Hurdles Managing Trash in the Middle East

Though Islam puts great stress on waste minimization, it is unfortunate that Arab countries in the Middle East are among the world’s highest per capita waste generator.

middle-east-wasteIn the Middle East, waste management is bogged down by deficiencies in legislation and poor planning. Many countries lack legislative framework and regulations to deal with wastes. Insufficient funds, absence of strategic waste management plans, lack of coordination among stakeholders, shortage of skilled manpower and deficiencies in technical and operational decision-making are some of the major hurdles encountered across the region.

In many countries waste management is the sole prerogative of state-owned companies and municipalities which discourage participation of private companies and entrepreneurs.

Lavish lifestyle, ineffective legislation, infrastructural roadblocks, indifferent public attitude and lack of environmental awareness are the major factors responsible for the growing waste management problem in the Middle East. High standards of living are contributing to more generation of waste, which when coupled with lack of waste collection and disposal facilities, have transformed “trash” into a liability.

Though Islam puts great stress on waste minimization, it is unfortunate that Arab countries are among the world’s highest per capita waste generator. Due to lack of garbage collection and disposal facilities, dumping of waste in open spaces, deserts and bodies of water is a common sight across the region. Another critical issue is lack of awareness and public apathy towards waste reduction, source segregation and waste management.

The general perception towards waste in the Middle East is that of indifference

Waste is treated as “waste” rather than as a “resource.” There is an urgent need to increase public awareness about environmental issues, waste management practices and sustainable living. Public participation in community-level waste management initiatives is lackluster mainly due to low-level of environmental awareness and public education. Unfortunately none of the countries in the region have an effective source-segregation mechanism.

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A sustainable waste management system demands a high degree of public participation, effective legislation, sufficient funds and modern waste management practices/technologies. The Middle East can hope to improve waste management by implementing source-segregation, encouraging private sector participation, deploying recycling and waste-to-energy systems, and devising a strong legislative and institutional framework.

In recent year, several countries, like Qatar and the UAE, have established ambitious solid waste management projects but their efficacy is yet to be ascertained.

On the whole, Middle East countries are slowly, but steadily, gearing up to meet the challenge posed by waste management by investing heavily in such projects, sourcing new technologies and raising public awareness. However the pace of progress is not matched by the increasing amount of waste generated across the region. Sustainable waste management is a big challenge for policy-makers, urban planners and other stake-holders, and immediate steps are needed to tackle mountains of wastes accumulating in cities throughout the Middle East.

Salman Zafar is a renowned expert in waste management, renewable energy, environment protection and sustainability. He is the Founder of EcoMENA, one of the most popular sustainability initiatives in the Middle East. Salman is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on clean energy, environment and sustainability through his websites, blogs, articles and projects. Salman is a prolific professional cleantech writer and has authored numerous articles in reputed journals, magazines and newsletters. Salman holds Masters and Bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering and can be contacted on or