Plastic Packaging Waste in the Philippines: An Analysis

I recently took a 5-month break from my work as an environmental consultant to volunteer with Marine Conservation Philippines (MCP) on the issue of marine litter. During the first few months of my stint there, we undertook an intense programme of beach cleans across sections of a small sample of local beaches. The idea was to find out what kinds of material were most prevalent, to inform the types of local initiative we could set up to try and tackle the issues. Consistently, the vast majority of the debris we found strewn across the beaches was plastic; a significant amount of that was soft plastics which can’t be recycled – plastic bags, sweet and crisp packets, and single use soap and detergent sachets. There were some variations, though: at one beach, we kept picking up a staggering amount of styrofoam.

During our beach clean work and engagement with local communities, it became increasingly apparent that part of the problem was the variability of waste management across the municipality of Zamboanguita, in the Negros Oriental province of the Philippines. Despite national legislation, some areas received no formal waste collections at all. With the help of the local Coastal Resources Manager, Tony Yocor, we began to engage with the local municipality’s Solid Waste Manager with the view to supporting appropriate an affordable waste management practices.

We focused on solutions that have been successful elsewhere in the Philippines and in other emerging markets, such as the local collection and waste sorting approach developed by Mother Earth Foundation. Unfortunately, as with most places in the world, influencing the authorities to act takes time, and whilst we started to make some progress, Tony and the staff at MCP are still working on trying to get the full range of local solutions we identified implemented.

Materials and markets

We did, however, build our own ‘MRF’ (more of a community recycling centre in UK terms) at MCP’s base to improve the management of the waste we collected. The main aim of the site is to allow as many recyclable materials as possible to be segregated so that they can be sold to the local junk shops. We also hope that this can act as a demonstration site for the types of simple solutions that can be set up locally to improve waste management.

But ultimately, if we are serious about tackling this issue of marine debris, we have to reduce the amount of litter we produce, and many countries are making progress on tackling commonly littered items. Restrictions on single use carrier bags are amongst the most prominent and widespread anti-littering measures around the world.

England’s 5p carrier bag levy was introduced in 2015 and, despite its limitations, is reducing bag usage and (it would seem) marine litter. Last year Kenya hit the headlines when it joined the growing list of countries adopting a rather stricter line: it banned plastic carrier bags entirely, with offenders risking heavy fines or even imprisonment.

Although bans and restrictions are becoming increasingly widespread, they have not yet reached the Philippines at a national level and it seems no coincidence that a large proportion of the items we found littered on our sample beaches around Zamboanguita were plastic bags. One beach, close to where the largest ‘ghetto’ market is held weekly, had a particularly high incidence of plastic bag litter, and the quantity increased noticeably on, and just after, market day.

Without national instruments in place, we explored what could be done with the policy powers available to the local government. Working with the local Markets Officer and Coastal Resources Manager we put the wheels in motion to propose and implement a local ordinance to introduce a charge on plastic bags, initially at the market as a trial, with the potential for a wider roll-out if successful. It’s a model that could be reapplied elsewhere in the Philippines if national legislation isn’t forthcoming.

Sachet and sea?

Plastic bags are a challenge, but because they’re distributed locally it’s relatively easy to change practices. Other forms of single use packaging contribute just as much to the litter problem afflicting many South East Asian counties, but are harder to tackle because their source is more remote.

The Philippines, like many developing and emerging economies, is a ‘sachet economy’, with a huge range of products sold in one-portion, single-use sachets. You see them everywhere, from small ‘sari sari’ stalls to large shopping centres. The producers’ perspective is that this form of packaging represents a form of social responsibility, allowing them to provide safe, long-lasting, affordable products that meet people’s needs. However, they have a wider cost.

Sachet society: one of the most common forms of litter in the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Amy Slack.

I was involved in Break Free from Plastic Negros Oriental’s December beach clean and audit, and these sachets were the most common item we found. They accounted for a massive 25% of the items picked up from Dumaguete beach, beating plastic bags into second place (13%). The waste management system in the Philippines simply isn’t geared up to dealing with this increasingly popular type of packaging – the composite materials of which they are made are impractical to recycle and so lack the economic value that engages the interest of the informal sector. So, what could be done to help?

