Techno-economic assessment of municipal solid waste management in Jordan

Techno-economic assessment of municipal solid waste management in Jordan

Waste Management 27 (2007) 1666–1672 Techno-economic assessment of municipal solid waste management in Jordan H.A. Abu...

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Waste Management 27 (2007) 1666–1672

Techno-economic assessment of municipal solid waste management in Jordan H.A. Abu Qdais


Civil Engineering Department, Jordan University of Science and Technology, P.O. Box 3030, Irbid, Jordan Accepted 8 August 2006 Available online 17 October 2006

Abstract Mismanagement of solid waste leads to public health risks, adverse environmental impacts and other socio-economic problems. This is obvious in many developing countries around the world. Currently, several countries have realized that the way they manage their solid wastes does not satisfy the objectives of sustainable development. Therefore, these countries, including Jordan, which forms the case study presented here, have decided to move away from traditional solid waste management (SWM) options to more integrated solid waste management approaches. Unfortunately, in many developing countries like Jordan, the lack of adequate resources to implement the necessary changes is posing a serious obstacle. The present paper discusses the various practices and challenges of solid waste management in Jordan from both a technical and economic perspective. An overview of the current practices and their environmental implications in three major cities of the country, which generate more than 70% of the country’s solid waste, is presented. Recent literature on solid waste management in Jordan has been reviewed; and data on the total amount of municipal solid waste generated, compositional variations over the last two decades, and future projections are presented. The necessity, importance and needs of solid waste recovery and reuse are identified. The review of the legal frameworks indicated that there is a need for detailed and clear regulations dealing specifically with solid waste. The service cost analysis revealed that none of the municipalities in Jordan sufficiently recover the cost of the services, with more than 50% being subsidized from the municipalities’ budgets. The allocation of the available resources was analyzed and service performance indicators assessed. Factors that should be taken into consideration when making the decision to move from a traditional SWM approach to a more integrated approach are highlighted and suggestions for a more smooth transition are recommended. Ó 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction Municipal solid waste management (MSWM) is considered a serious environmental challenge confronting local authorities in many countries around the world. This is especially true in developing countries. As a result of rapid population growth and the increased rate of unplanned urbanization in many cities of the developing world, the amounts of MSW are increasing tremendously. According to the Mediterranean environmental technical assistance program (METAP), which covers 13 developing countries *

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within the Mediterranean basin, the amount of MSW generated in those countries is about 40 million ton/year, and it is expected to increase to 55 million ton/year by 2010 (METAP, 2005). Due to resource limitations, increasing amounts of MSW are not accompanied with proper management practices. This situation poses serious public health risks and causes environmental degradation in many cities of the developing world (Diaz et al., 1999). Recently, some developing countries have realized that the SWM policies they follow do not serve the objectives of sustainable development, and there is a need for a paradigm shift in dealing with MSWM problems (Agamuthu, 2003). Jordan is among those countries that have decided to take the initiative to improve solid waste management

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and have started designing plans for improvements. In Jordan, as is the case in many developing countries, MSW management is mainly the responsibility of the local councils (municipalities). The municipalities carry out the solid waste services using their own staff, equipment and funds. In 1991, Jordan completed the national environmental strategy, which addressed the main country’s problems and laid down the basis for drawing up environmental policies and initiating action plans. This was followed by the development of the national environmental action plan (NEAP), which was initiated and coordinated by the Government of Jordan with advice provided by The World Bank. The lack of proper MSW management techniques was identified by NEAP as one of the main environmental issues in Jordan. The system of solid waste disposal was recognized by both NEAP and Jordan Agenda 21 as being a source of water, air and soil pollution (National Environment Strategy, 1991; NEAP, 1995; Jordan Agenda, 2000). The objective of this paper is to assess the current solid waste management practices in Jordan and to identify, from a techno-economic perspective, the gaps in the system applied. This was achieved by reviewing MSWM in three major Jordanian cities, namely Amman (the capital city), Irbid and Zarqa. The MSW generated by these three cities accounts for about 70% of the total MSW generated in the country. Improvements that took place in MSWM during the last years are highlighted and steps for further improvements are recommended.


