Rubbish may not be the glamorous topic to think about but it is probably the most relatable. We all throw out trash such as packaging which only seems to serve us momentarily or food which wasn’t eaten in time. In Kuwait, citizens are particularly familiar with trash as they generate among the highest per capita amounts of waste in the world. The tiny nation produces more than 2 million tonnes of solid waste which has disastrous consequences. The main form of solid waste disposal used is landfill burial which comes with its own set of problems – as the tyre fire which broke earlier this year demonstrated.
Kuwait has 18 landfills; 14 are now closed and four of which are still in operation. Indeed most landfills have been closed for more than 20 years as they are located near residential and commercial areas. The migration of water which has passed through the landfills and leached some of the constituents of the waste solids is a real concern for those living close to the dumping sites. According to EcoMena, “groundwater contamination has emerged as a serious problem because groundwater occurs at shallow depths throughout the country.”
As well as ‘hiding’ lots of rubbish, landfills generate huge amounts of toxic gases such as methane and are plagued with spontaneous fires. Food waste, construction waste, industrial waste and municpal waste are all dumped on the landfills without much regards for their toxic implications. The total land area of Kuwait is around 17,820 sq. km – more than 18 sq. km is occupied by landfills.
Salman Zafar, a renowned expert in waste management and sustainable development explains: “Over the years, most of the dumpsites in Kuwait have been surrounded by residential and commercial areas due to urban development over the years. Uncontrolled dumpsites were managed by poorly-trained staff resulting in transformation of dumpsites in breeding grounds for pathogens, toxic gases and spontaneous fires… Some of the landfills are located on the edges of residential, as is the case of Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh and Al-Qurain sites endangering the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.”
For more waste in the Middle East see: