With the expansion of urban areas in the GCC, up to $85 billion is required in investments over the next 20 years to achieve sustainable waste management in the region, new research has said.
With municipalities across the GCC being gravely challenged to handle the increasing waste generation through the existing landfill strategies, regional governments have been investing heavily to improve their waste management, according to the study by Boston Consulting Group) in collaboration with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
The GCC generates between 105 and 130 million tonnes of waste per annum, primarily from Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), Construction and Demolition Waste (CDW), and agricultural waste, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE accounting for approximately 75 per cent. The joint WBCSD-BCG study estimates that it will take $60-85 billion invested across four key value streams, plastic, concrete and cement, metal, and bio-waste over the next 20 years to meet targets throughout the GCC region.
“This investment would cover design, collection, sorting, and recycling investment across these four key waste streams.”
According to Fortune Business Insights, the GCC waste management market is projected to grow from $57.81 billion in 2022 to $89.54 billion by 2029, at a compound annual growth rate of 6.5 per cent in forecast period
In a report, Allied Market Research estimates that the global waste management market size was valued at $1.612 trillion in 2020, and is expected to reach $2.483 trillion by 2030, registering a CAGR of 3.4 per cent from 2021 to 2030.
“Meeting bold targets and increasing circularity in the GCC region will yield multi-dimensional benefits. Beyond the obvious environmental value, the transition to a circular economy promises economic gains linked to job creation, economic growth, self-sufficiency, and independence from external regulatory pressures,” said Shelly Trench, managing director and partner, BCG.
The study says optimising circularity can increase GDP by approximately $95 -105 billion across the GCC from the four key waste streams, and therefore accelerate economic diversification away from fossil fuel resources.
"It will increase independence from environmental regulatory pressures on key regional export goods. Circularity also supports economic independence from imported goods such as fertilizer through bio-waste recycling,” it said.
Increasing waste circularity also aligns with environmental and economic benefits since recycling creates over 50 times as many jobs as landfills and incinerators.
Looking ahead, given additional waste volumes of approximately 255 million tonnes across the four key waste streams, making up 75 per cent of all waste streams to be recycled in 2040 across GCC, this means potential for at least 200,000-300,000 jobs in the GCC.
Stefano Castoldi, principal, BCG said it is estimated that contributing to such global targets is crucial as 80-90 per cent recycling would not only save up to 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon emission by 2040 in the GCC, helping to reduce global warming, but also protect nature through the conservation of water, land, and biodiversity.
“Quality of life in the GCC could also be enhanced through reduced air pollution and cleaner, more liveable surroundings,” said Castoldi.
Trench pointed out that these targets positively acknowledge the challenges ahead.
“They are ambitious considering that it has taken some G20 countries 20-25 years to achieve such high landfill diversion targets from a starting point comparable to that of the GCC today.”
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