Solid Waste Management in GCC: Challenges & Opportunities

Published: 14 Dec 2009

By Vivek Gautam, Sr. Research Analyst, South Asia & Middle 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 implementation.

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.

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