With the fast paced growth of the industrial sector in the Middle East, a large amount of waste including hazardous waste is being generated in this region. The commercial and residential segments also generate certain types of hazardous waste, and considering the fact that this is a critical area within the sector, the proper disposal and treatment of this waste stream is of great significance. The UAE and Oman are addressing this issue by taking steps to put in place specific measures to deal with this critical waste stream. Swaliha Shanavas speaks with industry experts to find out more on the current state of this growing segment, the regulatory framework, major concerns and the latest developments in this area.

Present status
Waste management has becomea major area of focus for various governments in the Middle East, with a majority now investing in sustainable solutions and open to significant changes in their approach to waste management so as to ensure their long term environmental goals are achieved. The rapid growth in population, urbanisation, economic expansion and rapid advancement in technology over the past decade has led to a tremendous increase in the quantities of waste being generated, including hazardous waste with a major portion of this type of waste being produced by the industrial and medical sectors. Awareness on hazardous waste management and the need for solutions are also picking up in the region and in some countries such as the UAE, there are certain guidelines and regulations in place or are taking shape to deal with this significant waste stream. Hazardous waste generated in the UAE is predominantly from the industrial and the healthcare sectors as byproducts of various processing streams or biohazard wastes from these segments.

Jules Adem
Chief Commercial & Marketing Officer Suez Middle East Recycling

“Medical waste is being mainly generated at hospitals followed by clinics and laboratories. Pharmaceutical waste, including expired medicine constitutes another (sub)stream,” says Jules Adem, Chief Commercial & Marketing Officer, Suez Middle East Recycling. “The second main stream can be put under the umbrella of Industrial Hazardous Waste, although we all agree that the risks vary a lot and people might not always agree on the rating of hazards and risks associated or which comes first, second… however, there are more advanced regulations already developed in the USA, UK, OECD and EU that can be adopted in this respect. I would like to state in particular the Basel Convention and EU 1013/2006,” he comments.

“As per statistics the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai which account for major industries and medical services generate close to 86 percent of the total hazardous waste generated in the UAE, with Sharjah around 10 percent and the balance by all other emirates,” says Madhumohan Sreeram, Chief Innovation Officer, Dulsco. “Since hazardous waste is more industry specific, the established rules and regulations in the UAE for controlling transport and disposal of such waste have contributed to establishing specific focused facilities,” he notes.

Following are some examples of facilities that are operational in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where certain segments of hazardous waste are handled locally: “In the Oil sector, various types of hazardous waste generated by ADNOC group, Abu Dhabi are handled in their own centralised treatment facility in Ruwais, which consists of incineration, centrifuge, thermal desorption, solidification, mercury distillation, class 1 and 11 landfills, double lined evaporation ponds etc.,” Sreeram notes. There are also specific treatment facilities established by private sector which are operational in Fujairah, Khorfakkan, Jebel Ali, etc. A recycling facility has been established in Abu Dhabi under Centre of Waste Management (CWM) and in Dubai under Dubai Municipality for Used engine oil, which again is hazardous waste. As for medical waste, an Incineration facility has been in operation in Dubai under the municipality and in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi under CWM. In Sharjah, medical waste is handled by wekaya established with the municipality.

Madhumohan Sreeram
Chief Innovation Officer, Dulsco

There are also lined class I landfill cells developed in Abu Dhabi and Dubai by the relevant authorities where other types of hazardous waste can be stored for future treatment. Dubai Municipality recently commissioned a Physicochemical treatment plant for liquid hazardous waste. “Dulsco does work closely with the ministry of environment and the local municipalities to handle hazardous waste through their established facilities or in instances where there are no treatment facilities locally, provide service to export hazardous waste to specialised treatment facilities in Europe as per Basel convention norms,” Sreeram explains, adding that they also do in situ treatment of specific waste streams as per ground requirements.

In Oman, a large amount of waste is being generated, especially in the industrial areas and it is estimated that a majority of the total amount of industrial waste is produced in Sohar. As per recent statistics, around 1.5 million tons of industrial waste is being generated in Oman annually. Following are some waste streams based on the study conducted in 2014, says Abdulkareem Qasim AlBalushi, Department Head, Integrated Hazardous Waste Management, be’ah. These include (but not limited to): Iron smelter slag, Chromite smelter slag, EAF dust, Mineral waste, Oil waste (liquid and solid), WEEE, Dust from miscellaneous sources, Inorganic chemical waste, Batteries, Organic solid without halogens and sulphur, Organic solid containing halogens and sulphur, Healthcare waste, Slag, Mercury containing waste, Organic solvents without halogens and sulphurand so on.

