SIRC plans to build recycling, sorting facilities in Riyadh

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Jeroen Vincent

RIYADH — Saudi Investment Recycling Company (SIRC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), is planning to build recycling and sorting facilities in Riyadh, as part of the government’s initiative to implement a circular economy model in the Kingdom.

In an interview with Saudi Gazette, Jeroen Vincent, CEO of SIRC, said the company will kick off its plan in the fourth quarter of 2019 in the capital by building a recycling plant.

He recalled that the facility will convert construction and demolition waste into construction aggregates for road backfill and concrete applications for a residential project housing 35,000 units.

Excerpts from the interview follow:

Q: What is the prime reason for SIRC signing the MoU with Riyadh Municipality?

A: The memorandum of understanding (MoU) between SIRC, the National Waste Management Center and the Riyadh Municipality aims to start recycling activities in Riyadh as part of the overall waste management strategy to achieve the national recycling targets.

SIRC role is to develop the waste management sector and in this MOU particular the recycling capacity in Riyadh. The prerequisite for an a efficient recycling infrastructure is the existence of source segregation. As Riyadh is the first Amanah that started the roll out of source segregation with a 2 bin door-to-door system it was for SIRC the preferred city to start with building recycling facilities.

As part of an integrated waste management system, the SIRC will build state-of-the-art recycling facilities to recycle all types of waste in the capital. This will include recycling of municipal waste into recyclables such as fertilizer, paper, plastics, and metals.

The first initiative will be the recycling of construction and demolition waste into building materials for road construction and housing projects. This will be followed by the construction of a sorting facility for solid municipal waste, which is a result of the Riyadh Municipality’s program to introduce sorting at source by supplying each household with two binds, one for food waste (organic) and one for all other types of wastes. This program, under the name “City without Containers”, is an important step towards a clean and environmentally-friendly city, but will also unlock a large volume of materials for the paper, plastic and metals industry.

Q: How is SIRC working on implementing the strategy for the waste management sector in the Kingdom?

A: Saudi Arabia has been witnessing rapid industrialization, high population growth rate and fast urbanization that have resulted in increased levels of pollution and waste. Waste management is becoming a big challenge for the government and local bodies with each passing day. A sustainable economy can’t live without an efficient ecology system.

Responding to this growing issue, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) established the Saudi Investment Recycling Co. (SIRC) in 2017 as part of their sector development strategy next to the sector initiatives of developing the local defense industry (SAMI) and the entertainment industry (Seven).

As sector development initiative SIRC will invest, develop, own, and operate in various activities across all waste management in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including cutting-edge treatment and recycling facilities, and waste-to-energy solutions that will support the National Renewable Energy Program. As part of our business strategy, we signed the MOU with Riyadh to start executing our mnunicipal waste strategy and with our first major investment in GEMS we all ready have an excellent platform to serve the industry with recycling of complex waste streams from oil, petrochemical and mining industries.

Our portfolio company Gems is a good example of our local capabilities. As market leader in the middle east in the industrial waste sector Gems all ready developed cutting edge recycling technology. This technology is developed in the Kingdom, in parallel of expanding capacity locally we will export this technology as there is a lot of interest globally in our capabilities.

Additionally, SIRC will act as the national champion in the waste management sector by creating a range of opportunities for private sector participation, investing in companies and identifying opportunities to invest with the aim to accelerate the growth and the development of the sector..

SIRC aims to contribute over SR 37 billion ($10 billion) to the gross domestic product, attracting up to SR 6 billion in inward investments and creating around 23,000 new jobs by 2030.

SIRC is the first organization of its kind in the Kingdom and will be a key driver of the circular economy. We have already set highly ambitious targets of achieving 81 per cent overall recycling compared to the best achievers globally such as the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany, who range between 54 and 68 per cent.

To be able to reach our targets and to create the basis for private sector investments we need a proper legislation and enforcement. The main success factor for achieving the high recycling goals in the western European countries was the legislation, enforcement and awareness programs by the governments.

With recent inception of the National Waste Management Center and the development of the national regulatory framework the Kingdom started to define the future goals and established a new regulator for the sector. This is a great step forwards as it is the acknowledgement of the existance of the sector in Saudi Arabia. Soon we will see the implementation of a new legislation and the establishment of the environmental police by the ministry of interior. All the ingredients for a sustainable waste management industry.

Having a first-class recycling ecosystem will have environmental, social, and economic benefits for the Kingdom.

Q: What amount of solid waste is generated in Riyadh? How is it being disposed of currently?

A: The city of Riyadh annually produces 3.4 million tons of solid household waste and 8 million tons of construction and demolition waste.

Though waste is collected from individual or community bins and dispose of in landfills or dumpsites, the Saudi waste management system is characterized by a lack of waste disposal facilities and absence of tipping fees. Most of the landfills are expected to reach their capacities within the next 10 years. We need to discourage landfill by higher tipping fees and we need to encourage the further implementation of the dual-bin system for household waste, so we will be able to sort our waste in mechanically sorting facilities and convert our food- and green waste into compost which is a natural fertilizer..