The Best Foot Forward

There is no ‘silver bullet’ to instantly lay marine litter to rest. Even if there was a global ban on single use plastics today, it would take time for already littered material to blow or wash its way through the system. However, introducing a compulsory extended producer responsibility (EPR) mechanism into policy could help end the blame game that currently impedes action: producers blame the general public for littering, the general public blame the government for inadequate waste systems, and government blames produces for manufacturing plastic packaging.

An EPR scheme would see government giving clear responsibilities to business, and ensuring that producers fund collection and reprocessing schemes to properly manage the waste from the products they sell in the Philippines. That would in turn incentivise producers to use more easily recyclable packaging, as the costs of managing this material would be lower. The goal need not be to try to ape the waste management systems of the West, which may not be suitable in the circumstances. And in the Philippines, where labour is cheap and informal waste management thrives, it may take little more than giving a small value to packaging products to greatly reduce the amount of material that escapes into the environment.


Although countries like the Philippines currently struggle most to cope with the consequences of plastic packaging waste, with the right set of policies and determined volunteers to help organise local action, there is scope for them to catch up and overhaul the West in developing solutions that really do reduce litter.

Note: The article has been republished with the permission of our collaborative partner Isonomia. The original version of the article can be found at this link

Wastes Generation in Tanneries

Wastes originate from all stages of leather making, such as fine leather particles, residues from various chemical discharges and reagents from different waste liquors comprising of large pieces of leather cuttings, trimmings and gross shavings, fleshing residues, solid hair debris and remnants of paper bags.

Tanning refers to the process by which collagen fibers in a hide react with a chemical agent (tannin, alum or other chemicals). However, the term leather tanning also commonly refers to the entire leather-making process. Hides and skins have the ability to absorb tannic acid and other chemical substances that prevent them from decaying, make them resistant to wetting, and keep them supple and durable. The flesh side of the hide or skin is much thicker and softer. The three types of hides and skins most often used in leather manufacture are from cattle, sheep, and pigs.

Out of 1000 kg of raw hide, nearly 850 kg is generated as solid wastes in leather processing. Only 150 Kg of the raw material is converted in to leather. A typical tannery generate huge amount of waste:

  • Fleshing: 56-60%
  • Chrome shaving, chrome splits and buffing dust: 35-40%
  • Skin trimming: 5-7%
  • Hair: 2-5%

Over 80 per cent of the organic pollution load in BOD terms emanates from the beamhouse (pre-tanning); much of this comes from degraded hide/skin and hair matter. During the tanning process at least 300 kg of chemicals (lime, salt etc.) are added per ton of hides. Excess of non-used salts will appear in the wastewater.

Because of the changing pH, these compounds can precipitate and contribute to the amount of solid waste or suspended solids. Every tanning process step, with the exception of finishing operations, produces wastewater. An average of 35 m3 is produced per ton of raw hide. The wastewater is made up of high concentration of salts, chromium, ammonia, dye and solvent chemicals etc.

A large amount of waste generated by tanneries is discharged in natural water bodies directly or indirectly through two open drains without any treatment. The water in the low lying areas in developing countries, like India and Bangladesh, is polluted in such a degree that it has become unsuitable for public uses. In summer when the rate of decomposition of the waste is higher, serious air pollution is caused in residential areas by producing intolerable obnoxious odours.

Tannery wastewater and solid wastes often find their way into surface water, where toxins are carried downstream and contaminate water used for bathing, cooking, swimming, and irrigation. Chromium waste can also seep into the soil and contaminate groundwater systems that provide drinking water for nearby communities. In addition, contamination in water can build up in aquatic animals, which are a common source of food.

Dealing with Household Hazardous Wastes

household-hazardous-wastesHousehold Hazardous Waste (HHW) are leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients such as paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, pesticides etc. HHW contain potentially hazardous ingredients and require special care and safe disposal. A typical home can contain a vast array of household hazardous wastes used for cleaning, painting, beautifying, lubricating and disinfecting the house, yard, workshop and garage. The chemical-based household products from a single home may seem insignificant; but, when millions of homes use similar products, handling, storing and disposing them improperly may have the combined impact and becomes a major problem.

