How to recycle in Saudi Arabia? This question is often asked by people interested in ways to make life in Saudi more environmentally friendly. Here are 10 easy and simple ways everyone in Saudi Arabia can recycle and conserve the environment.
Saudi-Arabia has some beautiful and unique nature and by even the smallest changes we can make a difference in preserving the environment. It might feel like just a drop in the ocean, but when hundreds or even thousands of people make that one small change it becomes a wave of change. I’ve listed some ways to recycle in Saudi Arabia that are relevant to people living in the Kingdom and the GCC. This is a topic I’m passionate about and first wrote about in 2012: Recycling the Saudi Values
Sometimes we go about our daily lives without giving things much thought and just continue doing stuff the way we’re used to. However, once we look closer and think about it from another POV, a lot of the things we do are just pure madness! We can do so much better!
It’s time to start thinking and acting to stop the littering madness!
1. Reduce usage of plastic bags
The single most efficient thing everyone in the Kingdom can do is cut down how many plastic bags they take home from the store. A lot of people like to have their groceries and purchases placed separately in a GAZILLION plastic bags instead of placing everything in one or two large bags. But why? When you think about it, isn’t this crazy?
Think-Do you really need all those 20 plastic bags to carry the 21 items you bought? In fact did you know you can fit 21 items into ONE large bag with no trouble at all!
The problem is baggers in Saudi grocery stores will by default place only one or two items per bag. This can easily add up to 40-60 plastic bags per average family per grocery shop visit.
If the family grocery shops once a week, plus all the additional visits to get few things, adding 20 or so more bags to the total of approximately 80 bags a week. That becomes 400 bags a month and 4800 bags a year!
Multiply that by how many Saudi and expat families there are who are doing this..MILLIONS of plastic bags wasted! For nothing! And those very same plastic bags end up in the streets, in the desert, on the beaches, in the sea.
The baggers do it simply because they have been taught not to place for example a deodorant, a bread loaf, cheese or a milk bottle in the same bag. In reality these things do not need separate bags. if millions of people in other countries in the world are able to place everything in one same bag, surely this is possible in KSA too. In order to make this happen, we must re-train the baggers or pack the bags ourselves.
Some grocery stores like Carrefour sell large fabric bags you can reuse for your grocery shopping. Most baggers will not know how to use them and might even place the items first in tons of plastic bags, then place inside the fabric bag. Again, you might need to show them how you want it done.
At home re-use the plastic bags, use them as garbage bags and for storage. For more tips check this list of 99 ways to reuse plastic bags: http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/reuses-plastic-bags2.htm
2. Recycle water bottles
Most people in Saudi drink bottled water. Some prefer to always purchase hoards of small bottles which accumulate into mountains of plastic in no time. WHY? This is really not necessary!
Buy the large recyclable water bottles from companies like Nestle that offer home delivery and save money and the nature and your back! You can place an order online.
If you still want to use the smaller water bottles: after use, rinse bottle, refill from large water container, you can safely use a few times before throwing them away.
Change to reusable water bottles made of metal which you can wash, refill from the large water tank and reuse indefinitely.
3. Use water sparingly
Many Saudi families will have more than one car. It’s usually the driver’s duty to wash the cars, and the housemaids are the ones who clean the outside areas from dust. And how do they do it? By spraying hundreds of gallons of running water from the hose all over the yard or the cars! WHY?? This is nuts!
Don’t have your car washed with running water from the hose. Ask the driver or whoever is cleaning the car to use a bucket and cloth instead. Ask the housemaid to SWEEP the yard once in a while instead of pouring hundreds of liters of water around on a daily basis. Don’t run the water the whole time while showering or brushing teeth and avoid taking excessive baths.
4. Reuse or return hangers from laundry places
Most Saudi families take their thobes, abayas and ghutras to be professionally cleaned and ironed. Every neighborhood has a laundry place or two. When they are picked up, the clothes will each be placed on hangers and inside plastic bags separately. And what do most people do? Throw the hangers away! WHY?? This is really a waste!
Don’t throw these hangers away! If you don’t want to reuse them yourself at home RETURN them to the cleaners! Also, request to have multiple thobes/clothing items placed inside one bag, no need for ten separate plastic wrappings.
5. Buy Second hand clothing and furniture
You can do this in many ways, in Saudi Arabia the large websites for buying used goods are in english expatriates.com and haraj.com (Arabic only). In Riyadh you can visit the Princess Souk ( Haraj bin Gasem) where you will find just about anything you can imagine second hand.