Table 1 Physical composition of MSW in three major Jordanian cities Solid waste component

Food waste Paper and cardboard Plastics Metals Glass Miscellaneous Moisture content (%) Density (kg/m3)

Average percent by weight Amman



54.4 14 13.2 2.4 2.8 13.2 65 259

77.5 14.9 2.5 1.3 2.6 1.2 62 241

73 9 10 2 2 4 57 223

mainly attributed to increase in population and changes in living standards and consumption patterns. Table 1 shows the physical composition and the typical percentage distribution of MSW in three main cities of Jordan (Al-Khaldy, 2001; Zarqa Municipality, 2001; MOGA, 2001). It can be noted that the major fraction of the solid waste generated is food and paper waste (organics), which implies a higher moisture content of the generated solid waste (57–65%) compared to MSW with less organic content. These conditions are typical in many developing countries (Savage et al., 1998) and this value is higher than that reported in the US (20–28%) (Tchobanoglous et al., 1993; Zornberg et al., 1999). The relatively high moisture content of the MSW may lead to a reduction in the calorific value of the SW, which was reported to be 2747 kcal/kg (Abu-Qudais and Abu Qdais, 2000).

2. Solid waste quantities and characteristics 3. Functional elements of MSWM in Jordan A prerequisite for the successful implementation of any solid waste management plan is the availability of information on the composition and quantities of solid waste generated. Fig. 1 shows the actual amount of solid waste generated in Jordan over the last two decades. It also presents the projected amount of MSW for the next 15 years (Abu-Qudais and Abu Qdais, 2000; Abu Hijleh et al., 1998). It can be seen from the figure that MSW generation has increased steadily, from 1000 ton/day in 1978 to about 2500 ton/day in 2000, and this amount is expected to reach about 5160 ton/day by the year 2020. This increase is

6000 Annual MSW Generation (Ton/year)

5160 5000

4416 3666

4000 3166 3000 2150



3.1. Storage Solid waste is stored in different types of containers at the source of generation. Within the household, plastic bags are usually used for the storage of the solid waste generated. On the road sides within each neighborhood, galvanized steel containers of 1.1 m3 are used for MSW storage in the areas accessible by the collection vehicles. In densely populated areas with narrow streets and alleys, large steel containers of 8 m3 capacity are placed at a nearby yard from where they are hauled to the landfill by a container hoist vehicle. Many containers in the Zarqa and Irbid areas are in poor condition. Some are without wheels, which delays the process of unloading into the collection vehicles and affects the collection efficiency. In addition, movement of containers without wheels requires extra effort or handling by the workers, which results in severe injuries in some cases. Some containers are corroded and rusted, which leads to leachate spillage at the container site.

1000 1000

3.2. Collection

0 1978








Fig. 1. Past, current and projected annual MSW generation in Jordan.

In the three cities the main collection scheme is based on curbside collection. Residents put their waste at the curb from where the municipality workers collect it in wheeled

H.A. Abu Qdais / Waste Management 27 (2007) 1666–1672

carts and take it to the nearest container in that area. In some cases, where the containers are close to residences, the residents put the waste directly into the container. The containers are emptied into a rear loading compaction vehicle that has a special lifting device for collecting the solid waste. The collection frequency is generally once per day, 6 days a week. The collection crew usually consists of two workers plus a driver. There are no specific routing plans followed in collecting the solid waste. Although, each vehicle is assigned to collect the solid waste from one or more regions, the routing is usually decided by the driver. This practice results in redundancy and duplication of tasks, and affects the efficiency of the collection process, as more than one collection vehicle often follow the same route. Once the vehicle is filled, it leaves the collection route and travels to the landfill. From Irbid, Zarqa and many regions of Amman, the MSW is transported directly to the landfill, while some regions in Amman send their waste to transfer stations from where it is hauled in trailers to the landfill. At the present time, Amman and Zarqa municipalities are constructing transfer stations after closing the nearby landfill and moving to a new, more distant landfill. Irbid Municipality is also considering the transfer station option. 3.3. Resource recovery Resource recovery in Jordan is implemented on two levels: 1. Informal level by scavengers 2. Formal level regulated by municipalities or NGOs Like many other developing countries, scavenging plays a role in reducing the quantity of waste reaching the disposal site. It is common to see individuals scavenging through the waste, mostly in search for cardboard, tins and plastic bottles. Usually, there are dealers that pass the recyclables to factories and industries. The scavengers usually perform their job in a very primitive way and without any protective measures. This leads to high risk of infection and disease transmission. Since scavenging is a source of income for the scavengers’ families, it has been recommended that scavenging activities be integrated within the solid waste management system, by training the scavengers to perform their work properly with minimal public health risks. Certain resource recovery activities are managed by municipalities. For example, at the Alakeeder landfill site, which is the main landfill in northern Jordan, the municipality has an annual contract with a recycling contractor to recover the recyclables from the solid waste before landfilling. Over the last few years the lump sum value of the contract ranged from 15,000 to 20,000 JD/year (21,500– 28,500 US$/year). Another formal recycling project is the construction of a pilot material recycling facility (MRF)

