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Wednesday, 5 October 2022

The GCC needs USD 130 bn to achieve its circularity targets

The cost of the GCC going full circular: The GCC has the potential to be a powerhouse in the circular economy, with the ability to collect almost 90% of solid waste and recycling around 75% of waste across all sectors of the economy by 2040, according to a recent study (pdf) by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG). To achieve this, the study found that the region would require a whopping USD 130 bn in investment. It would also need clear regulations and financial incentives, paired with joint action between the public and private sectors.

Why would the GCC bother? The region stands to increase its GDP by USD 95-105 bn, while adding around 300k jobs, the study found. And that’s just from recycling plastic, concrete and cement, metal, and bio-waste. Recycling typically creates on average more than 50x as many jobs as landfilling and incineration. Additionally, it will allow the GCC to trade more easily with countries that have environmental regulatory pressures and carbon border taxes. Biowaste recycling could help mitigate reliance on fertilizers manufacturing and imports.

Not to mention the obvious environmental benefits, including potentially slashing 1-1.5 bn tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2040.

Especially when considering that the GCC generates between 150-190 mn tonnes of waste annually. Large infrastructure and real estate development projects currently account for the largest waste volumes. Cement and concrete, plastic, metal and bio-waste make up approximately 70% of the region’s waste.

How should this USD 130 bn be deployed? The study estimates that the region needs USD 60-85 bn invested in four key waste streams (plastic, concrete and cement, metal, and bio-waste) over the next 20 years to cover design, collection, sorting and recycling to meet its circularity targets. 65% would go into developing and deploying technology in recycling and expanding recycling capacity, while 20% would go into collection, 10% for sorting and 5% for product design.

The hurdles: With the exception of a handful of large urban centers, the region’s waste management sector remains fragmented, largely managed by small-scale collection companies. There is also an absence of consistent data on waste. Material sorting at source remains minimal in most of the GCC, including in large urban centers, which results in the contamination of waste streams and increases the costs of sorting.

Tighter regulation needed: GCC countries lack comprehensive regulatory frameworks promoting recycling in all sectors, and even those that do may not implement them fully due to weak environmental legislation and enforcement. Additionally, GCC consumers lack awareness about circularity and education about waste separation and plastic pollution.

The economics of recycling are obviously harder: There is also an absence of financial incentives, including low costs for landfilling compared to recycling discourage recycling.

KSA and the UAE produce the most waste, but are also the most active in trying to adopt the circular economy: Both countries account for roughly 75% of the region’s waste. That said, both countries are making strides to change that.

The UAE has adopted a Circular Economy Strategy, while Dubai issued the Dubai Green Building System — a set of regulations to increase recycled content in construction. Not to mention the slew of new recycling projects being pushed, including Sharjah, where Beeah Group announced a new commercial and industrial recycling facility, which utilizes a robotics and AI system to automatically detect, identify and separate different kinds of waste. The facility will process 156k tons of mixed recyclables annually once it is fully operational. This week, the Abu Dhabi Waste Management Centre (Tadweer) reported that it has produced more than 1 mn tons of products from recycled waste materials collected from the Emirate in 1H2022

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has pushed forward its Circular Carbon Economy National Program. KSA has published targets to divert 82% of all landfill waste — for which it has earmarked USD 27-32 bn, recycle 42% and compost 35% by 2035. The Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) intends to invest USD 11 bn by 2035 to increase recycling, with the support of the Saudi Investment Recycling Company (SIRC). The targets of other countries are not mentioned in the report.


Kuwait Municipality has approved a refuse-driven fuel (RDF) project to power up its main cement production plant, Kuwaiti daily Al Qabas reported, citing sources close to the matter. The project will utilize solid, non-biodegradable waste to feed kilns at the Kuwait Cement Company (KCC) for further cement production. The media outlet did not mention the project cost.

What we know about the project: It is expected to be completed within 18 months of signing the contract, and will probably be built near a waste site at Abdallah Port. KCC will act as the project’s investor and manager for 20 years, during which it will produce biogas, biofuel, fertilizers and other products.

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