There is a great importance in sorting our foodwaste from all the other types of waste, it creates greenhouse gasses on the landfill and it is downgrades paper and plastic quality in a way that the recycling of it is almost impossible. People always think about paper, plastic and metals if we speak about recycling, with the fact that foodwaste is 57% of our total municipal waste bin it is evident to start segregating it. We shouldn’t throw it on a landfill if we are able to convert it in fertile soil!

To strengthen the recycling concept in Riyadh, more education and awareness campaigns need to take place. People need to get involved and feel like they are making a difference in protecting their environment. Each school should have recycling ambassadors, and incentives should be created for recycling. People also need to understand how waste is currently being disposed of. The private and government sectors, along with the citizens, should work together to solve the waste problem.

Q: What new projects are you planning with the Riyadh Municipality? What is your investment outlay for these projects?

A: SIRC will jointly work with the National Waste Management Center and the Riyadh Municipality on the execution of the overall waste management strategy to achieve a set of strategic objectives for recycling by 2035. This notably includes the recycling of 81 per cent of the 3.4 million tons of annual production volume of municipal solid waste and 47 per cent of the 8 million tons of production volume of construction and demolition waste per year.

Our first project will start in Q4 this year. It will be a recycling facility on a large construction site where 35,000 houses will be build. Instead of using crushed virgin rocks we will recycle the construction and demolition waste that is currently sitting in the city to aggregates that can be used for road back fill and concrete applications, A perfect circular economy example where we reuse our construction waste into new construction materials. This option is more economical then using virgin materials, it cleans up the city and reduces heavy traffic in the city.

In 2020 we are planning to build a high volume materials sorting facility where we automatically can sort the waste from the waste that is segregated from food waste. Followed by an investment in compost facilities where we will treat our food- and green wastes.

Q: Reports suggest that there is a lack of waste disposal facilities and waste is disposed of in landfills or dumpsites across Saudi Arabia. How are you looking to deal with this issue? Is it the biggest challenge for you right now in Riyadh?

A: Main landfill is Sulay which has in the current operated cells proper engineering. The closed cells are now equipped with gas capturing systems.

The remaining landfill capacity is limited so therefore important that we start diverting our waste from it.

The biggest challenge is to get the source segregation rolled out in the city. People should take their bins into their premises and only put them outside when the collection will take place. Furthermore is it from great importance to have effective awareness campaigns that will show people how to segregate waste and the use of the 2 bins. A proper segregation is the basis for a successful recycling result.

SIRC will support Amanat Alriyadh in their project “A neighborhood without containers”, which intends to introduce the dual bin system for household waste within the jurisdiction of Riyadh Municipality. The move comes after a successful pilot in Alrawdah and Alwaha districts where households separated their organic waste (food, green clippings) in one bin, and all other kinds of wastes (including recyclables) in the other bin.

SIRC will also collaborate with Amanat Alriyadh to divert organic waste from landfills, which will significantly improve air quality, and convert waste into compost to be used within the city.

SIRC will also be using state-of-the-art technologies to sort out recyclables from the second bin. These recyclables, which would otherwise be landfilled, will now help local businesses tap into new supplies of raw materials such as paper, plastic, and metals.

Furthermore, SIRC and Amanat Alriyadh will jointly start treatment of construction and demolition waste. One of the activities among many will be to clean up the streets of such solid waste and use it as feedstock for numerous under-construction projects in Riyadh.

Q: Waste sorting and recycling are driven by an active informal sector. How do you look to resolve this issue with the Riyadh Municipality?

A: SIRC would develop and operate projects to increase landfill diversion rates and boost recycling figures in the Kingdom. The country currently recycles around 10 per cent of the 50 million tons of recyclable waste it produces, with 90 percent diverted to landfills, preliminary studies by the PIF have found.

With the new investments in source segregation and recycling facilities we are moving away from using our cheaper option of landfill. These new investments need to be financed out of the recyclable revenues and by government funds. Therefor the waste, including the recyclables, collected by the private should end up by those new facilities so we can create value out of it.

In this new setup it is clear that there is no room for any informal sector to collect and sell recyclables as it will create a negative impact on our economy and at the end will lead to higher cost for the government and citizens.

Q: Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi have launched waste-to-energy plants. Are you planning any such plant in Riyadh?

A: The Saudi government wants to develop 3GW of waste-to-energy facilities by 2030, to manage its solid waste, contribute to its base load electricity and to diversify its energy. This development provides an excellent opportunity for the local and international companies in the cleantech and waste-management sector.

Waste to energy is the solution for waste that cannot be recycled, it is the alternative for landfill with the benefit that we can generate energy from the incineration process. Incinerating waste is still a less favorable option then recycling but will be needed in the future as last resort for certain waste streams. Compared to landfill it is a very expensive option, the price for incineration in approximately SR400 per ton almost 40 times more expensive than the current landfill price.

So our priority now is to divert waste from landfill and maximize recycling, landfill and incineration will only destroy are valuable materials and therefor should be minimized.

To get proper funding for waste to energy we need to implement tariff schemes, we expect that we will be ready for this as of 2023. — SG


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