Organic waste offers Saudi Arabia a plentiful and sustainable resource

Clockwise from left: Sanitation workers collect litter during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah; piles of plastic bottles before they are recycled; circular fields, part of the green oasis of Wadi Al-Dawasir. (AFP/File Photos)
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Updated 19 October 2021
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Organic waste offers Saudi Arabia a plentiful and sustainable resource

  • Most of the 15 million tons of garbage generated every year ends up in giant landfills
  • With recycling incentives, discarded plastics could be reused in housing, roads and even artwork

RIYADH: Once upon a time, mankind produced a small amount of waste. Food was not packaged, fruit and vegetable peelings were fed to animals and the dung from horses and camels was used for fertilizer or dried and burned for heating. Most of what came from the earth went directly back into the earth with little or no harm to the environment.

Today, we live in a consumer age in which multitudes of products are purchased and the ensuing trash disposed of with little or no regard for its detrimental impact. Many single-use goods are manufactured and distributed at considerable expense, only to be momentarily used and then thrown away forever.

Saudi Arabia produces no less than 15 million tons of garbage per year — most of which ends up in giant landfills, full of dangerous toxins that seep deep into the ground.

Fortunately, there are now signs of a sea change, both in the Kingdom and around the world. An emerging concept known as “the circular economy” holds that any form of solid waste can be the raw material for a new and more valuable resource.

This is a contemporary answer to alchemy — the medieval quest to turn base matter into gold.

The circular economy involves both upcycling (the process of transforming waste materials into products of greater value) and downcycling (whereby discarded material is used to create something of lower quality and functionality).

Plastic is an obvious starting point. Heralded as a miracle substance almost a century ago, it became ubiquitous in our groceries, clothing, cars and electronic devices.

That initial enthusiasm for plastic has gradually led to a sober realization that it takes up to 500 years to decompose — presenting an environmental calamity that we witness daily on streets littered with plastic bags, cups, bottles and straws.

But did you know that some 50 percent of the plastic waste in Saudi Arabia is collected for recycling?




Plastic bottles before they are recycled. (AFP/File Photo)

Once cleaned and processed, this used plastic can be transformed into pellets, which in turn are melted down to form anything from household tiles to benches to roadside curbs. Japan is the leader in this respect, now recycling almost 90 percent of its plastic waste.

In fact, it is normal in Japan for households to have over half a dozen different containers for various kinds of trash, to ease sorting for recycling purposes.

India’s Kerala Highway Research Institute has developed a recycled, plastic-derived road-surfacing material that is more durable than conventional tarmac and able to withstand the heavy monsoon rains.

Household waste can also produce the energy needed to heat homes and charge electric cars of the future.

As organic matter (that is, anything from apple cores to onion skins) decomposes, it produces methane gas — a source of energy. Other solid waste — for example, cardboard and wood — can be incinerated, again to provide energy.

These processes are collectively known as “waste-to-energy” (WtE). Methods also exist for the filtration of the resulting fumes, reducing carbon output from WtE to almost zero.




A sanitation worker collects litter during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah on August 22, 2018. (AFP/File Photo)

A 2017 study by King Saud University’s Department of Engineering Sciences concluded that Jeddah alone has the potential to produce 180 megawatts (MW) of electricity from garbage incineration and another 87.3 MW from garbage-sourced synthetic gas (syngas).

Another study by Dr. Abdul-Sattar Nizami, assistant professor at the Centre of Excellence in Environmental Studies at Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz University, estimates that 3 terawatt-hours per year could be generated if all of Saudi Arabia’s food waste was utilized in syngas plants.

Sewage is another valuable resource, in two ways. First, just like household waste, sewage produces methane, which can be harnessed to produce energy. Second, sewage water can be treated and reused for irrigation and industrial purposes.

The potential gasification of solid waste and sewage is especially pertinent to Saudi Arabia, which derives a large proportion of its freshwater from desalinated seawater, every drop of which is precious.

RECYLING IN SAUDI ARABIA

* 15m - Tonnes of garbage produced by KSA per year.

* 50% - Plastic waste collected for recycling.

* 3TW-hours - Energy potential from food waste per year.

The Saudi government has already realized this and is taking proactive steps to generate at least half of its energy requirements from renewables by 2030. “Waste to energy” will no doubt play a role in this new paradigm.

In the city of Marselisborg in Denmark, sewage-derived methane now generates over 150 percent of the electricity needed to run its water-treatment plant. The surplus power is used to pump drinking water to homes and offices.

Much of Saudi Arabia’s sewage is filtered and repurposed, presenting an opportunity to produce cheap and abundant energy.

A similar philosophy can be applied to land use. Areas currently dismissed as wasteland can be reimagined as beautiful public spaces.




