Municipal leaders across the region must re-think waste streams, and begin circling materials back into the economy instead of sending them to the landfill or incinerating them. This was Averda’s message to over 300 senior level executives at the third annual Arab Future Cities Summit.
Jeroen Vincent, chief operating officer over the GCC region for Averda, a leading global provider of waste management solutions, highlighted the need for cities to drastically reduce their waste streams. This will require a drastic shift away from our current linear model of waste disposal, where we make, use, and then dispose.
“Urban centres across the developing world will see a dramatic population increase over the coming years,” said Vincent. “Municipal governments generally spend between 20 and 50% of their annual budget on solid waste management, according to research done by the World Bank last year. 60% of solid waste in any given city, for instance, is food, which is full of valuable nutrients for the region’s soil. We need to rethink this model and build a smarter system in our cities.”
This concept, termed circular economy, has the potential to collectively save the global economy up to $1 trillion. In a circular economy, materials flows are divided into two types, biological materials and technical materials. The biological materials are non-toxic, organic matter that can be decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer. Technical matter – such as products made with polymers, alloys and other man-made materials – are designed to be re-used and enjoy multiple lifecycles without being wasted.
“This concept is full of potential,” Vincent added, “The long-term objective of a circular framework is to prevent waste, but reaching that goal will take a considerable and prolonged investment by all stakeholders involved. In the meantime, our tangible goals should be to reduce avoidable waste, and identify ways to use waste that benefits our economy.”
The first step for many cities in the region, according to Vincent, is to separate the volume of food waste that they collect. Next, it is essential for municipal governments to implement schemes to incentivise businesses to recycle their food waste and turn into fertilizer and renewable energy.
“There are profound benefits to incentivising stakeholders,” Vincent concluded. “Along with generating clean electricity and fuel commodities such as ethanol and methane, waste can also kick start new industries. By turning waste into fertilisers, we can encourage farming in a region where the soil lacks the nutrients and the ability to retain water. By producing organic fertiliser, we can avoid importing synthetic fertilisers, while reducing the cost of farming, and foster a new, sustainable industry in the Middle East.”
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