Aerial View IWTF Site, Oman

Currently, a full treatment system is not present in Oman, but be’ah is bringing a sustainable solution for industrial waste, says AlBalushi. “Our Industrial Waste Strategy involves setting up an integrated industrial waste treatment facility in North Al-Batinah.” At present the integrated facility for hazardous waste treatment in the northern area is under construction and should be ready for full-fledged operations by 2023, he says. The Industrial Waste Treatment Facility in North Al-Batinah is being established in a phased manner.

Phase 1 of the project is nearing completion, which includes: Infrastructure (internal roads, drainage system, fencing, offices, lab and weighing bridge, etc); Industrial waste landfills (Non-lined, Single- Lined, Double Lined); and storage facilities (closed and open).

AlBalushi says partial operation of phase 1 started in June 2018 for: Inert landfill with a capacity of 500,000 m3; Single-lined landfill with a capacity of 400,000 m3; Double-lined landfill with a capacity of 400,000 m3. “Phase 1 is ready to receive inorganic solid waste for treatment and organic solid waste to be stored for later treatment. The rest of the industrial waste is either stored or exported for treatment.”

UAE has ratified the Basel convention regulations on 17 November 1992. “The federal laws like the Law No 24 of 1999 and Law No 21 of 2005 and the regional guidelines of various emirates which are well laid out policies and regulations do address the requirements for Hazardous waste handling, transport and treatment in the UAE and therefore would be adequate to address the various controls and requirements,” says Sreeram.

Some of the specific laws and regulations which guide the hazardous waste regime in the major emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai where about 86 percent of the hazardous is waste generated are as follows: In Abu Dhabi there is a Regulation on Handling of Hazardous substances, Hazardous Waste and Medical Waste (2001); Article 10 – General Rules and Procedures for Hazardous Waste Management; Policy Affecting Waste Management and Pest Control in Abu Dhabi, 1st June 2010 – Center of Waste Management Abu Dhabi. Key policies to control hazardous and medical wastes are: WMP1: Waste Classification; WMP2: Waste Transfer and Tracking; WMP3: Waste Planning; WMP4: Waste Tariff; WMP5: Waste Permitting; WMP6: Education, Awareness and Training WMP7: Enforcement WMP8: Waste Collection and Street Cleaning WMP9: Waste Treatment WMP10: Waste to Energy WMP11: Hazardous Waste WMP12: Asbestos Waste WMP13: Producer Responsibility WMP14: Pest Control WMP15: Education and Training WMP16: Waste Legacy (Under development) WMP17: Emergency Response, Exceptional Circumstances WMP18: AD EHSMS. In Dubai the following Technical guidelines control the handling and disposal of hazardous wastes: DM/ENV-05 /2014 – Circular No. (5) 2014 Regarding Management and Controlling the Handling and Disposal processes of Hazardous Waste; EC TG 1- Disposal of Hazardous Wastes (2013); EC TG 5- Requirements for the Transport of Hazardous Wastes (2011). “Therefore, for an investor to establish a suitable facility clear guidelines are available to be followed,” says Sreeram.

In terms of industrial waste collection, “an online manifest system has been created for waste generators to track, control, handle and transport industrial waste from their facility to be’ah facilities,” AlBalushi notes. In addition, the company intends to involve several small & medium enterprises in the transportation of industrial waste, hence contributing to the in country value.

Healthcare Waste Treatment Facility, Oman

For any operator in this space, the challenge is the proper identification of the waste, review of existing facilities where it can be handled, and if such local facilities are not available, to establish a viable option and solution for the client in coordination with the regulatory bodies. “Once the solution is identified the challenge would also include ensuring control in collection and transportation and availability of adequate quantities to provide an economically viable local solution with the ultimate option of export to established facilities through Basel norms if required,” Sreeram emphasises.

Adem is of the same opinion. And along with the issues of identifying the hazardous waste, categorising it as per the local regulations and finding the proper disposal/treatment, affording the proper solution and convincing the producer of the related costs is also an area of concern, he states. Hazardous waste treatment are covered under the federal laws and the specific regulations of each emirate and the treatment and disposal of the same are localised in each emirate “with very little option of inter emirate movement of such waste material,” Sreeram highlights.

As regards the treatment cost, currently there are specific costs stipulated for disposal of medical wastes and hazardous wastes which has helped in establishing units where economical capacities have been found to set up such treatment plants. “Classification of all types of hazardous waste generated in the region and its quantification is a major exercise to be dealt with as there are over 405 types of hazardous wastes specified as per EU norms with the type of treatment or disposal norms provided for the same,” Dulsco chief innovation officer remarks.

In Adem’s view, Data is key in defining the problem or the risk before looking for the corresponding solution. “There is a need to know the trends in hazardous waste generation to be able to choose the appropriate solutions,” he says, adding that these have to be environmentally and economically sound as well.