The health and safety of our families, neighborhoods and environment is threatened when HHW is stored or disposed of improperly. These products should not be put in the garbage bins or disposed in the storm drains or burned, as they pose a threat to human health and the environment. Thousands of consumer products are hazardous. The general categories are:

  • Automotive products: Gasoline, motor oil, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, car wax and cleaners, lead-acid batteries, brake fluid, transmission fluid etc.
  • Home improvement products: Paint, varnish, stain, paint thinner, paint stripper, caulk, adhesives etc.
  • Pesticides: Insecticide and insect repellent, weed killer, rat and mouse poison, pet spray and dip, wood preservative etc.
  • Household cleaners: Furniture polish and wax, drain opener, oven cleaner, tub and tile cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, spot remover, bleach, ammonia etc.
  • Other: Household batteries, cosmetics, pool chemicals, shoe polish, lighter fluid, prescription medicines etc.

Each year, thousands of people are injured by exposure or accident involving hazardous household products.  Because of the dangers they pose. These products require special awareness, handling, and disposal.  In order to protect health and environment, every consumer should know how to properly use, store, and dispose of hazardous household products. 

Many common household products contain hazardous chemicals.  Once released into the environment, these substances may pose a serious threat to living organisms.  Small quantities of hazardous substances can accumulate over time to reach dangerous levels and contaminate the air, water, and soil. 

Here are some basic guidelines for managing household hazardous wastes:

  • Select the least toxic item and buying only the minimum quantity as required.
  • Read the entire label carefully for health warnings and use good judgment when choosing any product.
  • Store the product at a safe place and away from the children reach.
  • Avoid aerosol products.
  • Always use hazardous products in a well-ventilated area.
  • Never leave containers open.  Many products are volatile, evaporating quickly into the air. 
  • Always seal containers tightly after use.
  • Never mix chemicals and hazardous products. 
  • Do not use spent chemical containers for other purposes.
  • Wear protective clothing such as gloves and a mask when dealing with any hazardous material. 
  • Wash clothing exposed to hazardous materials separately from other clothes.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while using hazardous products.
  • Clean up the place after using hazardous products. Carefully seal products and properly refasten all caps.
  • Never put hazardous products in food or beverage containers.
  • Keep products away from sources of heat, spark, flame or ignition.
  • Know where flammable materials are located in your home and how to extinguish them.
  • Keep a multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguisher in your home.

Sustainable Environment in Singapore: An Attraction for Businesses and Investors

In addition to a robust economy, Singapore’s sustainable environment is another leading factor that has attracted numerous investors. Most cities in the world have failed to address environmental issues brought about by urbanization. Towns or urban areas cover over 2% of the Earth’s surface; they are responsible for about 80% of the greenhouse gases emitted while using up almost 75%  of nature’s resources.

However, a host of countries in Southeast Asia are leading the way to change this contrary notion about cities and urban regions. Research conducted by several world-leading environmental bodies and institutions determined that Singapore is indeed one of the most environmentally sustainable nations.

Singapore’s first prime minister kickstarted the dream of making Singapore a green city. His main agenda was to make Singapore stand out from the rest of the Asian countries and also attract investors from all over the world. The first step undertaken to achieve this dream was the eradication of the houseboats and overcrowded slums along the banks of Singapore River.

Incorporation services Singapore are offering entrepreneurs moving to Singapore a platform to incorporate their businesses in Singapore. This allows them to run their firms within the stipulated terms while also receive the government’s backing.

On the world’s Environmental Performance Ranking, Yale University and the U.N place Singapore at seventeenth globally and first position in Asia. Contrary to popular belief, Singapore’s efforts and strict green technology guidelines, which were set and backed up by the government, helped in making it an eco-friendly city.  

So how exactly does Singapore afford to provide suitable surroundings perfect for its citizens and also attract investors and entrepreneurs from overseas?

Government Support

As discussed before, adoption of green technology is one of the leading things that has made Singapore an eco-friendly city. Singapore has been able to morph into a modernized city-state without having a negative impact on nature.

The Singapore government’s Cleantech division, which is a subsidiary of the board tasked with economic growth, has offered continued support to companies in the clean technology business. This has led to the business sector growing tremendously in areas such as renewable energy, water conservation, green buildings, etc.

Growing ICT Center

Companies such as Hewlett Packard (HP) and International Business Machines Corporation have partnered with the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources. The main idea behind these partnerships is to ensure that Singapore’s ICT industry thrives. HP, for example, has been tasked with designing and manufacturing energy efficient systems that will cut power costs while still providing a working platform for businesses.

