Be’ah firms up strategy for harnessing value from waste

Muscat: Regulations governing the export of certain types of waste come into force today, September 2 – a move that represents another key milestone in the development of a circular economy in the Sultanate, say experts.

Under new guidelines for waste exports — instituted by the state-owned Oman Environmental Services Holding Company (be’ah) in coordination with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA) and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI)  — a permit is a prerequisite when shipping out certain types of waste.

This permit, which may be sought via the ‘Bayan’ online platform of the Directorate General of Customs, will cover the following types of waste: used lead acid batteries, lead moulds, used tyres, all types of used oil (industrial, car lubricants, cooking oil, and so on), electronic waste, scrap cans, aluminium, scrap metals, all types of plastic and paper waste, in addition to cardboards.

Experts see the move as key to kindling the growth of a vibrant and sustainable waste recycling and reuse industry in the Sultanate – a new economic sector that has the potential to create new jobs, foster the growth of small businesses, and drive socioeconomic development in general. On the environmental front, recycling and reuse activities will help greatly reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfills.

In effect, be’ah’s latest measure is seen as representing another building block in the introduction of a ‘circular economy’ in the Sultanate. A ‘circular economy’ is described by experts as a ‘regenerative system in which resource input and waste, emission, and energy leakage are minimised by slowing, closing, and narrowing energy and material loops; this can be achieved through long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and upcycling’.

By restricting exports of certain types of recyclable waste products, Be’ah is essentially seeking to make investments in recycling industries more viable and lucrative in the Sultanate.  Consequently, shipments of waste – primarily in the form of waste paper and cardboard, scrap aluminium and metal, obsolete electronics and household equipment, plastic, and used automotive batteries – much of it undertaken by road to markets in Oman’s neighbourhood, will now be dramatically reduced.

Already, thanks to be’ah’s initiatives, waste recycling projects have begun to proliferate in the Sultanate. Last year, be’ah announced the launch of Oman’s first used lead acid battery recycling project at the Rusayl Industrial Estate in Muscat.  Arab Lead Company LLC’s $13 million state-of-the-art plant ­is equipped to extract and reprocess the lead content – a commercially valuable ingredient – of used car and truck batteries and return it back into the global supply chain in an environmentally sustainable manner.  The project bodes well for the safe handling and disposal of a waste commodity large quantities of which have tended to end up in municipal landfills to the detriment of the environment and ground aquifers.

Be’ah is also weighing proposals for the creation of value out of the mountains of used automotive tyres stockpiled at key locations around the Sultanate. According to the holding company’s estimates, around 45,000 tons of End-of-Life-Tyres (ELT) are generated annually in the Sultanate. One option under consideration is to cut and shred the tyres, and use the waste as a fuel resource in cement kilns as an alternative to natural gas. Suitably processed, the waste rubber from used tyres can also be used in the production of other commercially useful merchandise.

Also envisaged is a project for the handling and processing of electrical and electronic equipment waste (WEEE), some 45,000 tons of which are generated annually in the country. One proposal being weighed centres on a plan for a pilot plant with a capacity to process 3,600 tons of WEEE waste per annum. It cans for the recycling of commercially valuable components of this waste, and the safe disposal of hazardous ingredients.