Complex Made Simple

Saudi recycling initiatives helping turn its economy circular

Last September, Al Qaryan Holding, the leading metal recycling, processing, and trading company, announced it was driving innovation in the GCC’s $6 billion recycling market

Al Qaryan Holding has 27 facilities for a total of more than 1 million tons per year On average, GCC countries only recycle, reuse, or recover around 10% of plastic and metal waste The KSA produces no less than 50 million tons of waste per year

Last September, Al Qaryan Holding, the leading metal recycling, processing, and trading company, announced it was driving innovation in the GCC’s $6 billion recycling market, thanks to a digital transformation partnership with global technology company SAP.

One of MENA’s larger recycling companies, Al Qaryan Holding has 27 facilities for a total of more than 1 million tons per year. The company’s activities include metal and WEEE (Waste Electrical & Environmental Equipment) recycling, logistics and treatment of reuse materials and equipment, waste management services, dismantling, and demolition.

Under the Saudi Vision 2030, the kingdom continues to advance its circular economy initiatives to align globally, with the potential to reach a 90% rate of recycling metal seen in more developed circular economies.  

Al Qaryan Holding is the first recycling company in the Middle East and North Africa to digitally transform with SAP intelligent solutions    

Every year, GCC countries produce around 10 million tons of plastic waste, and 9 million tons of scrap metal, with plastic and metal waste growing at much faster rates than the global average.  

On average, GCC countries only recycle, reuse, or recover around 10% of plastic and metal waste, whereas countries such as Germany or Japan can have recycling rates surpassing 90% for metal, and 40% for plastics. The low GCC recycling rate leads to losses of large volumes of recycled metals in numerous applications, such as in construction and food packaging. Worse, plastic and metal waste can endanger wildlife, the environment, and poor disposal practices can threaten human health.

Increasing recycling rates in GCC to an achievable target of 40% can cut carbon dioxide emissions by 10 to 12 million tons each year and reduce primary energy consumption by around 4%. It could also create around 50,000 new jobs in the recycling industry, with a total market potential of around $6 billion per year. Investors in this sector can expect healthy operating margins of above 15% in various opportunities across the value chain, such as waste electrical and electronic equipment recycling, plastics and packaging recycling, secondary metal semi-finished producers, or car spare parts manufacturing using recycled plastics.

SIRC circular 

The KSA produces no less than 50 million tons of waste per year and 95% of that ends up in landfills. The Saudi Investment Recycling Company (SIRC) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund (PIF). 

“We are the executive arm behind the circular economy,” SIRC CEO Ziyad Al Shiha told Arab News. “We work with the local and global private sector, improving local technology, introducing best practices, and creating jobs. This is part of the green initiative in Saudi Arabia.” 

The stated aim of SIRC is to reduce waste landfill from 100% today to effectively 0% by 2035.   

SIRC’s overall recycling strategy is targeted at twelve separate elements of waste, including raw sewage, construction/demolition debris, solid municipal waste (i.e. garbage), and agricultural sludge. The remainder is a toxic cocktail of industrial effluent, end-of-life vehicles and batteries, old tires, automotive lubricants, disused electronic equipment, and cooking oil. 

Business opportunities also exist in the conversion of building debris into attractive new products. SIRC has built a massive construction waste processing facility in the north of Riyadh, where rubble is segregated and recycled into ballast for backfilling and landscaping, aggregate bricks for new constructions, and raw steel that can be smelted into new beams and pipes. The facility is already up and running, with a potential processing capacity of 12,000 tons (400 truckloads) per day. 

SIRC offers equity participation of 20-30% with a debt structure of 70-80% to both Saudi and non-Saudi companies with an interest in recycling and waste management; and according to Al Shiha, SAR120 billion ($32.4 bn) will be invested in Saudi’s circular economy between now and 2035. 

Environmental initiatives

 Saudi pledged more than $1 billion for new environmental initiatives recently, as the world’s top oil exporter took further steps to bolster its green credentials ahead of the COP26 climate summit.

Two days after targeting carbon neutrality by 2060, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz announced two initiatives to fund the “circular carbon economy” and provide “clean fuel” to help feed 750 million people worldwide.

The projects were targeted to cost $10.4 billion. Saudi Arabia will contribute 15% and seek the remainder from regional funds and other countries, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed said.