There is no shortage of green spaces in Singapore

Low Energy Costs and Environmental Remedies

Accommodating over 7000 companies from different nations across the globe is no mean feat. As such, Singapore’s government and other agencies know that a green environment is not the only requirement to attract more investors.

Through an alliance known as the Singapore Sustainability Alliance, an umbrella consisting of government groups, non-governmental organizations, and teaching institutions, Singapore has been able to come up with policies that create a sustainable environment. Other than this, the alliance has overseen the adoption of systems that include proper water use, renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste management, etc. which have significantly improved business growth.  

Ingredients of Environmental Sustainability

Global interest in environmental sustainability is on the rise. Businesses and individuals are making efforts to engage in more environmentally conscious practices, thanks in part to a growing worldwide population and dwindling natural resources. Ultimately, sustainability is the practice of finding long-lasting methods of maintaining our existing quality of life while still preserving the environment and natural resources.

Proponents must consider all aspects of environmental sustainability for it be successful. Additionally, eco-conscious thought must be applied to multiple professions to achieve deep-rooted results. Here are three ingredients to ensure the continued success of environmental sustainability.

Economic Incentives

Everyone knows change can be difficult. Making the shift toward more eco-friendly practices is no different. One way to initiate this change is through financial incentives. Money is an essential factor for families and companies. If sustainable options and practices are too expensive the majority of the population can’t afford to implement them, the environmentally-conscious movement will come grinding to a halt.

Environmentally-friendly technology often carries higher upfront costs but pays off through long-term benefits, both to the environment and to individuals. Additionally, companies that invest in environmentally conscious technology can potentially market to a broader range of consumers with similar interests and values.

When considering options to follow more sustainable practices, consumers need to set specific goals they would like to achieve and define their plan of action. This will also help maintain perspective and keep the focus on the long-term incentives, which will keep everyone motivated to continue down the road to sustainability.

Environmental Protection

Another key factor in environmental sustainability is protecting and preserving the environment. Part of this practice includes sustainable use and management procedures. While specific materials may be renewable over time, overuse can deplete these resources and lead to shortages. Industry professionals must give careful consideration to planning how, when and in what quantity resources will be used.

Surprisingly, several sustainable methods exist to renew depleted environmental resources in a fast and environmentally conscious manner. Agricultural practices often strip fields of necessary minerals and nutrients while leaving behind harmful inorganic residuals from fertilizers.

Naturally occurring microorganisms will eventually restore the soil’s nutrients and neutralize noxious compounds, though this process takes a long time. Bioremediation can expedite this process. Industry professionals can introduce higher numbers of the naturally occurring microbes and then create their optimal living conditions by varying the amount of water and food they have available.

Once the harmful pollutants are neutralized, farmers can resume planting operations. In addition to bioremediation, sustainable agricultural practices include rotating crops and using cover crops. Rotating crops and using cover crops can help reduce the occurrence of weeds and the impact of pests. In turn, farmers can use less fertilizer and maintain soil health for more extended periods.

Fostering interest in sustainability at a young age will encourage future leaders


Without proper education, the general public won’t understand the importance of sustainability. This may lead to a decreased demand for sustainable products and procedures, which will foster growth in non-sustainable markets and practices. Future generations will then be left with the task of preserving and repairing the environment.

Fostering interest in sustainability at a young age will encourage future leaders to create innovative solutions to meet the current demands of society through unconventional and eco-conscious means. The future youth will also need the proper educational background to develop the tools they need to cultivate these solutions.

Environmental education also helps adults understand the impact their choices have on themselves and society. Uneducated adults may not recognize their choices to pollute or use toxic chemicals are degrading the local water supply for their neighbors or are harmful to their health. Once they understand the full weight of their decisions, they will be able to make the most informed choices.

With proper management and forethought, environmental sustainability can be fully achievable in our society today.

A New Form of Ecotourism in Cyprus

Ecotourism has gained popularity as different states seek sustainability. It was one of the millennial goals at the global level, and many states have invested money and ideas into the project. Cyprus has not been left behind and has done a lot to promote a new form of ecotourism in the country. If you are planning to obtain a Cyprus immigration with One Visa, their agents definitely mention a few things about ecotourism in Cyprus. Now that you are reading this publication, you have come to the right place to get insights on a new form of ecotourism.

