recovery facilities, waste-to-energy systems and recycling infrastructure can significantly improve waste management scenario and can also generate good business opportunities. 


Strong legislations, financial support, public awareness, modern technologies and stakeholders’ participation should be the key in transforming Saudi Arabia into a ‘green’ nation. A strong political commitment and unflinching public support is mandatory for implementing a sustainable waste management strategy in the country. 

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About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the Founder of EcoMENA, and an international consultant, advisor, ecopreneur and journalist with expertise in waste management, waste-to-energy, renewable energy, environment protection and sustainable development. His geographical areas of focus include Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. Salman has successfully accomplished a wide range of projects in the areas of biomass energy, biogas, waste-to-energy, recycling and waste management. He has participated in numerous conferences and workshops as chairman, session chair, keynote speaker and panelist. Salman is the Editor-in-Chief of EcoMENA, and is a professional environmental writer with more than 300 popular articles to his credit. He is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management and environmental sustainability in different parts of the world. Salman Zafar can be reached at or

27 Responses to Solid Waste Management in Saudi Arabia

  1. Abdul salam says:

    Thanks for the information I will be in touch with you for my studies in connection with waste management system in saudi Arabia.

    • anxo says:

      With a minimum of 22,000 M Ton /day of waste per day in Riyadh, using waste to energy technologies it could be generating 500 MW of electricity or electricity for 350,000 homes, the waste now is dumped in the desert holes which becomes a hazard in many ways.

  2. Maxine Pierson says:

    This is such a great article ; as I am in the waste to energy sector, it is especially meaningful and I will continue for more of your.excellent perspectives and possible opportunity. Best Regards, Maxine Pierson Executive Vice President GDT Tek, Inc. 

  3. Abdul Rasheed Shah says:

    I being an Environmentalist had to feel sorry for the Environmental destruction happening in Saudi Arabia the pious land of Almighty. I wish I could contribute what ever best I could for this noble cause & share my more than 35 years of experience for safeguarding Environmental hazards. Wish the entire Kingdom of Saudi Arabia be pollution free in coming future. Really it needs immediate positive action………….. Almighty Allah’s Assets must be preserved / conserved & protected under all circumstances & all anti-pollution measures are needed immediately for the cause otherwise we all are responsible & can never be Forgiven by Almighty Allah……….. Abdul Rasheed Shah……….

  4. I have visited Jeddah recently to establish a project in waste management. The goal of the project is to use the technology for monitor the sold waste during Haj time. Also, there are investors want to implement the idea in different areas around the country, but the problem is to find the right people and the experience for such an implementation. Our company is will to help and develop the industry of the waste manage because Saudi Arabia is deserve to be clean and have healthy environments . We have succeeded in such a project in the USA and our waste management is online. As American Muslim I would like help the industry there and make the capital of the Islamic world clean from the waste as any city in the civilized world 

    • Jassam Al Khafaji says:

      Hi there, I am fascinated with the idea of recycling. I think this is the future…I live in Saudi and desperately want to get involved in this sector, but in all honesty, I am not sure how to get started. Maybe you could share some idea with me.

    • 2020 says:

      Hi Hamed, how can i approach you?

  5. Interesting article Salman – always useful to share information about how waste is managed around the world. Some suggestions about addressing the policy challenges for waste in the middle east can be found here:

    • Salman Zafar says:

      Very useful article James. Infact I was also in Abu Dhabi last week to attend a conference where ‘future of waste in the Middle East’ was discussed.



  6. Maxine Pierson says:

    thank you very much.

  7. Niranjan Amin says:

    Your article is not only informative but candid in all aspects which is very useful for any company who is involve in a Municipal Solid waste including industrial waste .