Treatment processes and advanced solutions
In this region, specific hazardous wastes like mercury containing wastes, pesticides, HCH wastes, infectious hospital wastes, acids, bases and cutting oils, paint, lacquer, contaminated filters, contaminated soil, ashes, slag, dross, used oil, galvanic sludge, developer, fixer, catalysts, etc., are generated, all of which need specific treatment processes. Such treatment options and proven technologies are available including rotary kiln incineration, Physico-chemical treatment, enhanced plasma system, special recovery processes, mining, refining, electrolysis, etc.

“These systems do need minimum quantities for treatment and therefore establishing local treatment facilities are a constraint unless optimal quantities are available.” Sreeram advocates a three pronged approach to hazardous waste handling and treatment as it would ensure its complete management: Local treatment facilities where such waste quantities generated locally are sufficient to establish an economical capacity; Where local quantities are less, have a consolidation of all the waste from all emirates at a central facility with specific inter emirate movement of such waste addressed; Where the quantities are too low even for consolidation and processing locally, have proper storage and export to established facility.

Other developed countries’ approaches can also be considered and adopted in this region, says Adem. “In view of the limited quantities generated or identified of particular streams, the final treatment solution does not have to be within the area/emirate/municipality… not even in the country or region. We could opt for segregation and neutralising facilities which could stand as intermediary solution points prior to dispatching the remaining hazardous material to existing and operational facilities elsewhere (mainly Europe) noting that some of these facilities lack the volumes needed to operate efficiently. We have to think global!” he underscores.

In his opinion there are plenty of opportunities for putting forward more advanced solutions. “One essential condition for these solutions to be brought to the market, be implemented and be effective is the regulatory framework that will invite them and the initial R&D and studies leading to such selective invitations.”

Looking ahead
In the 2nd phase (2019- 2023), be’ah will focus on the establishment of an incineration plant; solidification plant; physical and chemical treatment plant; and several pre-treatment plants, says AlBalushi.

“From 2023 onwards the facility will be able to handle all kinds of hazardous waste (except explosive and radioactive waste) adopting European standards and best practices,” he comments. The plant will have state-of-the-art equipment and treatment methods.

“be’ah’s integrated industrial waste treatment facility will provide a long term sustainable solution, reducing the environmental impact and conserving the environment of our beautiful Oman for future generations,” AlBalushi concludes.


6 key tips for handling Healthcare waste (HCW) generated from households (insulin needles & expired medicines):

Jassim Mohammed Al-Wahaibi, Department Head – Health Care Waste, be’ah, Oman, talks about be’ah’s solutions since taking over HCW waste management in 2012. The service began through the first treatment facility in the Muscat Governorate, which compromises of two technologies (Incinerators & Autoclaves). The capacity has increased from 5.5 tonnes per day in 2012 to 14.5 tonnes per day in January 2016 with the introduction of two lines of Autoclave device. be’ah has completed rolling out the service through this facility in 2016 to four governorates.

They have also established another treatment plant in Liwa located in North Batina Governorate, and the said facility currently serves five governorates in that region. The facility is equipped with two lines of Autoclave with a capacity of 6 tonnes per day. Their third facility in Dhofar Governorate that was officially commissioned in August 2016 aiming to serve two governorates is equipped with two lines of Autoclave devices with the capacity of 6 tons of waste per day. “be’ah has covered more than 99% of the health institutions across the country since third Q of 2018,” says Al-Wahaibi.

Household Healthcare Waste:

The random disposal of the above said waste that was practiced by people was a challenge as plenty of sharps and medicines were found in Municipal waste bins, he remarks. They have addressed this issue seriously and has adopted numerous procedures to control such situation, he says. “In 2017 be’ah addressed this issue by raising awareness among the public through media and demonstrating the risk of discarding such waste in a random manner.”

In 2018 be’ah also introduced an awareness video highlighting the following:

1. Dos:

  • Collect insulin needles and sharp medical tools in a dedicated solid plastic container, which has to be empty and clean (such as Sharp containers, Plastic water Bottles, Detergent Containers).
  • Collect expired and damaged medicines in a cardboard which has to be properly sealed in order to prevent any spillage.

2. Don’ts:

  • leave sharps & medicines unattended
  • Throw needles in the garbage.
  • Flush sharps down the toilet or drop into storm drains and sinks.
  • Clip, bend or recap needles.
  • Fill the container more than ¾ of its size.
  • Share your insulin pen with others even after replacing the used needle with a new one, as this might increase the chance of transmitting diseases between the users.
  • Keep the needles & expired medicines for more than 3 months.

3. In case of a needle prick injury, clean the affected area immediately with soap and water and report the  incident to the nearest healthcare institution.

4. Keep the plastic container and cardboard in a low temperature room away from direct sunlight and away from children’s reach.

5. Make sure to seal the needles container and medicines cardboard before disposal.

6. Take the needles container and medicines cardboard to your nearest health centre for disposal.