Guided Walks

Cyprus has a plethora of trained guides to lead you on nature walks. You can easily choose the destination from a list of many depending on what you want to view and experience. Some are best suited for the family while others are suited for explorers. For walks and expeditions in the forest and on the beaches, the guides will explain all the regulations that seek to protect the habitat by leaving it as natural as possible. Unfortunately, Cyprus’s government does not allow collection of souvenirs and artifacts.

Cyprus Village Tours

Cyprus still has people living in villages in rural areas. However, the villages are becoming smaller by the day, and the government is encouraging their growth. This is one way to preserve the original culture of the Cypriot people. The number of people who can take bus tours to the villages is highly regulated. If you would like to visit these villages, make sure that you book well in advance and follow the given regulations.

Marine Tours

Cyprus is an island and has breathtaking and clean beaches. The marine department is obsessed with maintaining the original form of both the beaches and the marine life. However, this does not mean that people cannot go to visit the marine life. The country offers guided tours to the beach, shallow sea and deep sea. Some of the best scenery can be found at the untouched shipwrecks and with the marine life that dwells in and around the shipwrecks. The diving tours are guided and regulated by the government to make sure that the untouched environment is maintained.

A breath-taking natural attraction in Cyprus

Preserving the Historic Sites

Any tour in Cyprus cannot be complete without touring the historic and cultural ruins. However, have you ever wondered how these sites still exist or why they get recognized all over the world? It has taken great efforts to protect them and let nature take its course. Even though Cyprus has modern architectural buildings, none has interfered with these cultural and historic sites. They spread all over the island and carry a rich history for all people to enjoy.


Finally, it is worth mentioning that Cyprus has zoos and modern parks that protect indigenous plants and animals. The public is allowed to visit under certain regulations. The government strives to preserve the country’s tourist attractions through the employment of ecotourism strategies. If you visit the country as a tourist or an expat, remember to check the regulations that govern ecotourism.

Optimizing Any Outdoor Venue for Maximum Recycling Potential

Concerts, outdoor festivals and other gatherings with large numbers of people can generate an immense amount of waste. Not only is this wasteful potentially off-putting and unsanitary, but it can cause damage to both the environment and the appeal of the venue.

Many event organizers and planners focus on maximizing the appeal of their events via marketing, big names and other elements designed to draw in crowds. However, any outdoor event in particular must take into account the challenges posed by waste management and recycling in order to ensure sanitary and environmentally-friendly conditions.

In order to maximize the recycling potential of any outdoor venue, the following actions should be considered by any planning team prior to the event.

Partner with Green Waste Removal Companies

One of the biggest ways any event organizer(s) can contribute toward energy efficiency and more environmentally-friendly outcomes is to procure the services of a green waste disposal service.

Anyone who has organized an outdoor event before – especially in an open space or other area where standard permanent facilities do not exist – understands the need for waste disposal. Companies such as Satellite Industries provide on-site portable restroom services that dispose of waste in efficient and environmentally-friendly ways.

Some companies even use this bio-waste to create clean energy from the output, helping to further minimize its impact on the environment.

Position Recycling Bins Ideally

Virtually every outdoor venue generates large amounts of waste. From bottles and cans to miscellaneous items that find their way onto the ground or in trash cans, it can be a mess. When planning any outdoor event, organizers will have full control over where the flow of traffic is and how/where people congregate.

With this knowledge available, event planners can take steps to ensure that recycling bins and containers are optimally positioned throughout the premises to capture the largest amount of waste possible. Depending on the event and its offerings, you may need separate containers for aluminum, plastic, paper and/or glass.

Ask for Help

Especially true when coordinating events for charities, local organizations and non-profits, a small volunteer force may be both obtainable and very useful in facilitating recycling. With the help of a few volunteers, a team can scour the venue during and after the event in order to retrieve recyclables from the receptacles. In addition, these volunteers can also help with any litter found on the grounds during the event, thereby minimizing the amount of clean-up time after the event has concluded.

Contact Local Recycling Centers

Your local recycling center, landfill or governmental body may have additional resources to provide in the pursuit of improving recycling at an event. Some cities have independent recycling agencies that offer free receptacles and pick-up for recycled goods. Others offer comprehensive guides on how to position recycling areas and maximize participation from event attendees. Even the federal government offers recycling resources to those who wish to improve waste outcomes.

Outdoor festivals, such as Glastonbury, generates a tremendous amount of waste.

Ultimately, this information and assistance can go a long way toward maximizing recycling at any event, as these entities will have plenty of expertise and experience in these areas. Such advice can help further improve environmentally-friendly outcomes and reduce the incidence of waste at any event.

