Where does all your garbage go in Qatar?

Giovanna Albanese's picture
Giovanna Albanese

There are more than seven billion people in the world. Of this massive number, the country of Qatar has a population of more than two million people. Although Qatar makes up a small percentage of the overall world population, the country is not small, nor shy, when it comes to making a mark, positive or negative, in the world. Even though Qatar has positively influenced the world in many ways, it’s home to one of the world’s largest per capita ecological footprints.

“Qatar’s environmental impact remains worryingly high,” stated EcoMENA, one of the most popular sustainability advocates in the Middle East. “If all people on the planet had the footprint of the average resident of Qatar, we would need 4.8 planets.” This shocking statistic is a call for action – action on behalf of the government and action on behalf of the community of Qatar.

So what has contributed to Qatar’s large ecological footprint? Waste, and lots of it!

According to Salman Zafar, Founder of EcoMENA, when asked what steps are being taken to make Qatar a more eco-friendly environment, he stated the following: “the [Qatari] government is making concerted efforts to improve the environmental situation by setting up waste management plants, wastewater treatment systems, green spaces, energy management initiatives, etc. However, an urgent need of the hour is to create more environmental awareness, reduce per capita consumption of natural resources, promote sustainable living, and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.”

Awareness, regardless if it be environmental or not, begins with understanding – understanding the issue at hand to know what needs to be changed, and why change is crucial. To help create more environmental awareness among the community of Qatar regarding this issue, ILQ looks at the treatment of sewage and garbage waste. So stick around because this won’t be a waste of your time!

This is no tall glass of water

To understand sewage, you have to know water – gray water and black water. Both types of water are wastewater and are dirty, but the difference between the two is what makes them dirty. Gray water is the fairly clean wastewater from your showers, bathtubs, sinks, washing machines, etc. whereas black water is wastewater from toilets. With that said, the difference between the two is that black water comes in contact with fecal matter.

According to Zafar, “In Qatar, most of the municipal sewage (or municipal wastewater) is sent to wastewater treatment plants located across the country,” where both gray water and black water are treated.

Since black water contains solid human waste, it doesn’t break down in water fast. Along with its slow decomposition, the use of black water greatly increases the risk of disease and contamination because of the fecal matter. With that said, this processed sludge is usually thrown away in landfills around the country as its potential use is dangerous.

However, gray water is often re-used in Qatar in more ways than you’d think! Because of the lack of solid human waste, its breakdown and decomposition are fast. But the most important aspect of this wastewater is that the risk of disease is increasingly small due to the absence of fecal matter. With that said, this “treated wastewater is increasingly being used for irrigation, landscaping, construction and other non-potable uses,” stated Zafar.

Who would have thought that the wastewater from our normal day-to-day routines would be re-used in so many ways? Although the majority of our wastewater is being re-used in more ways than one, when it comes to garbage waste, the story is much different.

Garbage waste: where do the tons go? 

Qatar produces around 7000-8000 tons of garbage every day – how disgusting! Approximately one-third, or about 2500 tons, is sent to the Domestic Solid Waste Management Center (DSWMC) in Mesaieed. “The DSWMC facility is [the] Middle East’s largest integrated waste management plant where recycling, composting, and waste-to-energy conversion takes place,” stated Zafar.

But where do the other two-thirds of the daily garbage go? The rest is disposed of in landfills, which are essentially open holes in the ground where trash is buried and not properly taken care of. These landfills such as Umm Al Afai and Al Karana are terrible ways to take out the trash! The landfills in Qatar are large contributors to the country’s ecological footprint, which in turn means they’re large contributors to the degradation of the environment. 

However – there’s hope! According to Zafar, “serious efforts are underway to increase the capacity of the Mesaieed plant and to set up new waste management plants in the country.”

This action for change is incredible, but it won’t happen overnight. Instead of waiting for the change to occur on a large scale, you can start to make small-scale changes that will leave more positive marks on the world.

Make a change!

One of these changes is to start recycling! Reduce, reuse, and recycle – the Three R’s that most people have heard of but very few actually adopt as a lifestyle. Qatar has efficient and active recycling companies that are working to minimize the ecological footprint of Qatar and want to partner with you in this action for change.

One of these companies is Global Metals L.L.C. which is a recycling company based in Doha, who also has a presence in the U.A.E. and Bahrain. As a company, they locally process and recycle plastic, aluminum, and metal. The company provides recycling service for homes, office, restaurants, schools, companies, and different organizations. The recycling service they offer includes, “providing recycling bins, collecting directly from clients’ places, recommending suitable recycling programs for clients, and making awareness about recycling and its benefits,” stated Shiela Licuanan, the company’s marketing manager.

With a simple shift from throwing everything in the trash, to separating it for recycling, you can reduce your own ecological footprint and contribute to the reduction of Qatar’s at the same time.

Qatar is home to many diverse people, many incredible landmarks and, unfortunately, the world’s largest per capita ecological footprint. Often, the many positive aspects of people or places are often overshadowed by the negative ones. For the positive aspects to take charge over the negative ones, a change needs to occur.

We at ILQ hope for these environmental changes to keep occurring, and for more people to seriously take part in creating this change.

What are your thoughts on waste in Qatar? How are you helping to reduce our ecological footprint? Leave us a comment below and don’t forget to give us a like and a share!