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AN OVERVIEW OF SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT IN BAHRAIN

By Swaliha Shanavas

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The Kingdom of Bahrain is characterised by its status as an archipelago with a relatively small geographical area and over two thirds of the people residing in the capital city of Manama on Bahrain Island. The population of Bahrain is estimated at 1.6 million marked by a population density that is said to be the highest in the GCC region. The country is also one of the highest per capita waste generators and as per statistics it produces around 1.2 million tons of solid waste every year. Growing amounts of waste in Bahrain is attributed to the rising population and the rapid increase in construction and industrial activities. With limited land available and a scarcity of waste disposal sites, managing all the waste being generated in a scientific manner is a highly challenging task for the policy makers and municipalities in Bahrain.

At present, there is increasing pressure on all countries to reduce waste and become more sustainable with growing emphasis on circular economy. In this scenario, Waste & Recycling Middle East takes a look at the current waste management practices in Bahrain, key challenges as well as the opportunities, initiatives and approach in providing suitable waste management and recycling solutions for a sustainable future.

Waste recycling services and developments

Nidukki, a company that provides comprehensive waste management, cleaning and recycling services, has over 30 years of experience in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The company’s services span across segments such as solid, liquid, industrial, hazardous and general waste with business partners stretching across the island and including both private and public sectors. In Bahrain, waste management services mostly imply waste transportation from one point to another as the recycling infrastructure is yet to be developed.

Nasser-MattarNidukki mainly caters to the industrial sector, commercial sector and residential gated communities, says Nasser Mattar, Director, Nidukki. The municipality contracts are tendered by the ministry of works and municipalities, and contracts for the residential sector are structured in such a way that all the standard public residential areas are given to a specific contractor, while the gated residential developments are handled by a different contractor and they are keen on servicing the gated communities, he says.

The company has a fleet comprising vacuum tankers, skip trucks, compactor trucks, dump trucks, combination trucks, mechanical road sweepers, transportation vehicles, diesel tankers, and light vehicles to support their services and help maximise efficiency and productivity. Nidukki also has a Recycling division as part of which they collect all paper grades, certain grades of plastic and also offer scrap collection services on site for specific clients, he notes.

On their growth, Mattar says, “We are mainly focusing on Bahrain and our aim is to diversify and secure more business within this market. We first started with waste transportation and in 2006 diversified into the drain and sewer line cleaning business and hydro jetting services. In 2012, we entered the recycling business.”

Another company that is active in Bahrain is Gulf City Cleaning Company (GCCC), which offers a range of solutions including waste management services across the Kingdom. Their services include domestic and commercial waste collection, hazardous waste transport, drain cleaning and maintenance, and skip services.

Fawzi-Nass

“GCCC was formed in 2000 following the successful award of the tender for collection of waste, street sweeping and septic tank emptying in the municipalities of Manama, Muharraq and Hidd. This was one of the first full ‘turnkey’ privatisations in the GCC countries and has proved very successful,” says Fawzi Nass, Director & Board member at GCCC. “With 18 years of success, GCCC is continually evolving as a major market player in cleaning and waste management services with some joint ventures set to take place in other GCC countries.”

The company has a fleet of modern vehicles and equipment, says Nass. “Our waste management fleet is fitted with a GPS system providing real-time information that has helped improve operations and cut down fuel consumption, time loss and overtime costs. RFID tags help us optimise data collection, speed and integrity.”

GCCC has developed the ‘recycling bin allocation app’ as an initiative to enable residents interested in segregating waste at source to drop their recyclables, by providing live location and navigation to the closest recycling point. They have also developed comprehensive awareness programmes for schools and organised major clean up campaigns, he adds.

State of waste management

As per available data, the majority of the waste produced is at present going to landfills. There are two landfills in the country, one for general and industrial non-hazardous waste, which handles all the general waste; and the other for semi-hazardous and hazardous solid and liquid waste. The sewage waste and light industrial waste is transported to several STPs that exist in the country.

On the status of waste management, Nass says the amount of solid waste (including domestic, construction, agricultural and commercial produced) generated in 2016 was 1,448,685 tons. Bahrain produces 5,500 tons of municipal waste (a large part is food waste), seven tons of healthcare waste and
380 tons of industrial waste, per day. But efforts are being made to put requisite measures in place to solve the problem. “There is some movement within the government to adopt a new national waste strategy where they would aim to divert a lot of waste away from the landfill,” says Mattar. On the recycling side, there are a few recyclers in Bahrain at present but they are only “scratching the surface”, he remarks.

The government has undertaken 2 pilot projects with the municipal contractors. While one contractor is executing a pilot project for C&D waste, the other is working on Composting. In addition, a Tyre prequalification tender has just been issued. “So the strategy is falling in place and then it all comes down to implementation and so on,” he states.

Challenges

“Bahrain’s generation of waste per capita is increasing with large scale infrastructure developments. Data gathered within the past thirty years have all revealed significant annual increases in residential, commercial, construction, demolition, industrial, and agricultural wastes. Such factors pose major environmental concerns when considering the impact of waste management services and in facilitating waste disposal,” Nass emphasises.