The massive amount of potential waste generated during any outdoor event can be disruptive both to the event and the environment. Event organizers who want to maximize cleanliness and environmental friendliness can take steps to reduce the amount of discarded materials that end up in landfills and other centers. By working with local agencies, procuring volunteers, partnering with waste removal agencies and using recycling bins efficiently, the overall amount of waste at any outdoor event can be substantially reduced.

Towards Sustainable Pharmaceutical Management

The pharmaceutical industry has a substantial impact on the environment, especially when the materials used to make them and the chemicals that comprise make their way directly into the environment. The pharmaceutical industry at large as well as average consumer can take steps to make of use of medicine more sustainable through both significant and relatively minor changes.

Medicines and the Environment

The drugs that we consume naturally enter our environment as our body turns them to waste. This issue becomes exacerbated when people intentionally dispose of unused medicine by flushing it down the drain.

Although our water treatment systems are designed to take contaminants out of our wastewater before we re-introduce to the natural environment, some still get through. These contaminants, which include those in medications, can damage the ecosystems they end up in.

High levels of estrogen in waters due to birth control, for example, can hamper the ability of fish to reproduce, reducing their population size. Once those chemicals find their way into the water, they enter the food chain and eventually impact animals that live on land too, including humans.

Plants will absorb the chemicals from medications. Animals then eat these plants or drink the water and ingest the contaminants. Humans might drink the water or eat the plants or animals, making pollution from pharmaceuticals a human health hazard as well. This problem becomes worse in the summer when livestock such as cattle require two to three times as much water as they do during other times of the year.

Proper Disposal of Medicines

If you have unused medications that you need to get rid of, don’t flush them down the drain or throw them straight into the trash. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends one of several other options for the safe and sustainable disposal of medicines.

Some communities have drug take-back programs that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) approves. Some pharmacies also allow you to mail in or dispose of unused medications at kiosks. The DEA also organizes a national drug take-back day.

Although certain medications have recommendations on the label to flush them, you can dispose of the majority of them in your regular trash at home. The FDA recommends mixing them with something unpalatable such as dirt, kitty litter or coffee grounds in a plastic bag that you can seal. This disguises the drugs and prevents pets from getting into them. You can then throw the bag away.

If you are a throwing away a prescription medication container, be sure to scratch out all potentially identifying information to protect your privacy and identity.

Using Medicines More Sustainably

Another option for reducing the impact your use of medicine has on the environment is to use less of it or use more environmentally friendly medications.

To use less medicine, only use it when you truly need it and try substituting natural remedies for pharmaceuticals. Reach for naturally derived treatments such as essential oils, vitamins, herbs or a cup of hot tea. Always consult with your doctor before changing your medication regimen.

As a long-term strategy, regular exercise and a healthy diet can do wonders in improving your overall health and decreasing your need to take medicines.

Sustainability from the Industry’s Perspective

Of course, making the pharmaceutical industry more sustainable isn’t the sole responsibility of the consumer. The industry can also change its practices to manage pharmaceuticals in a more environmentally friendly fashion.

One aspect of this involves energy use. The manufacturing and transportation of medications can be extremely energy-intensive. By using energy more efficiently and using cleaner energy, drug companies can reduce their environmental impact.

Pharmaceutical industry can change its practices to manage pharmaceuticals in a more ecofriendly manner.

These corporations can also make an effort to include more eco-friendly substances in their medications. While they may not be able to remove every non-natural chemical from their products, they can offer greener alternatives to consume and look into reducing the presence of damaging substances as much as possible.

This applies not only to the organizations closest to the consumers but to the entire supply chain.

Medications are often vital to our health, but it can also have a negative impact on the health of our environment. Taking steps to manage pharmaceuticals more sustainably can enable us to protect our own well-being as well as that of our environment.

A Blackout, Big Oil, and Wind Energy

During the first quarter of 2017, workers installed a wind turbine somewhere in the US every 2.4 hours. Wind provided 5.6% of all the electricity produced in the US in 2016. That’s more than double the amount of wind power in 2010. The whole world is seeing similar growth.  The wind industry isn’t without controversy. Critics blame it for the scope of a blackout in Australia. On the other hand, international oil companies have begun to build off-shore wind farms.

