Articles News & Interviews Books Editorials Home
      اللغة العربية    
Editor in Chief - Environment And Development
Secretary General - AFED
About Gallery Videos Contact
Selected Editorials

From Construction to Recycling Industry

By Najib Saab
April 2007

 When I met Ahmad Al Khuzaim ten years ago at an environmental exhibition and conference in Riyadh, he was a contractor building factories. When I met him last month during the waste management and recycling exhibition in Riyadh, the former contractor was carrying another identity. He has established a new company specialized in the treatment of plastic and paper wastes delivered to him by the same factories he had built over the last ten years.

 Ahmad Al Khuzaim is a living example of the environmental changes witnessed in Saudi Arabia during one decade. The two environmental events of 1997 and 2007 were organized by the same institutions: the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs in Saudi Arabia, the Riyadh Exhibitions Company and "Environment and Development" magazine. The participants however have changed, as well as the perspective towards the environment. When we started to promote the concept of integrated waste management ten years ago, the main interest for investors and officials was confined to collecting and dumping the wastes, at best in landfills. Now, there are more than 200 recycling factories in Riyadh alone and over 2000 all over Saudi Arabia.

 The world is changing and Saudi Arabia is moving along. The Obaikan group that owns the biggest publishing house in Saudi Arabia has created a new company for paper recycling using the waste generated from its own print houses. The Dallah group that collects Jeddah's  municipal wastes has presented in Riyadh its new methodologies used in separation, recycling and production of soil fertilizers from organic wastes. The Middle East Company for Environmental Protection has declared the establishment of a waste recycling plant in Riyadh, after launching a project entitled "Tadweer" (Recycling) in Dubai.

 The most impressive feature of the Riyadh exhibition was probably the high quality rubber products displayed by the Saudi Rubber Products Company, which are used for covering playgrounds and floors. The product can also be mixed with asphalt for paving streets. What is new is the source of rubber which is nothing but millions of used vehicle tiers which were either burned or thrown in landfills prior to the establishment of this factory. I recalled that when we published an in-depth report about the recycling of rubber tiers a decade ago, and listed its many potential applications, many thought that we were dreaming. Thus I could not hide my pride while walking on the colorful and soft rubber carpet in the section of the rubber recycling company in the Riyadh exhibition. I truly felt that a dream has materialized.

 Waste treatment has moved from mere collecting and dumping to an integrated management that starts from separation all the way to recycling. Why there is a big Saudi interest to invest in municipal solid wastes? The answer is very simple: the average quantity of wastes produced by an individual in Saudi cities is 1.5 Kg daily, which exceeds most standard international rates. Annual production of municipal waste in Saudi cities reaches 10 million tonnes. The composition of this waste is 40% organic, 20% paper and cartoon, 15% plastics, 7% metals, 5% glass, 4% textiles and 9% other material. The majority of these ingredientss can be recycled, and the Ministry is working relentlessly to increase the current recycling rate. While 40% of paper is currently being recycled, it is expected to increase this ratio to 65% by 2020. Plastic should increase from 20% to 40% and glass from 3% to 10%. Metals recycling can be increased from 90% to 98%. It is noteworthy that recycling rates can be increased much higher especially for glass. Almost all organic wastes can be treated by composting.

 Integrated management starts at the roots. As waste management is concerned, it is essential to design waste reduction programmes through changes in consumption patterns, separation at source and encouraging reuse instead of dumping. All these steps should precede recycling and re-use.

 Saudi Arabia in 2007 is different than what it was in 1997, as environmental protection has turned from rhetoric to realities translated in bold investments. What we witness now is only the beginning.

Arab Environment in 10 Years
ARAB ENVIRONMENT IN 10 YEARS crowns a decade of the series of annual reports produced by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) on the state of Arab environment. It tracks and analyzes changes focusing on policies and governance, including level of response and engagement in international environmental treaties. It also highlights developments in six selected priority areas, namely water, energy, air, food, green economy and environmental scientific research.
Environmental Agenda
Environment in Arab Media
News & Interviews Photo Gallery Videos