Green investment in waste management, a driver of economic development
09 January 2023
Our space on this planet is limited. Through population growth and industrialisation, more and more of this precious room will be taken up by waste, which is expected to grow to a whopping 3.4 billion tonnes globally by 2050.
It’s an enormous number that also holds immense opportunity for sustainable investments in waste management and technological advancements under a circular economy. In Qatar alone, the circular model is expected to bring enormous financial, social, and environmental benefits, yielding an additional USD 17 billion by 2030, corresponding to 10 per cent of its GDP, and up to 19,000 new jobs by the same year.
Qatar has emerged as a promising hub for waste management in MENA, a region in which about 6 per cent of the world’s waste is produced with prevalent disposal methods ranging from open dumps and landfills to recycling facilities. In a country that offers 100%-foreign business ownership in all sectors – unrivalled in the GCC—, advanced connectivity and infrastructure give potential investors distinct opportunities in recycling, waste-to-energy technologies and materials recovery sub-sectors.
4 factors underpinning Qatar’s waste management industry:
- Recycling: The Integrated Waste Sorting and Recycling Program & the Qatar National Development Strategy II (NDS) encourage waste recycling techniques incl. the use of ca. 20 per cent of recycled materials in construction projects.
- Waste-to-Energy: The first GCC country to implement a waste-to-energy programme, Qatar generates over 30MW of electricity from its Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre (DSWMC).
- Materials Recovery: Qatar’s current waste comprises approximately 5 per cent metals –70 per cent steel and 30 per cent aluminium.
- Partnerships: The Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) launched the investment portal ‘Foras’ to promote PPPs, driven by innovation and discovery opportunities.
A recent Waste Management sectoral study by the Investment Promotion Agency Qatar (IPA Qatar) explores the potential of the country’s waste management sector. This market is supported by nine existing waste management facilities and a government-led commitment towards the circular use of materials to promote economic growth, while preserving and enhancing natural capital.
Qatar's national environment and climate strategy aims to close and rehabilitate 100 per cent of unsanitary landfills and achieve a 15 per cent material recycling rate of municipal waste. Its ambitious goals also create tangible opportunities across the waste management value chain.
Earlier this year, Ashghal, Qatar’s Public Works Authority, launched the country’s first sewage treatment Public Private Partnership (PPP) project, worth $1.5bn, to streamline water consumption and the use of unconventional water resources. Like many other PPP projects in Qatar, this development intends to stimulate local and foreign investments.
Cities in the GCC, Qatar’s capital Doha included, are the most urbanised, containing 85 per cent of the region’s population today, a proportion that is expected to rise to 90 per cent by 2050. In its sustainable planning, the country has invested in the construction of circular cities, Lusail and Msheireb Downtown Doha, as blueprints for sustainable living where pneumatic waste collection, sewage treatment plants, district cooling, centralised facilities and GSAS are the rule, not the exception.
Building out this sustainable vision will be imperative in the coming decades. While international and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) play a pivotal role in coordinating and helping circular practices reach scale, corporate investors will take on a central role in expanding the industry. Diverting investments towards sustainable waste management will have a multiplier effect in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With it come direct and indirect economic benefits, from industrial waste accounting for the largest revenue share of global waste with 50 per cent, to the long-term implications of environmental protection with a large part of the world’s economic output depending upon the viability of natural systems.
Qatar, a well-connected logistics and commerce hub that currently ranks 1st on the Global Finance Safety Index in the Arab world and boasts robust state initiatives for foreign investors, is eager to lead the sustainable waste management industry of the future. The question that remains to be answered is who will enter its competitive business climate and make a mark on the Middle East’s waste management ecosystem.