Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) Forum came as an aid to the process of disposing of approximately 50 million tons of waste produced in Saudi Arabia every year in landfills. It is a continuation of the support and prosperity of the circular economy in Saudi Arabia.
The devastating conclusion that human wastefulness and plastic pollution are having a disastrous influence on both the climate and the environment has emerged after a long summer of floods, forest fires, and severe heat waves around the world.
Politicians and decision-makers are coming to the conclusion that a whole new way of living must be discovered in order to save not just the planet but also the very existence of humanity. The solution before our eyes is the circular economy and the consequences it will bring.
What is the purpose of the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) Forum?
The upcoming Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) Forum, which will take place in Riyadh during the final week of November, will take place in this dismal environment. The summit “will outline the SGI’s roadmap for delivery spotlight the Kingdom’s green efforts and drive action and ignite new solutions to help confront climate change,” according to the announcement from HRH Mohammed Bin Salman.
No less than 50 million tonnes of rubbish are produced annually in the KSA, and 95 percent of that waste is disposed of in landfills, damaging the environment and causing greenhouse gas emissions for years to come. In the shape of abandoned plastic bags, fast-food containers, and empty drink cans, what is not buried is visible on the streets.
The Saudi Arabian government is now trying to turn this unfortunate circumstance around in favor of a “circular economy” focused on zero waste, with the guiding principle that every type of garbage is the raw material for a new good or source of energy.
The Saudi Investment Recycling Company (SIRC), which was founded by royal decree in 2017 as a fully owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund, is the main driver of change in this regard.
According to SIRC CEO Ziyad Al Shiha, “We are the executive arm driving the circular economy.” “We collaborate with the domestic and international corporate sector to advance regional technologies, introduce best practices, and generate employment. The Saudi Arabian green effort, the Middle Eastern green initiative, and the global green initiative all include this.
By 2035, SIRC intends to effectively eliminate all waste landfills from 100 percent today to zero percent. Al Shiha asserts that “this will be an integrated strategy, as opposed to the fragmented approach of the past.”
Twelve distinct waste elements are the focus of SIRC’s overall recycling plan, which include raw sewage, construction and demolition waste, solid municipal trash (garbage), and agricultural sludge. The rest is a hazardous mixture of industrial waste, old tires, used motor oil, batteries, and electronics that have reached the end of their useful lives.
The only waste that falls outside of SIRC’s purview is nuclear energy and military waste, both of which are managed by more specialized organizations.
The circular economy presents enormous prospects for goods, energy production, and services, all of which would undoubtedly significantly aid Saudi Arabia in diversifying the economy away from oil and its derivatives in line with Vision 2030.
Waste-to-energy is one type of value-add in which trash, untreated sewage, or industrial sludge can be dried out and burned, for instance to run steam turbines. In order to handle raw sewage for this specific use, SIRC and the National Water Company already signed a Memorandum of Understanding. The largest sludge treatment and energy recovery program ever constructed, by Veolia in Hong Kong, serves as the basis for this project.
Although burning waste does generate CO2, it’s shocking to learn that over the course of several years, allowing waste to decay in a landfill results in 20–40 times higher greenhouse gas emissions in the form of methane.
The transformation of construction waste into appealing new items presents business potential as well. In the northern part of Riyadh, SIRC has constructed a sizable facility for processing construction waste. Here, debris is separated and recycled into ballast for landscaping and backfill, aggregate bricks for new buildings, and raw steel that could be melted down into new beams and pipes. With a daily processing capacity of 12,000 tons (400 truckloads), the facility is already operational.
Although both of these programs are sponsored by SIRC, the circular economy cannot be realized without the participation of businesses and enterprises. According to Al Shiha, “Our regulatory structure allows us to move with the private sector in a highly beneficial way.” “The SIRC will create joint ventures, purchase and invest in businesses. We cordially invite local, regional, and international businesses to visit us and discuss how we can advance the circular economy.
According to Al Shiha, SAR120 billion will be invested in Saudi Arabia’s circular economy between now and 2035. SIRC offers an equity participation of 20–30% with a debt structure of 70–80% to Saudi and non-Saudi businesses with an interest in recycling and waste management.
Several billion Riyals are invested in large-scale projects like waste-to-energy. However, there is also potential for SMEs to offer more specialized services like the disassembly and classification of outdated electrical equipment or a wide range of consulting services necessary for “smart” waste management.
It is a long and difficult journey to a fully circular economy. The goal of Saudi Arabia is to accomplish in 15 years what most G20 economies took 30 to 40 years to do. Even though they have all considerably increased recycling and decreased their landfills over the past few decades, highly developed countries like Japan, Germany, and the UK are still far from having fully circular economies today.
The Kingdom requires a lot of work. The separation of trash from households, supermarkets, and factories—known as “waste at source”—is currently not done. Currently, one sizable bin is visible outside of residences and other structures. Soon, there will be 3 bins: one for organic waste, which can be composted or dried and burned for energy; one for dry recyclable waste, which includes metal, cans, plastic, glass, and paper; and a third for “dirty wet” waste, such as baby diapers, which can also be burned to generate electricity.
Illegal activities, such the black market for recycled paper and plastic and reckless construction debris dumping, are another important topic. In the past two months, new laws have been passed to hold environmental polluters accountable and to punish them.
The good news is that Saudi Arabia may benefit from other nations’ expertise and experience. Al Shiha states, “We may build on where others have ended up.” In addition to making physical investments, we also need to develop outreach and educational initiatives.
“Once we get a recycling rate of 25 to 35 percent, we can tell the public, ‘Look, this is your effort. And we’re reporting back to you with this outcome.” It is believed that this will encourage recycling as a way of life.
All facets of Saudi society will be involved in SIRC’s incredibly ambitious ambitions, including every ministry, municipality, school and college, and ultimately every individual.
Al Shiha, however, is still upbeat. He claims that today’s youth are quite progressive. “They care deeply about the environment and want to raise people’s standard of living. Right now, things are changing. Recognizing and admitting that you have a problem is the first step. Then, put all the systems and rules in place, invite people to participate. Humans must be highly passionate, play a very constructive role, and contribute to the circular economy.