Write- Mahmoud Almasry
Concern over the environment has become a priority issue worldwide, particularly in developed countries. A key environment issue that faces communities today is environmental waste, of all forms and types. Traditionally, such waste is disposed of by burial or combustion. However, these methods have negative implications on the environment and human health as they produce air, soil and water pollution. Therefore, many countries have resorted to an alternative solution that is environmental safe and economically feasible, namely waste recycling.
The concept of recycling first emerged between WWI and WWII, when some countries were suffering from severe shortage in basic materials, thus resorting to gathering and recycling such materials for re-use. Wastes range between solid, liquid and gaseous, and there are globally recognized methods for recycling most wastes, changing them into raw materials to be re-used in manufacturing or as components in energy production operations.
In an unprecedented step, the Kuwait Environment Public Authority (EPA) is seeking to have the world’s largest environmental database. It established Kuwait’s Environmental Monitoring Information System (eMISK) as part of the Future Environmental Vision 2035, using the latest geographic information system (GIS) technologies, with the aim of developing EPA’s capabilities in monitoring environmental sites and activities, and supporting proper decision-making across 11 key environmental sectors, including the waste management sector.
The purpose of eMISK Waste is to assess, review and analyze the current waste management situation with regard to quantities, content, means of transport, and treatment and disposal systems in order to establish an environmental database for the waste sector. It further seeks to develop a 30-year waste management national strategy in Kuwait. The project is expected to be completed within 48 months.
The EPA and other government organizations concerned with the environment in Kuwait carry out a monitoring and guidance role to protect and maintain the environment. It was necessary to find solutions to reduce environmental pollution rates resulting from the burial and burning of wastes, therefore, a plan was developed to reduce the number of landfills (dumping sites). There were 16 landfills, most of which were located near residential areas. A safer alternative for waste burial was necessary to protect the environment and people’s health. As a result, Kuwait pushed towards “zero landfills” by creating recycling plants. Efforts are still underway as three landfills are remaining. Experts expect Kuwait to reach “zero landfills” over the next few years.
Kuwait produces 4,000 tons of waste daily, with 1.5 kg of waste per capita/day, which is a relatively high rate worldwide. Kuwait is one of the pioneer countries in the Arab region that resorted to the recycling of solid and construction wastes. In 2004, Kuwait built the first plant for the recycling of construction wastes resulting from demolition and building operations. There are 20,000 tons/day of construction wastes as stated previously by the Director General of Kuwait Municipality Eng. Ahmad Al-Subaih. More recently, numerous companies and plants headed to recycling using modern techniques and methods, as follows:
Construction waste recycling:
Construction wastes are building wastes and unwanted materials resulting from construction and industry works or demolition operation. They include iron, bricks, concrete, asphalt and other building wastes. Most materials are often recycled and reused in other building projects. Kuwait’s Ministry of Finance awarded Environment Preservation Industrial Company (EPIC) the contract to build and operate the first construction waste recycling plant in the Middle East, with daily production reaching 2500-3000 tons. The Ministry pays EPIC fees in return for removing wastes from pile up areas, as an incentive to alleviate burden on the environment.
Plastic waste recycling:
Plastic waste recycling is a key recycling process given the high risk posed to the environment if plastic is buried for disposal. Plastic is a non-biodegradable material, unlike other biodegradable materials, which can take hundreds of years to decay. As a result, several propositions were made to reduce the use of plastic bags and replace them with paper bags. Plastic recycling overall is the least common recycling process, not just in Kuwait, but in the entire world, as it requires very high-quality technology to reduce emissions and harmful gases resulting from the recycling operations. Additionally, the process requires very expensive materials and costs, making it an uncommon process. Kuwait does not have plants specialized in plastic recycling, but some plants recycle their own products only.
Paper waste recycling:
This process involves collecting paper waste separately from households, companies, factories and organizations to be transported to recycling plants. It is the most common recycling process as it requires small amounts of water and energy and produces amounts of polluting smokes less than paper manufacturing operations from raw materials coming from cutting trees. Certain reports show that the recycling and production of one ton of paper provides 4100 kWh of energy, as well as 28 m3 of water and reduces air pollution by 24 kg of air pollutants. Paper wastes in Kuwait is the center of attention for many investors due to their abundance and quality and the application of the separation at source system, which makes collection easier.
Glass waste recycling:
Glass recycling involves changing glass waste into raw materials to be remanufactured and used. The process required separating glass wastes based on chemical composition, then based on color, because glass keeps its color even after being recycled. Figures show that the recycling of one ton of glass wastes keeps 315 kg of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere during the manufacturing of new glass, and reduces water pollution by 50%.
Electronic waste recycling:
These are the wastes of computers, mobile phones, electronics and electric appliances. E-waste recycling is hazardous as e-wastes contain hazardous materials such as mercury, lead, cadmium and zinc. That is why only very few countries import and recycle such wastes in a safe and secure manner. No companies or plants in Kuwait do e-waste recycling.
Wood waste recycling:
Wood recycling involves the reuse of wood residues in the manufacturing of wood products. These materials are chopped, grinded, combined together with thermal adhesive and then compressed at a temperature not less than 150 degrees Celsius using hydraulic compressors, reaching 150 atmospheric pressure. These projects produce compressed wood of various thickness, sizes and dimensions.
Damaged tire recycling:
This process involves the reuse of damages tires of vehicles by converting them into raw materials and using them as an alternative fuel to coal to generate heat energy. Surveys show that there are currently 12 million tires in Ardiya, south of Al Jahra, Kuwait, with one million tires coming in annually. Government entities are examining methods to make use of these tires by using them to generate heat energy as an alternative to coal, instead of selling them at auctions held regularly and burning them to derive small amounts of steel, in order to avoid the poisonous effects resulting from burning the tires.
Organic waste recycling:
This process involves the fermentation of organic wastes such food and agricultural residues to be used as organic fertilizers. This process helps improve the desert soil and increase its fertility in Kuwait.
Liquid waste recycling:
This process involves the treatment of industrial liquid and sewage and public rain drainage grid wastes, which are collected separately in the liquid waste treatment plant located at the Kilo 30 in Al Wafrah area, and treated in a secure and safe manner, and then reused in agriculture and other fields.
There are harmful medical and chemical wastes that do not enter in recycling operations. There are several ways to dispose of these wastes including burning or steam under pressure sterilization, chemical decontamination, and microwave radiation.
According to the new Environment Protection Law no. (42) of 2014 and its amendments, the EPA shall monitor and develop laws and regulations for plants and companies specialized in waste recycling and shall develop action plans to protect and maintain the environment and encourage investment in the field. The EPA shall further organize campaigns to promote public awareness about the importance of preserving the environment. Additionally, the EPA shall conduct regular surveys to know the increase and decrease in environmental wastes and to what extent people respond to and interact with awareness campaigns. It shall carry out its role in enacting laws and enforcing fines on environmental violations and shall take all other necessary measures to preserve the environment and maintain public health.