A partial view of the Sharaan Nature Reserve near AlUla in northwestern Saudi Arabia. (AFP/File Photo)

King Salman is a pioneer in this regard. Up until his tenure as governor of Riyadh Province, Wadi Hanifah, the dry riverbed that winds down the western edge of Riyadh, was an unsightly dumping ground for garbage and industrial effluent.

Working with an international team of landscapers, botanists and water-management experts, King Salman transformed the wadi into the exquisite meandering parkland it is today, with its thousands of trees, lush wetlands and charming picnic spots.

Another example of wasteland regeneration is the Highline of Manhattan — an elevated rail track that was abandoned after the Port of New York was largely shut down in the 1960s.

Instead of being demolished at great trouble and expense, this rusty eyesore was turned into a lovely green walkway through the concrete jungle and is today a major tourist attraction.

And just as wastelands can be repurposed to create attractive new spaces, many artists are using discarded materials to create stunning sculptures, while making powerful statements about our abuse of the planet.

The Milan-based artist Maria Cristina Finucci used two tons of plastic bottle caps and thousands of red-net food bags, placed inside recycled plastic containers, to spell out the word “HELP.”

One critic described this work as “a cry from humanity ... to curb the environmental disaster of the pollution of the seas.”




A McDonald’s table covered with trash. (Supplied)

In a similar vein, two Singaporean artists, Von Wong and Joshua Goh, created a work called “Plastikophobia” — an immersive art installation made from 18,000 discarded plastic cups, to raise awareness about single-use plastic pollution.

After decades of short-termism and willful denial of environmental destruction, all-encompassing smart waste-management policies are still in their infancy. The know-how and technology exist. They just need to be put into practice.

The Kingdom is already striking out in the right direction. Its Saudi Green Initiative, launched in March, calls for regional cooperation to tackle environmental challenges, boost the use of renewables and eliminate more than 130 million tons of carbon emissions.

The Middle East Green Initiative likewise sets out to reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent across the region.

There are also plans to plant 10 billion trees in the Kingdom and restore 40 million hectares of degraded land, while across the wider region there are plans for 50 billion trees and the restoration of 200 million hectares of degraded land.

Much will depend upon enlightenment and imagination at a societal and individual level. Do we continue to regard our world as a supposedly infinite source of material for our consumption and as a dumping ground for the resulting junk, or do we aim for a cleaner, more sustainable circular economy?

Young people, in particular, are increasingly concerned for the future of their planet and are highly motivated to protect it. This awakening is already beginning to translate into government policy, in Saudi Arabia and around the world. 


KSrelief continues aid projects in Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon and Yemen

Updated 25 May 2024
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KSrelief continues aid projects in Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon and Yemen

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s aid agency KSrelief  continued its humanitarian projects in Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon and Yemen.
In Sudan, the agency distributed 950 personal hygiene kits to displaced and needy families in Kosti, benefiting 5,463 individuals. In Wad Sharifi, 330 food parcels were provided to displaced families, benefiting 1,710 individuals. 
Meanwhile in Lebanon, KSrelief continued its implementation of the Al-Amal Charitable Bakery Project in Akkar and Miniyeh. The project distributed 150,000 loaves of bread daily to Syrian and Palestinian refugee families, or about 62,500 individuals.
In Yemen, 897 food parcels were delivered in Al-Abr, benefiting 6,237 individuals, as part of the Kingdom’s humanitarian initiative.
in Somalia, KSrelief continued providing medical services in collaboration with the Kidney Dialysis Center at Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu. The center catered to a total of 384 patients and assisted dialysis, medical examination and emergency sessions.


12 arrested in qat smuggling attempt in Saudi Arabia

Updated 25 May 2024
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12 arrested in qat smuggling attempt in Saudi Arabia

  • A separate smuggling attempt of 70kg of qat was thwarted in Jazan Region

RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested 12 Yemeni nationals for attempting to smuggle 266kg of qat through the borders of Asir region, state news agency SPA reported.
The items were seized and handed over to the relevant authority, SPA said on Friday.
A separate smuggling attempt of 70kg of qat was thwarted in Jazan region. Border authorities said the suspects were arrested and the seized items were transferred to relevant authorities for further action.

Mostly chewed by users, Qat is a mild stimulant and illegal across most of the Arab world.

The government has urged citizens and residents to report any information they have regarding drug smuggling or sales to the General Directorate of Narcotics Control. Reports can be made by calling 911 for Makkah, Riyadh and the Eastern Province, and 999 for other regions. Alternatively, information can be emailed to [email protected]. All reports are treated confidentially.

 


Saudi foreign minister meets French counterpart, discusses bilateral relations and situation in Gaza

Updated 25 May 2024
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Saudi foreign minister meets French counterpart, discusses bilateral relations and situation in Gaza

PARIS: Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah met on Friday with French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Stephane Sejourne in Paris.