Critics’ case against wind energy

According to its critics, wind power is unreliable. The wind doesn’t blow all the time. It doesn’t blow on any predictable pattern. Wind turbines require some minimum wind speed for them to work at all. And if the wind is too strong, they can’t operate safely and must shut down.

Wind can cross one or the other of these thresholds multiple times a day. They operate at full capacity for only a few hours a year. So the theoretical capacity of a wind farm greatly exceeds its actual output.

The times turbines can generate electricity do not coincide with rising and falling demand for electricity. This variability creates problems for stabilizing the grid. Critics further claim that the wind industry can’t operate without massive government subsidies.

Wind power and South Australia blackout of 2016?

South Australia depends on wind energy for about 40% of its electricity. It suffered seven tornados on September 28, 2016. Two of them, with winds almost as fast as Hurricane Katrina, destroyed twenty towers that held three different transmission lines. Nine wind farms shut down.  Within minutes, the entire state suffered a massive blackout.

What contributed the most to the blackout? South Australia’s high dependence on wind power? The weather? Or something else?

Renewable energy skeptics quickly claimed the blackout justified their position. The wind farms simply failed to provide enough electricity in the emergency. Wind and solar energy, they say, are inherently unreliable. South Australia’s heavy reliance demonstrates an irresponsible policy based on ideology more than technological reality.

Certainly, the weather would have caused a disturbance in electrical service no matter what source of electricity. People near the downed transmission lines could not have avoided loss of power. But prompt action by grid operators makes it possible to bypass problem areas and limit the extent of the outage.

On closer examination, however, the correct answer to the multiple-choice question above is C: something else.

Wind turbines have “low voltage ride through” settings to keep operating for brief periods when voltage dips below the threshold at which they can operate correctly. If low-voltage conditions occur too frequently, the turbines have a protection mechanism that turns them off.

  • Ten wind farms experienced between three and six low-voltage events within two minutes. But the turbines were operating on factory settings. No one performed any testing to determine good settings under local conditions.
  • The agency that regulates the Australian electricity market knew nothing about the protection feature. It blamed the wind farms, but surely someone on staff should have been familiar with the default operation of the turbines. After all, the agency approved purchase and installation of the turbines. It had all the documentation.
  • Two gas generating plants that should have supplied backup power failed to come online.

The weather caused a problem that became a crisis not because of technical limitations of renewable energy, but because of too many different organizations’ incompetence.

If the wind is too strong, wind turbines can’t operate safely and must shut down.

One homeowner in South Australia didn’t suffer from the outage. He didn’t even know about the blackout till he saw it on the news. He had to test the accuracy of the news reports by opening his oven and noting that the light didn’t come on.

It turns out he had installed solar panels just a few weeks earlier. And since power outages in his part of South Australia occur almost every month, he decided to install a Tesla Powerwall as well.

He can’t use it to power his entire house, but it takes care of the lights and the television. It stores enough electricity for 10 hours of off-grid power.

Big oil and wind power

International oil companies have not joined the chorus of wind-industry skeptics. Several of them, including Royal Dutch Shell, have begun to invest heavily in off-shore wind farms. Especially in the North Sea. Oil production there has steadily declined for about 15 years.

Exploring for new oil fields has become too risky and expensive. These oil companies have decided that investing in wind energy helps their cash flow and makes it more predictable.

Oil companies have more expertise in working on offshore platforms than do companies that specialize in wind energy. Instead of building a foundation for turbines on the ocean floor, at least one oil company has begun to explore how to mount them on floating platforms.

Traditional wind energy firms have been operating turbines in the North Sea for years, but the oil companies have begun to outbid them. Their off-shore expertise has helped them drive down their costs.

So far, American oil companies have shown less interest in wind farms. If they decide they’re in the oil business, they will eventually lose market share to renewable energy companies. If they decide they’re in the energy business, they’ll have to start investing in renewable energy. And if any decide to invest heavily in solar power besides or instead of wind, they will still be following the lead of Total, a French oil company.

For that matter, the coal business is dying. Perhaps some of them will have enough sense to invest in renewables to improve their cash flow.

E-Waste Management in the GCC: Perspectives

The growing amount of e-waste is gaining more and more attention on the global agenda. In 2017, e-waste production is expected to reach up to 48 million metric tons worldwide. The biggest contributors to this volume are highly developed nations, with the top three places of this inglorious ranking going to Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.

