How is be'ah controlling the damage caused by bad waste management practices?
We used to have over 300 dump sites scattered across Oman which came in different sizes, some huge and some minor, with small quantities of waste that caused major environmental and health issues. When be'ah came into existence, its first priority was to control damage caused by the dumpsites and bad practices of handling waste. We decided we would have an engineered landfill in each governorate to replace the traditional dumpsites, and divert all the waste toward those engineered landfills. At present, there are eight under operation, and one is being finalized to be operational by the end of 2018. Our landfills are state of the art with engineered liners to protect from any seepage in the ground, and some of them also have industry-leading treatment units to treat the leachate that comes out of waste. Those engineered landfills are supported by transfer stations which are logistical hubs where waste is moved from smaller trucks to large semi-trailers, compressed, and hauled long distances to the landfills. We already have 13 transfer stations in operation and two more are expected to operate soon.
What role do private companies play in the waste management sector?
We divided the country into nine different service areas for the management of waste and outsourced the contracts to private operators with relevant experience. The contracts include pre-collection, waste collection, and disposal. Our service providers are international companies with more than 20 years of experience in waste management in different parts of the world, including Portugal, Spain, and France. We are currently operating in eight out of 11 governorates as well as part of Muscat and aim to cover the entire Sultanate by the end of 2019.
What are the challenges of balancing partnerships between be'ah and private companies?
We manage all of these contracts with key performance indicators (KPIs) and do not dictate the number or size of bins; all that matters to us is that they meet the KPIs whereby there is no overflow of waste and no issues related to bad odor or insects. We have contract monitoring officers across the country with proper systems in place to monitor the operations and service levels. The initial challenge for both the operators and us is that we were entering an unfamiliar territory; the service level we expect is much higher than what was previously in place. A lack of awareness among residents is another challenge; Oman's demographics are remarkably different from other countries. At this stage, we are not focusing on separating waste but on making sure that waste is safely disposed and in the right manner through our collection systems. We expect these challenges and ensure we are ready to tackle them through efficient operations and awareness programs.
Can you tell us about future and current plans regarding using waste-to-energy and renewable projects?
We have set our internal target of diverting 60% of the waste that currently goes to landfills or dumpsites by 2020, and we increased that target to 80% by 2030. There are different options to divert waste. One option is to spread awareness to reduce the amount of waste produced, which is a responsibility of our community outreach team. Recycling is another option, but it requires a sustainable balance between the cost and impact on the environment. We are planning to incorporate five sorting facilities that will be responsible for diverting almost 10% of our waste. Next comes waste-to-energy projects; we have plans for a project to generate electricity by incinerating waste, which we believe is the most economically feasible approach. We did the studies, passed it to the government, and the government has floated a tender for a consultant to review the numbers. The study, which is being done by the Oman Power and Water Procurement Company, is expected to be finalized by October 2018.