6. How to Recycle in Saudi by Managing your waste
I’ve recently discovered a new recycling place in Riyadh where you can take all your waste for handling. The recycle center located in central Riyadh will take your plastic bottles, paper, metal, glass, clothes, batteries and old appliances. For larger furniture and household appliances call them to schedule a pick up. Location and info on this post: Riyadh Recycling Center. There are many collections points around the larger cities where you can take your waste for recycling.
7. Cut back on use of tissues/ mandeel.
Before I moved to Saudi Arabia, the Tissue Wonderland, I had probably used tissues a handful of times only in my entire life. It seems tissues are used for pretty much anything and everything in Saudi Arabia, as if it’s an essential item for survival. Tissue boxes can be found in every single room of the house and even in cars.
This pointless tissue-extravagance is just mind-boggling to me raised in Scandinavian culture, where we are used to towels, washable wipes and cleaning rags instead of disposable tissues. Reducing usage of paper (preserving the forests we so love) is a central part of our culture and this can be seen in how toilet papers are made from recycled materials and how they’re packaged in very compact, recycled packaging. You will not find many tissue boxes at Scandinavian stores.
That’s whysSeeing entire isles full of different brands and types of tissue boxes at Saudi grocery stores was a culture shock for me.
I understand that completely cutting out using mandeel in Saudi homes is not going to happen but it’s easy to at least try to reduce how much is being used.
Think- do you REALLY need to use them so much?
Start by using towels instead of tissues to dry hands, place them in convenient areas.
For cleaning use reusable wipes and rags.
Dry surfaces with washable kitchen cloths.
And for the love of God, don’t get scented tissues, those are the most environmentally destructive ones that you can get!
8. Avoid Styrofoam packaging and straws
The takeaway restaurants in KSA often use Styrofoam packaging which is extremely harmful to the environment and also for your health. In fact, styrofoam ( polystyrene) has been banned in many countries already due to its detrimental effect on the environment and humans. The probelm with polystyrene is that it does not decompose and it breaks into tiny microscopic particles which travel from the landfills with the help of wind into the oceans. Plankton then eats these particles. Small fish eat mass loads of plankton and also the microplastic particles. Bigger fish eat those plastic filled fish. Humans eat the big fish. So next time you’re having a fish dish in that styrofoam packaging, think about it. Read more about just how awful polystyrene is here.
The restaurants in Saudi Arabia use shocking amounts of of polystyrene packaging. One item will be placed in one large container instead of trying to at least save space or opt for environmentally sustainable packing materials. Tell the waiter to pack your food in more smart ways and opt for take out restaurants that use biodegradable packing such as Saldwich.
Also, grocery stores in Saudi often pack fruits, cheese, pastries etc. in styrofoam and plastic. Ask to have them just wrapped in plastic wrap which is really all you need!
Straws in drinks should be avoided as much as possible. Plastic straws are a major ocean polluter so try to avoid the straws whenever possible.
9. Buy local produce avoid imported goods.
There is plenty of good quality local produce available, yet many families always go for the imported, American stuff, just because it’s American. People will pay 50 sar for strawberries imported from U.S.A when a local one would cost 5 sar. WHY?? This is truly madness!
Always try to favor locally produced goods, organic produce, whether it be bread, fruits, ice cream or meat you are buying! Imported goods are often overpriced, have gotten damaged or ruined in the shipping process or have bad expiration dates.
10. Don’t throw trash on the streets, beaches, oceans or deserts!!
Well this should be a self clear thing. But some people tend to think that someone will come to the desert (or wherever they’re having the picnic) and pick up their trash. This is not true! Nobody will come. The trash will stay there, animals will come spread it, wind will blow the waste even further around the area.
The attitude “someone else will pick it up for me” needs to change. Everyone needs to pick up after themselves. Indeed, there are yellow-clad street cleaners around every corner in the cities. That doesn’t justify throwing trash out of car windows. That’s just a really trashy thing to do, period.
I know that people can do better. Just think. This culture of trashing beautiful places and littering the streets is actually a relatively new phenomenon which came along with the discovery of oil and Saudi families getting used to having house help.
Think-Would you throw trash on your own mother? Of course not. So why are you throwing trash on your motherland?
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Hello there, I’m Laura, the author of Blue Abaya, the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia established in 2010. I’ve been traveling around and exploring Saudi Arabia since 2008.
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