Responding to growing concern over traditional methods of handling municipal solid waste (MSW) that contribute to environmental and health issues, the sultanate’s state-owned waste management body, the Oman Environmental Services Holding Company – also known as Be’ah – has launched a waste management plan expected to generate investments of up to OR423.47m ($1.1bn). The MSW investment plan includes OR57.74m ($150m) for basic infrastructure, OR288.73m ($749.9m) for waste-energy-water projects and over OR57.74m ($150m) for industrial waste infrastructure, according to Be’ah figures.
The waste management body has also invited bids for tenders on collection, transfer, treatment and recycling aimed at closing all dumpsites and replacing them with up to 13 engineered landfills and 36 waste transfer stations. Based on the quantity of waste and distances across Oman’s 11 governorates, Be’ah has signed 10 contracts with experienced global firms to provide MSW management services, including pre-collection, collection, transport, treatment and disposal. Top priorities include development of an engineered landfill at Barka to replace the existing waste disposal site, which is plagued by environmental and public health issues, and facilitation of waste management planning at the Duqm special economic zone, where Be’ah has invited tenders from specialised companies for engineered landfills, material recovery facilities, transfer stations and waste management services.
Re-designed waste management plans provide an opportunity to realise the recycling potential of Oman’s municipal waste stream, which includes paper and cardboard (15%), plastics (20.9%), metals (1.8%) and glass (4%), according to a Be’ah survey. Al Affia Global Industries, an Omani start-up that was selected by Be’ah in July 2016 to undertake a landmark scrap tyre recycling project, provides an example of local innovation in the sector. The company has fashioned inexpensive ways of processing waste plastic into wires, strips and fibres that can be put to extensive commercial, industrial and household use. MSW also provides a potential fuel for energy generation. Faced with a looming gas shortage, experts have stressed the need for a shift from traditional land disposal to waste-to-energy efforts whereby MSW is viewed as a non-conventional resource. New initiatives in this mould aim to desalinate ocean water using MSW as fuel. In May 2016 Mohammed Sulaiman Al Harthy, executive vice-president of strategic development of Be’ah, told the Times of Oman that energy produced by waste can be introduced into a reverse osmosis plant to produce 18m cu metres of water per year from 2100 tonnes of solid waste per day, which is equal to 30% of all operational desalination plants in Oman.
MSW management in Oman is marked by lack of collection, sorting and disposal facilities, with waste deposited in roughly 320 landfills and dumpsites managed by municipalities. Challenges include limited land availability, negative environmental and health impacts, inadequate data and records about waste, and insufficient laws and regulations. The sultanate’s current waste management policy is focused overwhelmingly on setting up sanitary landfills across the country, rather than on implementing source-segregation, increasing public awareness and recycling.
However, Be’ah is drafting legislation to manage waste, which will be submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs. Al Harthy also told the Times of Oman that “when it comes to waste, we need [legislation] to cover everything from the point of generation, how do we handle containers, ownership of that waste, banning that waste, preventing people from going in the container to remove waste, managing all kinds of hazardous waste, considerations on what is hazardous and what’s not, and determining the levels of all toxins within chemical waste or hazardous waste.” The road to reform in Oman’s waste management industry is long, but Be’ah has taken important first steps.