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Interview: Rob Hounsome, Ramboll

by James Morgan on Apr 15, 2017

 Ramboll has been providing municipal waste management consultancy services to MOMRA in Saudi Arabia.
Ramboll has been providing municipal waste management consultancy services to MOMRA in Saudi Arabia.

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On the face of it, the practicalities of waste management seem fairly straightforward: simply collect refuse and recycle or dispose of it in the most sustainable way possible. But when one pauses to think about the dizzying number of moving components involved in this process – and the sheer scale of waste management requirements in the Middle East – the situation begins to look altogether more complicated.

Due to the breadth of the region’s waste management sector, individuals with the ability to offer a spectrum-wide perspective are few and far between – but they do exist. As regional director for infrastructure and environment at Denmark-headquartered engineering consultancy, Ramboll, Rob Hounsome is ideally placed to provide commentary – and advice – on challenges and opportunities from across the industry.

“Our team’s waste management work sits at the intersection of [infrastructure and the environment],” he explains. “We provide consultancy services to a wide range of clients, including government authorities, real estate developers, industrial organisations, and even private sector waste management firms looking to design waste-to-energy plants, or composting and recycling facilities.

“Ramboll really is unique in the sense that it works across the entire waste management spectrum.”

As one might imagine, Ramboll’s government-level consultancy activities are predominantly strategic in nature. The company is collaborating with authorities from across the Middle East to cater to their waste management requirements.

“In the GCC, we currently have projects in the UAE, we’re doing a fair bit of work in Oman, and we’re conducting a good amount of work in Saudi Arabia,” says Hounsome. “We’re also active in the wider Middle East, in markets such as Lebanon and Jordan.

“In Saudi Arabia, we’re advising the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs (MOMRA) on waste management; we’re helping individual municipalities to identify potential opportunities to enhance waste management and to consider options for the privatisation of waste disposal facilities.

“In the UAE, we’re working in the Northern Emirates offering advice on the rehabilitation of some of their older landfill sites which, as you’re probably aware, weren’t necessarily engineered as efficiently or as effectively as they [would be today].”

Public sector waste management authorities across the Middle East are looking to transition from operators to regulators, while simultaneously improving sustainability. Encouragingly, Hounsome does not see the commercial and environmental drivers of waste management as mutually exclusive.