Waste Management

Saudi Arabia

Waste management is only sporadically pursued in Saudi Arabia. Urban/municipal as well as industrial waste is separated and recovered to a very limited extent. In the past, there was no advanced understanding of the necessity and potential of modern waste management and waste often was dumped in the desert or stored in open sites. Small towns or rural regions possess, at best, unmanaged landfills (dumping stations). Recycling/waste separation is – if at all – organized rather unsystematically by private actors.

Waste generated in Saudi Arabia amounts to about 130 million tons/year, of which less than 1 percent is recycled. The rest mostly ends up in landfills. Landfill demand is very high at about 28 million m³ per year.
Often, problems with leachate, waste sludge, and methane and odor emissions occur around landfills as they tend to lack technical sophistication. 

As part of the ambitious Vision 2030 reform project, however, waste management is now forming the basis for the envisioned circular economy. Awareness that with continued high population growth, ecological absorption capacities are finite is growing in the country.

To build up the waste industry from the bottom, the Saudi Investment Recycling Company (SIRC) was established in 2017. SIRC is part of the PIF (Saudi Public Investment Fund) and aims to become the largest recycling company in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Its objective is to develop a comprehensive approach to waste management in the country. By 2035, SIRC is expected to recycle 85% of industrial waste and 15% of hazardous waste. Currently, waste incineration of, for instance, construction waste costs 400 Saudi Riyal (SAR)/ton, while the cost of landfilling only is at about 10 SAR/ton.

Moreover, the Saudi-Arabian government established the National Center for Waste Management (NCWM) in 2019. The NCWM aims to regulate and monitor waste management, promote investment in waste management, and improve its quality based on the principle of circular economy in waste management.

Business Opportunities for German Companies

Numerous international industrial companies, as well as (urban) local authorities, repeatedly turned to international markets to address the lack of waste management in the recent past.

By 2030, SIRC sees a need for investment of SAR 6 billion (approx. EUR 1.3 billion). Among other companies, oil-giant Saudi Aramco wants to recycle more plastics, exhaust gases and disposable products. Likewise, the SABIC group is increasingly investing in sustainable concepts and recycling.

This situation offers great potential for German technical service providers as well as technology providers with innovative and sustainable solutions.