In Norway, each inhabitant produces a massive 28.3 kg of e-waste every year. Not far behind the top ten of this ranking lie GCC member states, with both Kuwait and UAE producing each 17.2 kg e-waste per capita per year. Saudi Arabia with its many times larger population produces least e-waste per capita among all GCC countries, with 12.5 kg a year.

Link between Development and E-Waste

Recent research suggests that there is evidence of a strong link between economic development and the generation of e-waste.  Due to rapid urbanization growth rates along with a substantial increase in the standard of living, more people develop a consumerist culture. With rising disposable income, people replace their technology more frequently, as soon there are upgraded gadgets on the market. This development is aggravated by technological progress, which renders shorter life spans of products.

Complexity of E-Waste

E-waste is not only a fast-growing waste stream but also complex, as it contains a large variety of different products. This makes it extremely difficult to manage. The rapid technology development and the emergence of items such as smart clothes will render e-waste management even more difficult in the future. Dealing with e-waste is not only toxic for workers with direct contact to it, but also the dumpsites on which e-waste is stored can have severe environmental impacts on the surrounding areas. Many developed countries export the bulk of their e-waste to developing countries, where it is recovered using extremely harmful methods for both human and the environment.

Out of the total e-waste produced world-wide, only about 15% are collected by official take-back schemes. The European Union is one of the few regions in the world with uniform legislation regarding the collection and processing of e-waste. The WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive took effect in 2003 and was designed to make manufacturers of appliances responsible for their equipment at the end of its life, a system known as extended producer responsibility (EPR).

An Untapped Opportunity

However, e-waste should not only be seen as a problem which more and more developed countries have to face. According to statistics, the intrinsic material value of global e-waste is estimated to be 48 billion euros in 2014. Even though the large part of e-waste constitutes of iron and steel, precious metals such as gold, copper, palladium, silver, platinum, cobalt, and more provide economic incentive for recycling.  In addition to the intrinsic material value, there are more benefits to e-waste recycling, such as job and employment creation.

In addition to these economic benefits, the recycling of electronic waste products also ensures to reduce environmental pollution by conserving virgin resources, whose extraction goes along with severe damages to entire ecosystems.

Situation in GCC Countries

In almost all GCC countries, there is minimal to zero legislation on e-waste, with minor differences between the respective counties. Kuwait as one of the biggest per capita e-waste producers among the GCC nations uses the same landfills for both conventional and e-waste. Bahrain operates only one landfill for the entire country, but there are several recycling initiatives in place, aiming at separating plastics, metals and paper. Still, there is no comprehensive law on e-waste management. Saudi Arabia possesses the biggest total amount of e-waste among the GCC countries. There are private companies, initiatives and Non-Profit-Organizations currently working on e-waste recycling, but there is no regulated system in place.

Oman does not have regulations or facilities to deal with e-waste, but the country has recently stated the realization of a need for it. Qatar has also recognized the need to address the waste management issue, but no concrete actions have been taken. The most advanced momentum regarding e-waste of all GCC countries can be found in the UAE. In some waste management centers, there are facilities where e-waste is classified and sorted out specifically. The UAE government is currently developing regulation and facilities to for sound e-waste recycling.

The Way Forward

As we have seen, in many GCC countries the need for e-waste legislation is widely recognized. E-waste management provides an opportunity and a huge potential in the entire Middle East, primarily due to four reasons. First, e-waste management is a source of employment for both highly skilled and unskilled workers. This could help to transfer employment from the public to the private sector, which is a goal of many Gulf countries. Second, e-waste recycling can also minimize costs, as less landfill space is being used. In Bahrain, the only existing landfill is expected to reach its capacity in the next years, and poses furthermore a health risks for the population as it is close to urban areas.

The most advanced momentum regarding e-waste in the GCC can be found in the UAE.

Third, the intrinsic value of e-waste with its precious metals provide economic incentive for recycling. As reserves for many metals decrease drastically, the economic value of these resources is expected to increase. And fourth, developments in e-waste management provide opportunities for industry and environmental research. Innovative and efficient recycling processes could be developed and transferred to other countries.

In order to fulfill this potential for e-waste management in GCC countries, the first step is to develop a sound regulatory framework in order to ensure private sector participation. Additionally, programs to increase public awareness for waste and in specific e-waste need to be developed, which is necessary for an integrated e-waste management system.


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