October 19, 2011 | General

Solid Waste Management In Amman (Jordan)

BioCycle October 2011, Vol. 52, No. 10, p. 44
Daily collection of household wastes, a sanitary landfill with biogas capture, an anaerobic digestion plant for separated organic wastes and an informal recycling system service Jordan’s largest city.
Martin Medina

AMMAN, Jordan is one of the oldest human settlements in the world; the area has been populated for about 10,000 years. In ancient times, the city was occupied by Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks and Egyptians. With 2.4 million residents, Amman is Jordan’s largest city and home to nearly half of the country’s total population. It is also the country’s main economic center. Due to its temperate climate, good infrastructure, and generally safe and peaceful lifestyle, it attracts 1.8 million foreign visitors a year.
Amman is undergoing rapid growth in its population, which is projected to double to six million by 2025 if current fertility and immigration trends continue. Over the years, Jordan has received many thousands of refugees, particularly from the Palestinian territories and, more recently, from Iraq. Most refugees and immigrants settle in Amman. The growing population and economic activities generate a steadily increasing volume of wastes.

Waste Generation And Composition
Officially, the city is known as Greater Amman Municipality, or GAM, which includes the city proper and sparsely populated surrounding areas with a total surface of 1,683 km2. GAM is subdivided into 27 districts, each constituting a MSWM zone. Districts vary in terms of population size, density and surface area, as well as in waste generation. The Madinah district, a downtown commercial area, has a waste generation rate of 1.81 Kg per capita per day, the highest in the city. At the lower end of waste generation is the Bader Al Jadidah district, near the Dead Sea, which generates 0.52 Kg /person/day.
Table 1 shows waste composition in GAM. Organics constitute the largest fraction. Dirt is common in waste because the city is built on sandy soil, and when residents sweep around their homes, sand ends up in the waste bins.

Collection And Transportation
GAM does not provide door-to-door waste collection to its residents. Instead, it has 21,000 community containers placed curbside throughout the city. Containers are made of metal with a capacity of 1.1 m3 and have wheels so that they can be moved around manually and lifted by collection vehicles. Residents must bring their wastes and put them inside the containers. GAM has 4,000 street sweepers who manually sweep roads and public spaces, depositing their collected wastes in the community containers as well. City collection vehicles empty the containers and then transport the waste to the nearest of the three existing transfer stations.
GAM provides collection to 100 percent of its residents and collects waste from containers at least once a day. On main streets and areas with high waste generation, collection is conducted up to three times daily. In remote areas, as well as those with low waste generation, collection is done every other day. Many cities in developing countries suffer from insufficient and inefficient waste collection. But that is not the case in Amman: GAM does a good job in waste collection. Nevertheless, littering is common in some areas, which makes it difficult to keep the city clean. GAM has 5 different types of collection vehicles ranging in capacity from 1 to 8 tons.
GAM is promoting private sector participation in waste collection. A public-private partnership was created and a pilot project is underway in the Hay Al Joron neighborhood, part of the Basman district. There, a private company collects wastes generated by 40,000 residents, or about 40 tons/day. GAM provided the collection vehicles and the private company provided drivers and collection crews.

Final Disposal
All collected wastes that need final disposal are taken in large, 19-ton trailers to the Ghabawi sanitary landfill, the only landfill servicing the metropolitan area. Located in eastern GAM on over 495 acres, the landfill meets international standards for these facilities. It has a liner system, leachate collection and treatment, as well as methane collection and utilization to generate energy. Collected leachate is treated with aeration, sedimentation and filtration processes. The landfill is downwind from the nearest human settlements, 5 miles away. It receives 120 truckloads or about 2,300 tons/day and it is expected to meet GAM’s needs at least until the year 2030.
To manage hazardous waste streams, plans are underway for private investors to build and operate a treatment center near the Ghabawi landfill. This center will primarily process medical and industrial hazardous wastes.
Jordan does not produce oil or natural gas, and must import most of the fuel required to generate energy. The country is actively pursuing recovery of landfill gas as well as biogas from solid wastes. At the Ghabawi landfill, gas recovery started in November 2009. A gas engine generator set, with capacity of 6 MW is being installed, which will be increased to 18 MW in the future. The project will reduce an estimated 1.5 million tons of CO2 equivalent over the first 7 years.
This project operates under a “design, build, operate” contract. The Government of Luxembourg signed an emissions reduction purchase agreement valued at € 8 to 9.5 million (US $ 11.5 to $13 million). The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development acted as the trustee of the Carbon Fund for Europe. Under this contract, 15 percent of the revenues are allocated to environmental protection activities managed by the Ministry of the Environment.

