Inside the Amman Waste Management Systems Studio

Like many growing cities around the world, the city of Amman, Jordan faces challenges with waste management. The City’s only landfill site will reach full capacity by 2030, waste management costs the city over 20% of its municipal income, and continued population growth spurred by regional crises means the volume of waste is unlikely to decrease.

In response to this challenge, Amman’s Chief Resilience Officer, Fawzi Masad, organized a Waste Management Systems Studio last week to bring together city stakeholders, NGOs, private sector representatives, national government actors, and subject matter advisors in addressing the city’s challenges around waste management. Representatives from partners such as Arup, Veolia, KfW, EBRD, and USAID joined to develop a resilience approach to waste management.

The studio was the first opportunity for these different stakeholders to collaborate and share ideas on how to improve the situation collectively. It included using systems thinking to develop holistic solutions that address Amman’s waste issues while also building the city’s resilience.

The workshop began with a tour that followed waste from disposal in a neighborhood in East Amman to the municipal transfer site which processes an average of 2,700 tonnes of waste daily, then to its final resting place 40 kilometers outside of the City at the Ghabawi landfill. Along the way participants considered the scale of human (4,000 municipal employees) and physical infrastructure in place to support waste management.

On the second day, department leaders briefed participants on Amman’s current waste system – from local to regional and international initiatives on waste, as well as best practices from 100RC subject matter advisors. Participants then broke out for group exercises to understand waste management as a system that’s connected to other city systems, through its positive and negative interdependencies. These linkages were then tested through scenario analysis exploring what would happen if a piece of major waste infrastructure were to fail, or if national borders were to close.

On the third day, participant teams presented an opportunity to improve Amman’s waste system and a series of actions that the city could take in the coming months. Opportunities ranged from increasing recycling, to generating energy from waste, to investing in waste infrastructure to foster a circular economy. A panel of city and external experts shared their feedback on the strength of the opportunity after each presentation.

The day ended with a rousing call to action – participants committed to take on various actions in their respective fields and departments, and to work closely with the CRO to ensure that all the waste management related actions in Amman’s Resilience Strategy would be successful.

Work continues for Fawzi and his team as they further analyze the opportunities for development and inclusion in their Resilience Strategy – to be released sometime in March 2017.