Hosting a large refugee population in a protracted crisis brings with it a range of challenges – and sometimes opportunities – for governments and municipal authorities. Solid waste management services globally struggle to meet the demand in cities and densely populated areas, and this is exacerbated during a crisis when there are large and unplanned flows of people into urban areas.
Finding effective and sustainable waste management systems for the new population, particularly in refugee and IDP camps and settlements, is key to maintaining adequate and hygienic living standards for those displaced and ensuring the environmental and health impacts on the host community are minimal. Improper solid waste disposal can lead to public health risks, environmental degradation and socio-economic problems. However, with the right approach, waste management can also be a source of environmental protection, revenue and employment.
In the context of Jordan, the country currently imports around 90 per cent of its energy and fuel requirements and recycles approximately 7 percent of the 2 million tons of municipal waste produced annually. Jordan is home to more than 650,000 Syrian refugees, 18 per cent of whom live in formal refugee camps at Zaatari and Azraq.
World Vision has been providing Solid Waste Management services at Azraq Camp since 2017, supported by the European Union (EuropeAid). The purpose-built refugee camp, which covers 14.7 km² and is 25 km from the nearest town, has a population of around 36,500 Syrian refugees.
Approximately 20.7 tonnes of waste are produced at the camp daily, just over 15 percent of which is recyclable. The rest is primarily organic waste, which is currently not compostable in Jordan.
World Vision provides the only solid waste management at Azraq Camp at its ‘Green Centre’, utilizing an environmentally-friendly approach with the aim of reducing the environmental and health impact of waste, reducing operating costs and providing sustainable livelihood opportunities for residents.
The Green Centre operating model may provide a useful example for other refugee or IDP camps in the region or globally, particularly as displacement crises become more protracted.
There are also lessons learned which can be built on for better environmental sustainability in Jordan in the future, particularly in the future if service provision in refugee camps is incorporated into the local municipality. Jordan has a national strategy to increase recycling by 2034, and the country aims to generate 30-50 megawatts of power from waste-to-energy projects by 2020.