Opinion: Collaboration needed in GCC waste management

By applying the most effective and advanced production processes, methods, technologies and operational practices, any potential impact on the environment must be prevented, or minimised, opines Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun.

Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun is the secretary general of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA).
Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun is the secretary general of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA).

By applying the most effective and advanced production processes, methods, technologies and operational practices, any potential impact on the environment must be prevented, or minimised, opines Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun.

The Arabian Gulf chemical industry is one of the fastest growing, globally. In 2016, the industry posted its highest growth rate over the past five years, reaching 158.8 million tonnes. With production continuously increasing, often comes a corresponding increase in industrial waste. This additional waste – if not well managed – will have a potential negative impact on the environment and create serious business risks.

The GPCA member companies have predominantly implemented industrial waste management practices in the areas of elimination, reduction, recovery, reuse and recycling. However, there has been no consistent industrial waste management approach adopted, largely due to inconsistent regulations and enforcement across the Arabian Gulf region.

Legal frameworks for waste management in the GCC countries cover key areas, such as, waste generation, storage, transportation, exportation, reusing, recycling, treatment, and disposal. There is, however, a need for a more coherent regulatory framework that covers the GCC region. In addition, governments would need to invest in a comprehensive waste management infrastructure that meets current industry needs and attracts investors to enter this important, and potentially lucrative market.

In November 2017, GPCA Industrial Waste Taskforce produced a position paper detailing the challenges arising from industrial waste management from the chemical and petrochemical industry within the Arabian Gulf region, and identifying the potential benefits and opportunities for stakeholder collaboration.

The paper identifies the need for greater collaboration between regulators, waste management service providers and the industry to support the development of an effective industrial waste management programme for the Arabian Gulf region that will in turn contribute to the sustainable development of the region by providing job opportunities, reducing industrial waste generation and the use of natural resources such as landfill.

In line with its efforts to support the sustainable development of the chemical industry in the Arabian Gulf region, GPCA organised a workshop in Riyad in December 2017 on the important topic of government and industry collaboration for chemical management and hazardous waste. In 2018, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Gulf Standardisation Organisation (GSO) to collaborate on developing world-class standards, and pave the way for adoption of internationally recognised best practices on dangerous goods transportation, global harmonisation system and industrial waste.

Industry, as a primary industrial waste generator, has a responsibility to ensure that industrial waste is managed in a responsible manner adopting the principle of Best Available Techniques (BAT).

The effective management of industrial waste is also a prerequisite for the societal and environmental obligations of Responsible Care®, the global chemical industry’s unique initiative for Environment, Health, Safety and Security (EHS&S), and for this reason all stakeholders involved need to collaborate to ensure effective management systems and necessary infrastructure are in place.

Efforts should also be made to seek alignment with relevant international regulations, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) specifically SDG12, Targets 12.4 (Management of chemicals and associated waste streams throughout their life cycle) and 12.5 (Reduction of industrial waste through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse) as well as the EU Waste Framework Directive to take advantage of their learnings.

There continues to be potential improvement opportunities for the management of industrial wastes generated in the region. But governments would need to collaborate and adopt a coordinated approach to regulations, enforcement and the provision of a comprehensive industrial waste management infrastructure which meets the needs of the GCC industries.

Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun  is the secretary general of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA). Set up in March 2006, GPCA is a dedicated non-profit association, serving its members with industry data and information sources.

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