Qatar’s growing urban landscape requires extensive waste reduction measures

  • 8 months   ago
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In just a few decades, Qatar has undergone massive economic development and reached milestones that other countries were only able to achieve over centuries of progress. Now, Qatar is an attractive destination for global investments, has a booming economy and features some of the most impressive urban establishments in the world. However, this progress wasn’t achieved without an environmental cost and now, in a global setting characterized by sustainable policies, Qatar needs to innovate once again and tackle one of its biggest problems: waste.

How much waste does Qatar produce?

Between 2008 and 2013, when Qatar was undergoing an unprecedented level of urban growth, the amount of solid waste from construction projects increased from eight to twelve million tons. This declined later on, as the projects were completed, and settled at 7.7 million tons, but this is still a worrying amount. According to the Second Voluntary National Review, 2018, Qatar produced a total of 8.2 million tons of waste. Every day, Qatar produces 1.6/kg off household solid waste, which is less than GCC countries (4.1kg) and the EU (4.1kg), but more than the United States (1.2kg).


Unfortunately, only a small percentage of this is recycled. For example, the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics reported that out of all the waste produced in 2012, when construction projects were at their peak, Qatar recycled a maximum of 6%. This percentage is uncompetitive and doesn’t align with Qatar’s long-term vision for sustainable economic development, which is why, for 2020, the State aims to reach the 15% target by 2020.


The Second National Development Strategy for 2018-2022 outlines several key areas that Qatar should improve in order to become a more sustainable country:


  • Reduce the loss of drinkable water and reduce the amount of water consumed per capita by 15%.

  • Reduce the amount of electricity consumption per capita by 8%.

  • Encourage the responsible use of natural resources

  • Promote sustainable waste recycling practices both at an individual level and an industrial one

  • Reduce the amount of solid household waste, which is the second source of waste in Qatar after construction waste

  • Boost the recycling rate. Since landfills are running out of space, Qatar aims to increase the recycling rate to 38%, reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill by 53% and convert waste to energy.


What are the main types of waste that Qatar aims to reduce?

Qatar generates one of the lowest amounts of waste in the Middle East, but long-term measures need to be taken in order to create a healthier urban landscape. To this end, the State of Qatar plans to cut down on these main waste types by 2022:

Construction waste

Construction waste is the total of materials left behind after building projects, such as bricks, wood, and concrete. Qatar produces lots of these materials because it’s one of the countries with skyrocketing levels of industrialization. With the upcoming FIFA World Cup planned for 2022, many are wondering if the country will manage to keep waste levels in check, but Qatar is taking great strides to build the stadiums in an environmentally responsible way. In particular, they plan to address reusing and recycling raw materials and build all the stadiums in accordance with the Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) of the Gulf region.



Household waste

After construction waste, municipal, or household waste, is a major source of pollution and includes leftovers that can vary from food and garden waste to leftover plastic and metal. Combined with construction waste, household waste accounts for a whopping 7.7 million tons, so extensive measures will need to be taken to reduce it. But if the construction waste is easier to manage because the projects are well regulated by a set framework, household waste can be more difficult to tackle because it involves working with individual consumers and even changing mentalities. If Qatar wants to reduce the amount of municipal waste that gets sent to landfill, first authorities will have to raise awareness on the benefits of recycling and develop a solid recycling infrastructure.


Electronic waste

 Electronic waste is the fastest growing type of waste on a global scale and Qatar is affected by it too. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t include only entire appliances such as old washing machines, TVs, and laptops that are thrown away, but also of separate accessories such as cords, batteries, and spare parts, which pollute just as much because they contain substances such as lead, copper, and cadmium. Just like in the case of municipal waste, authorities have to raise awareness and explain why it’s dangerous to dispose of electronics improperly, and then create more electronic recycling facilities for its citizens.


Hazardous waste

When defining hazardous waste, Qatar uses the criteria of the Basel Convention and includes all the substances which, left to decompose in nature, can cause serious damage to humans and the environment. This includes waste that is highly toxic, corrosive, and flammable. The domestic sector only generates a small amount of hazardous waste. In this category, the commercial and industrial sectors produce the most waste through water treatment plants, manufacturing of pharmaceutical supplies, or the automotive industry.


For the following five years, Qatar has lined up several housing and construction projects that will undoubtedly expand the economy, such as the Qatar National Rail Scheme and the Sharq Crossing. However, in order for these projects to be sustainable, it’s equally important to reduce the amount of waste and embrace the circular economy model.