Solid Waste Management in the Gulf Region - Challenges & Opportunities
East, Environmental & Building Technologies Practice
Scientific management of solid waste is a grave challenge faced
by most modern societies. In the gulf region, where most countries
have highest per capita waste generation across the world, the
scale of the challenge faced by civic authorities is even bigger.
Fast-paced industrial growth, recent construction boom, increasing
population & rapid urbanization, and vastly improved lifestyle
& unsustainable consumption pattern have all contributed to
this burgeoning waste problem. Preliminary estimates put the total
volume of solid waste generated in the GCC region at around 120
million tons per year. A huge proportion of this is expected to be
the waste generated from construction and demolition activities;
municipal waste is the second largest waste category by source.
In December 1997, GCC countries adopted a uniform waste
management system and a monitoring mechanism for waste production,
collection, sorting, treatment and disposal. Most of the waste
management regulations and strategies adopted are based on
universally accepted scientific approach enumerated in Integrated
Waste Management Hierarchy. However, the hurdle lies in effective
A look at the composition of Municipal Solid Waste in these
countries suggests that it is largely decomposable and recyclable.
However, at present waste disposal into landfills remains the
widely practiced method. In countries such as Kuwait and Bahrain
where limited land is available, this doesn’t seem to be most
prudent option. There is need to encourage composting, recycling
and incineration of waste in the region. Also the pace of waste
management infrastructure development has been lagging the rate at
which per capita waste generation has gone up.
In the present scenario, GCC Waste management sector faces some
challenges. At the same time this also indicates the vast scope for
improvement in existing setup and practices followed in the sector.
Private players can leverage their technical know-how and
experience for significant value addition across the waste
management value chain. Some of the challenges and opportunities
presented by the sector are as follows.
Weak Waste Collection, Transportation and Handling
Infrastructure: In most GCC countries the existing
waste handling capacity is insufficient. There is need to
streamline the waste collection and transportation operations as
intermingling of hazardous waste and municipal waste is not
uncommon. In addition, the efficiency of the sorting process needs
to be improved. Presently recyclable recovery rate is low. Further,
in the absence of local recycling facilities, there is no
alternative except to dump the otherwise recyclable material at
Waste Recycling is Expensive: Though
recent years have seen an increase in the number of waste recycling
facilities the economics of recycling is still not very favorable.
In many cases recycling waste is expensive compared to buying the
product. Government support in terms of cheaper land for landfills,
subsidies is often necessary for commercial viability.
Under Developed Market for Recycled
Products: Insufficient demand for recycled products
in the local market is another reason, which has hampered the
growth of the waste recycling industry. There are a few units
engaged in recycling waste paper, paperboard and plastics. Much of
the recycled products are then exported to markets like India,
Pakistan and other Southeast Asian countries.
In last few years, planning authorities have awarded a number of
contracts to the private sector for setting up and operating
Integrated Waste Management Facilities or waste recycling units.
However, opportunities in the sector are still largely
Waste Collection and Transportation
Services: A number of private players are active in
the waste collection and transportation market. At present around
70 percent of the total waste in Dubai is collected by private
sector. There is good growth potential for such services in the
market. The recent acquisition of Sharjah-based Al Ghadeer Waste
Collections Company (GWC) by Averda is indicative of the strong
growth prospects market participants perceive in the regional
Management of Landfill Operations: At
present municipalities manage the majority of the landfills;
however, it is likely that new facilities would be built under BOOT
or BOT contracts. In fact, Singapore-based Keppel Corporation is
setting up an integrated waste management facility in Qatar. Once
the facility is operational, the company will also be responsible
for its operations and maintenance for 20 years.
Waste Recycling: Recycling of waste
paper, paper board, metals and glass is already practiced in GCC
albeit at very small scale. Currently around 88 percent of the
total waste generated in Dubai sent to landfills, which is high as
per international standards. With only 12 percent of the total
waste being recycled (Data for Dubai) recycling is set to increase.
As waste management practices become more efficient across the
region, waste recycling is likely to be more attractive
Waste to energy opportunity: Planning
authorities across the region are contemplating setting up waste to
energy facilities. The market for such technologies is likely to
see rapid growth over next few years. Dubai municipality has
planned a waste to energy plant with capacity of 6000t/d.
Equipment Suppliers: Increased focus
on waste management represents a growing market for suppliers of
compactor trucks, garbage bins, incinerators and other auxiliary
As GCC countries work towards the implementation of next
generation waste management practices to address challenges of
global warming, environmental preservation and sustainability, the
waste management market is set to enter an exciting phase.
Frost & Sullivan is coming up with a comprehensive research
service about this sector with a view to capture future trends. The
study will also encompass market growth drivers and restraints
along with the challenges market participants are likely to face in