The world’s population is hurrying towards the 10 billion mark by 2050. With two-thirds projected to live in cities by then, urbanization is a global phenomenon that is a leading factor contributing to municipal solid waste.
With an increase in consumerism and shifts in lifestyles around the world, solid waste management is one of the most urgent challenges confronting municipalities, cities and countries. According to the World Bank, annual waste generation could jump from the 2 billion tonnes reported worldwide in 2016 to a staggering 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050.
Current total urban waste generation in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is estimated to be around 150 million tonnes annually and this will continue to rise. The Middle East and North Africa region is expected to double waste generation by 2050.
Countries in the region have realized the opportunity to implement sustainable solutions to tackle the issue of waste management by building and operating waste-to-energy (WTE) plants, as part of wider waste management strategies.
Sustainable waste management makes business sense
According to the World Bank’s What a Waste 2.0 report, waste management can be the single highest budget item for many local administrations. In low-income countries, it comprises 20 percent of municipal budgets, on average.
Therefore, waste reduction and recycling can have an economic benefit as much as an environmental one.
Further, research suggests that the costs of addressing the environmental and health impacts of improper waste disposal over the long term are higher than the costs of developing and operating adequate waste management systems in the first place.
The UAE’s commitment to waste-to-energy
Masdar’s mandate is inspired by the UAE’s leadership and its investment in supporting the vision of a sustainable waste management system is showcased through its partnership with Bee’ah, the UAE’s leading environmental management company.
Together, they are developing the Middle East’s first commercial waste-to-energy facility in the emirate of Sharjah. Diverting more than 300,000 tonnes of solid municipal waste from landfill each year, it will contribute to Sharjah's effort to reach "zero waste-to-landfill" targets and to the UAE’s goal of diverting 75 percent of solid waste from landfills. Abu Dhabi currently has three major waste-to-energy projects in the pipeline.
How will the Waste-to-Energy facility help?
Upon completion, the facility will work by processing more than 37.5 tonnes per hour of municipal solid waste to generate electric power.
The net electrical power produced will be up to 30 MW, which will feed directly to the Sharjah electricity grid and power approximately 28,000 homes in the emirate. The ﬂue gas of the waste processing will be environmentally treated before being released into the atmosphere. The project will displace almost 450,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year and save 45 million cubic meters of natural gas per year.
Taking the Waste-To-Energy mission beyond the UAE
Last year, Masdar and Tribe Infrastructure Group announced a joint venture to develop utility-scale WTE projects in Australia. When completed, East Rockingham Waste to Energy, near Perth, will process 300,000 tonnes annually of non-recyclable municipal, commercial and industrial waste and up to 30,000 tons of biosolids per year. The facility will generate enough energy to power more than 36,000 homes and displace more than 300,000 tonnes of CO₂ emissions per year.
As we prepare for a future that will witness unprecedented urbanization and population growth, solid waste management will be pivotal for a sustainable future that contributes to the well-being of cities and communities around the world. People’s lives and livelihoods, as well as the environment, depend on it.