‘Littering, excess waste cause garbage dumps’ ‘Transition upset cleaning plans’

KUWAIT CITY, Nov 28: Kuwait has recently seen a noticeable lag in the collection and transportation of garbage, to the point where is has become a large source of inconvenience for many areas. The Arab Times met with Osama Al-Duaij, Deputy Director General of the Kuwait Municipality to discuss the causes and solutions for this problem.

Addressing the current apparent escalation, Al-Duaij stated, “I would like to clarify to the general public is that every contract, regardless of its kind, there is a handover period from old contracts to new contracts. The old contracts have expired, and now we have new contracts in place.”

“The rule of thumb,” he continued, “is that any contract, whenever you have a transitional or handover period, usually things don’t go perfectly as planned. Even if all proper measures are taken, the risk is high, and most of the time, worldwide, transition does not go smoothly.”As such, the current issue, he explained, is simply a matter of the newly appointed private pick-up companies settling into the process, as the cleaning companies have been mobilized since Nov 25.

“The old contracts did not fulfill our ambition,” explained Al-Duaij with regards to the reason for the change of contracts. “The new contracts have higher standards, more strict specifications and requirements. The new contracts are much bigger; the value of these contracts is almost KD 300 million for a 5 year period, divided into 17 contracts. This amounts to KD 5 million per month for all of Kuwait, which is not cheap, but we paid all this money to ensure that Kuwait is not just clean, but tidy.”
However, there is another, general and farther-reaching problem facing Kuwait in terms of waste disposal, and one that is more difficult to address and resolve, and that is the problem of the general attitude towards waste and waste disposal in Kuwait.

“Considering the fact that the cultural and behavioral pattern in Kuwait is unique, resulting in a lot of rubbish and garbage. The amount of municipal waste being generated per capita is almost 1.4 kg per day. This is an extremely high number, according to international standards, and in comparison with the international average of 1 kg,” continues Al-Duaij.

“So, considering this fact, and also the behavioral pattern — in Kuwait you see people littering all over, a phenomenon that you don’t see in the West — this forced us to place more requirements, and put more effort in, which has inflated the price of our new contracts. So, all the problems we had with the old contract will be dealt with in the new one. This is a transitional period but we are working very hard on ensuring proper handover and dealing with these problems.”

“But people have to cooperate with us,” stated Al-Duaij. “We are going through a transitional stage; minimize your waste, dump them outside properly, well packaged to ensure that the waste isn’t mishandled.”

One of the major problems in Kuwait is littering, and coupled with the inflated percentage of waste production, this does not make for a pretty scene in the Kuwaiti streets themselves. Many people, despite having affluent backgrounds or good education, nonetheless have a careless attitude towards waste disposal and littering.

“Cleaning is a triangle with three parties; not just the government inspectors and the cleaning companies, but the people. Citizens or expatriates have to cooperate with us; if they don’t, no matter what we do, the country will never be clean the way we’d like it to be. So they have to cooperate with us in a more proactive manner.

The Municipality and the Ministry of Education have long attempted to implement awareness programs, but little has changed. “Cleaning is within us,” stated Al-Duaij. “When it comes to cleaning, I don’t expect someone to teach me how to be clean. We have to teach ourselves. From a religious point of view, all faiths encourage us to be clean, within and without,” he continued, emphasizing that this is a behavioral problem, yet one that people do not dare take with them when they go to Western countries.

He also added that the Municipality is now in the process of tendering a BOT (build, operate and transfer) scheme for  Kuwait’s largest waste and recycling facility in an attempt to improve the country’s recycling output.

The scheme would include three stages; first: recycling reusable materials, then incinerating rejected material to produce and utilize energy, and finally the burial of the remains. The Municipality is working on expediting the process of preparing tender documents, and the project will be tendered based on preexisting privatization schemes.

In conclusion, it is worthwhile to note that the issues Kuwait faces are perhaps more deep-rooted than a simple question of a temporary lag in garbage disposal and transportation. In conjunction with the changes the Municipality has made, there must also be a change in the wider public consciousness before we can see real results on the ground.

By: Joana Saba Arab Times Staff

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