The challenges in Bahrain, and probably the rest of the GCC at present are growth, cash flow and increased competition, Nidukki Director opines. “Bahrain, unfortunately, has seen slower growth rates in the past few years, but there is increased competition.”

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The main challenge in residential waste collection with regard to gated communities where they operate is the effort required to encourage them to reduce their waste footprint by segregating the recyclables, particularly in the absence of legislation, Mattar points out. They do place recycling bins at specific points assigned by the developers and the management also informs the residents regarding the facility. He says certain volumes are collected “but are unfortunately way below expectations. Unless legislation is in place, we may not be able to achieve the results we would like.”

Overall, they continue to maintain professionalism, increase efficiencies within their team and fleet, but the main challenge right now is that the clients are looking for lowcost solutions under tough market conditions, he says, adding that they are not willing to compromise on their service quality. “At present we just try to maintain our quality and professionalism within the market.”

Bob Doig, Waste Management Advisor, Ministry of Works, Municipalities & Urban Planning, Bahrain shares his views and highlights the key developments in Bahrain including the National Waste Strategy in an interview with Swaliha Shanavas.

What are your views on the developments in the environmental sector in Bahrain including Waste Management?

The Kingdom of Bahrain has recently commissioned experts to prepare a National Waste Strategy. The aim of this report is to produce a National Waste Management Strategy (“Strategy”) that meets the waste management needs of Bahrain at a national level.

Bob-DoigThe Strategy is consistent with the waste management hierarchy, resource recovery and conservation, and integrated sustainable waste management. This is also aligned to other national plans and policies including the National Environmental Strategy, Bahrain Economic Vision 2030, National Energy Efficiency Action Plan, and National Land Policy.

The Strategy covers a 25-year period to 2043. Planning horizons are phased to occur on five-yearly intervals starting in 2020 and ending in 2040. This coincides with the planned phased implementation of new waste management infrastructure and performance targets, and allows for subsequent review and evaluation of progress. The main outputs of the Strategy are the identification of policies and performance targets, which will be delivered through an Implementation Plan. Policies are embedded throughout the Strategy and are summarised in the Policy Framework.

What are the key challenges in waste management and what are the measures to deal with these issues?

The key challenges are security of land for development of waste management projects, given the nature of limited land mass on an island, security for disposal by landfilling will always be a challenge with limited long-term sustainability. However, the biggest challenge in change of mind set in moving from a low cost landfill solution to an Integrated Waste Solution, is the cost involved. Landfill is still a relatively cheap method of disposal but as land becomes scarce, the need for technology increases, as does the cost. With increasing waste due to population, urbanisation and growth in consumerism, the government cannot continue to fund the increase costs ad infinitum.

What are the opportunities the Waste Recycling sector presents in Bahrain?

There are significant opportunities for Waste Recycling in Bahrain and the Government is introducing projects in line with the objectives of National Waste Management Strategy. At present, the waste recycling sector is limited by the end use markets being overseas and recyclates require export. The fees for disposing of waste in the landfill will ultimately have to be increased, thereby creating opportunities for other forms of recycling. Companies are already undergoing pre-qualification for tyre recycling and there will soon be a tender for consultancy works for a Waste to Energy facility incorporating a Materials Recycling Facility, followed by the construction of the facility itself.

How significant is Recycling in the context of a circular economy and the environment? What are the advantages as well as hurdles regarding this aspect?

Recycling is a key element of the Waste Strategy Plan, but there are many challenges that have to be overcome. Like most countries in the Middle East, most of the recycled waste is eventually exported rather than circled back directly into industries locally. The cost of waste disposal, landfill in particular, in Bahrain and generally in the Middle East, is extremely low giving no financial advantage to recycling schemes.

What are the developments/initiatives in Bahrain with regard to Recycling (including plans, if any)?

The government’s Strategy Plan includes several initiatives for Recycling. During the past year the Ministry has commenced a Green Waste Compost Plant, door-to-door pilot projects for source separated dry recyclables, a Construction Waste recycling facility near the landfill, and will presently provide a Tyre recycling facility. Imminently there will be a Materials Recycling Facility as part of the proposed Waste to Energy plant that is required for Bahrain.

What is the role of legislation in improving waste recycling best practices and what are the regulations that exist in Bahrain to help bring in improvements?

Legislation is an essential element of any Recycling Plan. There are currently regulations and legislation that provide the intended purpose, but require modernisation to align with technological progression; and provide more authority to ensure the disciplinary and enforcement measures are in place. The Strategy Plan addresses the issue of the need for legislation clearly.

What are the key objectives for the coming years and the changes one can expect to see in these areas in the near future?

The key objectives include the diversion of waste from landfill and safeguarding the long term future for waste treatment and disposal in Bahrain. This can be achieved by alternative treatment technologies, but also another key objective is to educate the public and private sector to reduce the amounts of waste they throw away, by better practice and by recycling.

The Waste Strategy identifies over 180 policies that need to be adopted over the next 20 years (short term, medium term and long term) to include: Legislation; Recycling and Composting; Treatment and Recovery; Disposal; Education and Awareness; Regulation and Enforcement; Institutional Arrangements; Economic Framework; Waste Classification; Waste Prevention and Minimisation; and Waste Collection.