Jordan Biogas Plant
Landfill gas is also recovered at the old Russiefeh landfill, which no longer receives wastes. The Jordan Biogas Plant was built at this site to generate energy. The anaerobic digestion plant processes about 60 tons/day of organic wastes, mostly from slaughterhouses, restaurants, hotels, vegetable markets and wastewater from the food industry. The plant can generate up to 3.5 MW of electricity from the plant’s biogas, as well as methane recovered at the old landfill.
This is the only plant of its type in the Middle East. It uses German technology and operates as follows: Incoming wastes are sorted to separate contaminants; particle size is reduced to accelerate decomposition. After liquids and solids are blended in the mixing tank, material is sent to the reactor. Fermentation takes place over a period of 25 days at a temperature of 37°C. The reactor has a capacity of 2,000 m3. Biogas is processed in a desulphurization unit, condenser cooler and then stored. Conditioned biogas from the plant and the old landfill is burned to generate electricity, which is fed into the city grid. The plant is owned and operated by GAM, with the collaboration of the Central Electricity Generating Company, the main electric utility in Jordan.
The solid residue from fermentation can be composted and used as soil conditioner in agriculture or horticulture, which can be particularly useful in dry environments. Due to the high organic content in Amman’s wastes, more biogas plants could be built, rendering social and environmental benefits. The current price for compost in Jordan is $68/metric ton. And the potential market is large: a recent study estimated current demand at 400,000 tons/year of compost nationwide.

Recycling Activities And Initiatives
GAM does not have a city-wide recycling program, but is supporting some recycling efforts. A privately operated MRF is being planned near the Ghabawi landfill with capacity to process 600 tons/day. A wet/dry collection system with separation at the source is being considered. At each community collection point, at least two containers would be in place, one for wet wastes and the other for dry. Residents would separate their wastes at home and then put them in the appropriate container. The organics would be composted and the inorganics sorted at the MRF and recycled. Residues would be sent to the Ghabawi landfill.
An active informal recycling sector exists in GAM. No reliable data are available, but hundreds of scavengers operate throughout GAM, mainly at night or in the early morning hours. Some scavengers use plastic bags and go on foot, while others use pushcarts, and even trucks to transport materials. The main materials collected for recycling are plastics, metals, cardboard and wood. Some people also gather stale bread that is fed to farm animals. Old or broken white goods, household electric appliances, furniture and e-waste are collected by scavengers using trucks. Discarded beer, perfume and cologne bottles are also collected and sold for reuse.
Scavengers are not organized in any way. A recent survey conducted in GAM found that most scavengers reported a daily income of 7-15 Jordanian Dinars (US $ 10 to $21). Thus, scavengers can earn considerably more than the minimum wage of 110 Jordanian Dinars/month. Most scavengers are men, and child labor is common.
There are also several small scale, community-based recycling programs. Communities get together and decide to separate their recyclables voluntarily so that they do not end up at the landfill. Participating families are motivated by environmental reasons. A recent USAID report found high participation rates at the Umm Mu’adh recycling community program in Tabarbour, a middle class area. In contrast, scavengers recover recyclables mostly for the money they can earn.

Martin Medina is a waste management consultant for the World Bank, the InterAmerican Development Bank, the United Nations, and other organizations for projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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