The two ministers discussed Saudi-French relations and ways to enhance them as well as improve coordination on various issues of mutual concern.

The two officials also discussed the current situation in Gaza and its surroundings and the need to deliver humanitarian assistance to the civilians in the enclave.

The meeting was attended by Saudi Ambassador to France Fahd bin Mayouf Al-Ruwaili, Foreign Minister’s Office Director General Abdulrahman Al-Dawood and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Advisor Dr. Manal Radwan.


Shoura Council arrives in Algiers for Arab parliamentary forum

Updated 25 May 2024
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Shoura Council arrives in Algiers for Arab parliamentary forum

  • The conference will be held in Algiers on May 26-27
  • Al-Sheikh said that the Shoura Council’s participation in the conference stems from the Kingdom’s commitment to supporting joint Arab action

RIYADH: Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al Al-Sheikh, Speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council, has arrived in the Algerian to lead the Kingdom’s delegation to the 36th Conference of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The conference will be held in Algiers on May 26-27, and will be attended by heads of parliaments and councils from Arab countries.

Al-Sheikh was received by Brahim Boughali, President of the Algerian National People’s Assembly and President of the 36th session of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union; Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Busairi, the Saudi Ambassador to Algeria, and other officials upon his arrival at Houari-Boumediene International Airport,

In an earlier statement, Al-Sheikh said that the Shoura Council’s participation in the conference stems from the Kingdom’s commitment to supporting joint Arab action, and its continued interest in establishing security, stability, and peace in Arab countries and the world.

The council seeks to support official diplomacy by taking part in regional and international parliamentary meetings and conferences, or through reciprocal visits to enhance parliamentary cooperation with various parliaments around the world, he said.

A consultative meeting between heads of parliaments before the conference will discuss several topics to be presented by its permanent committees, the Palestine Committee; the Social Affairs, Women, Children, and Youth Committee; and the Political Affairs and Parliamentary Relations Committee.

The Shoura Council delegation includes council member and member of the Executive Committee of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union Bandar bin Mohammed Asiri, council members Issa bin Mohammed Al-Issa and Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al-Yahya, and several council staff members.


Saudi entrepreneur converts farm into a tourism attraction in Al-Baha

Updated 25 May 2024
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Saudi entrepreneur converts farm into a tourism attraction in Al-Baha

  • Al-Barouqi Tourist Farm owner Ahmed Al-Barouqi rehabilitated the farm while preserving its agricultural terraces, famous trees and old wells
  • The farm is enjoying a surge in demand due to recent rainfall, the pristine atmosphere and the natural beauty of the area

AL-BAHA: A farmer in Al-Mandaq Governorate has turned his passion and hobby into a thriving tourism project.

Ahmed Al-Barouqi, who owns Al-Barouqi Tourist Farm in the governorate, northwest of Al-Baha, takes advantage of the mild climate and natural beauty of the area, including its agricultural terraces, historic village and picturesque valley, to attract visitors.  

With a mild climate and natural beauty of the area, the farm has become a tourist attraction.  (SPA)

The Saudi Press Agency interviewed Al-Barouqi, the young farmer in Al-Tarf, Wadi Rusba, behind Al-Barouqi Tourist Farm.

“My relationship with agriculture spans over 27 years, having grown up in a family surrounded by farms,” he said. “This inspired me to invest in the farm in Al-Tarf village, where we have fond childhood memories of planting grape, almond and fruit trees.

“I was determined to create a rural tourism investment model that harmonizes with the region’s natural features and moderate climate, providing a unique experience for visitors to the province,” he added.

Al-Barouqi said he rehabilitated the farm while preserving its agricultural terraces, famous trees and old wells. He created paved paths and seating areas and opened scenic views of the adjacent valley by adding seating areas.

Popular dishes, including tannour bread, coffee, and tea are offered to visitors in the farm. (SPA)

He also offers popular dishes, including tannour bread, coffee, and tea.

He highlighted the success of implementing drip irrigation for strawberry crops, which aligns with the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. This initiative has added value to the farm and its visitors, creating new agricultural investment opportunities and promoting a diverse agricultural culture. By diversifying products and experimenting with various crops, the farm aims to achieve self-sufficiency in producing crops for local markets.

Fruits are abundant in the farm. (SPA)

Al-Barouqi said: “Farming has created over 20 seasonal job opportunities for young men and women in the region and established sites for productive families.

“We have a comprehensive development plan and vision for the farm that includes agricultural, recreational and investment aspects. Investing in this sector results in pioneering commercial projects that provide a distinctive tourism experience in the Al-Baha region,” he added.

The farm is enjoying a surge in demand due to recent rainfall, the pristine atmosphere and the natural beauty of the area.