Waste-to-Energy enjoying renewed investment focus across the Middle East

While many countries in the Middle East’s have an historically high level of waste generation, which remains a huge problem both economically and environmentally, it is also a factor that is driving the region to become a global leader in adopting waste-to-energy (WtE) measures. Much like water, the Middle East has a pressing need to secure new sources of energy in order to accommodate its rapidly growing cities and overall population levels. At the same time, a raft of environmental issues at the national, regional and global levels dictate that this energy expansion must be a clean and sustainable one – a critical factor which is pushing WtE’s advancement as a long-term alternative to relying on landfill sites.

As this brief roundup of WtE policy commitments and tangible investments shows, the Middle East is looking to make 2019 a landmark year for combatting waste in a sustainable manner.


May 2018 saw the UAE’s Federal National Council pass new legislation which aims to achieve a 75% recycling rate of all municipal solid waste (MSW) generated by the Emirates before the end of 2021, with an additional ‘zero waste to landfill by 2020’ target. Given that the average UAE citizen is estimated to produce around 2.7kg of waste every day (more than twice the amount generated by the average European), this is an ambitious strategy to say the least.

However, the UAE is leading the regional push for WtE capacity development, with no fewer than five major projects underway:

Saudi Arabia

While Saudi Arabia may not currently have any operational WtE facilities, it is poised to leap forward and hit a massive 3GW target before 2030, under the auspices of the Vision 2030 energy diversification plan.

In terms of getting started on establishing tangible WtE capacity, December last year saw Sadara Chemical Company confirm that it had signed an agreement with Paris-based Veolia Middle East to build and operate a sustainable industrial waste-to-energy facility in PlasChem Industrial Park. While the facility’s planned capacity hasn’t been reported yet, this represents the start of Saudi Arabia’s push for WtE.

Saudi Arabia also recently signed an MoU with UK-based Ocean Polymers Limited to develop new renewable energy technologies, including waste-to-energy.


Oman Environmental Services Holding Company (be’ah) has now completed a feasibility study for the country’s first WtE facility and has begun the tendering process. It’s anticipated that Oman’s initial foray into WtE will be a big one, with an estimated capacity of 50MW when it comes online before 2023.

Similarly grand in scale and vision is Be’ah’s planned waste-to-energy-to-water facility. With an estimated price tag of $750 million, it’s expected to have the ability to process 2,200 tonnes per day of municipal solid waste and subsequently generate enough electricity to desalinate approximately 15,050 cubic metres of seawater per hour in a reverse osmosis plant. 


By July this year, we can expect Bahrain’s Government to complete its feasibility study on its proposed pilot scheme for a WtE plant which will likely have around a 1,000 MSW tonne per day processing capacity, generating approximately 25MW of clean energy.


After a lengthy delay in the tendering process, commencement of construction work for the $782 million Kabd Waste to Energy Plant is back on for 2019. Once completed, this single facility will be able to treat half of all the solid waste produced each year in Kuwait (3,275 tonnes per day), generating up to 100MW of clean energy in the process. 

WtE experiencing an acceleration of pace

Throughout the Middle East, we can see a pattern of WtE fitting neatly into countries’ sustainable energy generation plans while at the same time filling the role of no longer filling holes in the ground with waste. As new facilities are proposed, tendered, awarded and subsequently constructed, WtE’s presence is visibly growing in the region.