  8. Azhar Ali says:

    Great article but I was little disappointed as this situation in KSA we have been hearing about 10-15 years ago. If situation is still some what similar that would be a great pity. I have worked in Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq and South Sudan about SWM as consultant to most of big organizations and I was expecting that KSA should be much ahead..

    azhar ali

  9. Nour says:

    Dear Sir,
    I would like to draw your attentions that your article can’t be generalized for all Saudi Arabia districts. There is many cities implements the integrated solid waste management systems. Including Sanitary landfills, Methane collection system and leachate treatment.
    Some Saudi cities like Medina Manwara, Jeddah and Riyadh are established sorting facilities (MRF) and fully running from several years.
    It will be much appropriate to conduct a comprehensive study to analyze the situation and reach to concrete finding.
    Best Regards

  10. Azhar Ali says:

    Dear Nour, I agree as these situations can’t be generalized for countries. I wonder the projects you mentioned were completed by Ceres or some other company?

    stay safe
    azhar ali

  11. Alaa says:

    Sorry to say this but what Nour said up there is not applied in reality, it’s only on papers. the very basics of waste management is not applied there.
    So please stop defending because you just don’t want anyone to criticise.
    Thats why we will never develop. Not only like Zahir said 10-15 years but 100-150 years as long as we have this mentality.
    We are Saudis and we know the situation. Specially Jeddah which you mentioned !!!

  12. Alaa says:

    By the way, Any references for the statistics ?

  13. HAHA says:

    I would like to have some information about the management of wastes in Saudi Arabia, please :
    – Statistics about volumes of wastes,
    – What are the advantages given by Saudian authorities to reduce the wastes,
    – Is there any system of allocations given to persons treating the landfills,
    – What is the legislation and the financial support of the government in this way.
    Thank you by advance for your reply and if you could suggest me some links to have answers to my questions.
    Best Regards.

  14. Khaled says:

    Haha I would appreciate if you can forward me any of the information you requested please. My email is

    Mr. Zafar, i thank you for a very informative article, and would appreciate if you can forward me more information regarding the projection of waste management in Saudi Arabia.


  15. Its very informative and helpful to me. Could you please send me the addtional information about the waste management practices in Saudi Arabia.

    • Salman Zafar says:
      Dear Afzal
      Thanks for your comment. Glad to know that the article was informative. There is one more article on SWM situation in KSA on our website. Please have a look at
      Best wishes
      Salman Zafar
      Founder, EcoMENA

  16. Ameer says:

    Great article..i am working domestic solid waste management center in qatar and thanks for sharing such valuable info..

    • Sabine says:

      Dear Ameer, good to hear that you are working at the solid waste management center in Quatar. I presume you are familiar with the Dano Drum they are using from what I read on the internet. It is very difficult to find any detailed information about the technology used in that Dano Drum on the internet and unfortunately there only seems to be one Tech Admin who should be able to tell. Unfortunately he is on leave until the end of this month so I was wondering whether you could provide some information on the functionality of that drum as the efficiency of mashing organic and non organic substances along with canteens waste all in one drum does not really make sense to me. Many thanks for your help

  17. what an amazing article,
    I am working in a project about recycling in Saudi Arabia, and i would like to have information about the management of wastes in Saudi Arabia

    Can I have the references for statistics?


    Thank you in advance


  18. Amad says:

    Very nice article. Any information about tipping fees in Saudi or another GCC country like western countries? To cover the operational costs of MRF , MSW or Composting facilities?

  19. Tahseen Gull says:

    they are not doing enough. People just throw misc stuff on the road and don’t care. The government should impose strict rules on the civilians and the local shops to stop them from littering their areas and polluting the environment. All the harmful, intoxicants should be heavily taxed, even more than they are now! After the completion of the Riyadh metro service, they should increase the prices of both petrol and diesel and promote the local transportation service. This is how I fell like KSA could have proper control over their pollution and their massive carbon footprint and that is how it should be done.

  20. Chris warner says:

    Thank you for the informative artices regards solid waste management in the middle east. The situation in KSA is very real, having travelled to most major population areas i see very little evidence of recycling of waste or 21st century waste management.
    The PIF was going to establish the Saudi Recycling Company as a managment company for the government but to date nothing has been forth coming.
    I really would like to get contact with the correct officials regards a national establishment of recycling facilities not just ad-hoc.
    Again with KSA a lot of talking and wasting of finances on research projects (which take years), its time to get your hands dirty. The establishment of true waste managment policies within the middle east is at least a generation or two behind europe and the rest of the developed world.

  21. Pingback: Recycling Attitudes in Saudi Arabia | EcoMENA

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