SWEEP-Net helps its partner countries make the shift from a conservative solid waste management strategy to an efficient, integrated resource management solution.

Integrated solid waste management, which in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has historically been administered by local authorities, is one of the region’s major challenges. But alongside the problem of fast-increasing quantities of waste, the region suffers from additional roadblocks—like poor political will, limited awareness, and lack of financial and technical capabilities to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills and disposal sites.

The negative impact of current disposal practices has dire consequences for the entire region. Adverse consequences include groundwater and surface water pollution, foul odors, and methane generation, all of which are serious environmental concerns. Loss of valuable resource materials and income-generation opportunities are also significant. On a regional level, organic waste management and composting are key elements for municipal waste management in countries where about 60 percent of waste composition is organic.

The private sector pillar

Private sector involvement is an important pillar for the development of innovative approaches to integrated solid waste management. A successful partnership between the public and the private sector paves the way for clear political decisions and a reliable legal and regulatory framework. This allows both parties to develop and implement projects that create employment and protect the environment.

SWEEP-Net was launched to facilitate these partnerships. Through pilot measures, guidelines, training, and the identification of best practices, SWEEP-Net helps its partner countries make the shift from a conservative solid waste management strategy—based on traditional end-of-pipe solutions—to an efficient, integrated resource management solution. This latter approach replaces the use of fossil resources through innovative and cleaner production processes, as well as through a change of consumption patterns. This concept may open new doors for economic opportunities that have not been seen before—especially in developing countries.

Recycling results

Recycling activities are one area of SWEEP-Net’s focus that may lead to substantial resource savings and income generation. It is estimated that every ton of recycled paper saves up to 17 trees and up to 50 percent of the water needed for its production. But recycling initiatives require a clear political commitment that is translated into legal and administrative action. This in turn allows the private sector to develop and implement innovative economic solutions. The absence of an adequate regulatory and legal framework hampers the development of a “green” sector in many countries of the MENA region.

By assisting its partners through policy advice and collaboration, SWEEP-Net can make a difference in creating these much-needed recycling initiatives. With proven regional models and pooling of resources in place, local authorities can develop policies and market incentives that have the potential to reduce the problem of capital misallocation. This in turn promotes economic development that allows for sustainable resource management.