in Zarqa. This facility was constructed as part of a comprehensive project for solid waste management improvement in the city, which was supported jointly by the UNDP and the European Union. It has been estimated that recycling would produce an annual revenue of 177,653 JD (253,790 US$) in Zarqa, assuming 20% of the recyclables are recovered from the solid waste stream (Zarqa Municipality, 2001). As for energy recovery, one of the pioneer projects initiated in Jordan is the Russaifah landfill biogas project. In 1999, a pilot biogas plant was erected at the closed landfill at Russaifah. The plant receives the produced biogas from the landfill via 12 gas extraction wells. There is also a digester that receives the biodegradable organic waste produced by restaurants, hotels and the slaughterhouse. The plant is currently generating 1 MW of power that is converted to electricity, which is sold to the national grid. The project will be expanded to generate about 5 MW of power by installing more extraction wells at the landfill site. Fig. 2 shows the amount of biogas produced during 2000–2003 (Ababneh, 2004). The Jordanian Government and The World Bank are considering means to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions from solid waste landfills and to make use of the clean development mechanism (CDM) within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol. In an effort to prepare for the agreement with The World Bank, the Ministry of Municipalities is intending to initiate a study to estimate the amount of GHGs emitted from all of the landfills in Jordan. If the agreement is signed, Jordan will be the first country in the region that makes use of the CDM and will set an example for other countries. It should be pointed out that, despite the presence of a high fraction of biodegradable organics in the Jordanian solid waste stream and despite the fact that 91% of Jordan’s land is arid to semi-arid, solid waste composting has never been considered as an option for solid waste management. There is a clear need to raise awareness for promoting composting on large scale in Jordan, as it will offer the following environmental and economic advantages:

4000000 Generated biogas (m3/Year)







2500000 2000000


1500000 1000000 500000 0 2000





Fig. 2. Annual volume of biogas produced from pilot biogas plant at Russaifah landfill.

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(i) Composting biodegradable organics will divert a large fraction (more than 70%) of MSW from the landfills, which will minimize the emissions produced from such waste under unsanitary landfilling conditions. (ii) The heavy use of fertilizers leads to several adverse environmental impacts; using compost to supplement the fertilizers in the Jordanian agricultural sector will minimize these impacts. (iii) Most of fertilizers are imported from abroad; utilizing compost will decrease the expenditures on importing the fertilizers.

3.4. Disposal The traditional method of MSW disposal in Jordan, until 1990, was open dumping with partial combustion (controlled burning) in some cases. One environmental problem, which was indicated by the NEAP, was that none of the existing waste disposal sites was properly designed and their locations grossly undermined the objectives for a safe environment. This has resulted in adverse impacts on the environment such as uncontrolled release of leachate that migrated to groundwater or to surface water, and uncontrolled release of landfill gases which caused odor and other public health problems (e.g., the case of Russaifah landfill before its closure). Abdullah and AlGhazzawi (2000) estimated that, in 1994, methane emissions from MSW sites was at 371.76 Gegagram, with approximately 77.5% of this amount produced by the Russaifah and Alakeeder landfills (the landfills used by the three cities covered by this study). This indicates that landfills are a major source of greenhouse gases in Jordan. Recognizing the adverse impacts of open dumping, the Jordanian Government decided to adopt an environmentally sound method of MSW disposal (landfill). In 1994, a comprehensive plan was initiated for the treatment of MSW at a national level with efforts made to improve the final disposal of MSW by converting the existing 23 dumpsites into landfills. The plan started with 10 dumpsites of the main cities of the country (excluding the Capital City Amman) as a first stage of the project. These sites receive


about 50% of the total MSW collected in the country. Table 2 lists the characteristics of these sites (JICA, 1996). The sites were converted from open dumps into unsanitary landfills, which means that the MSW is landfilled without a leachate or gas management system. Moving from open dumping to landfilling is one step in the direction towards upgrading the sites into sanitary landfills (Rushbrook and Pugh, 1999). The process of moving from open dumping to landfilling, however, faced some technical and administrative problems. The main problem was the lack of financial and qualified human resources. Therefore, The Jordanian Government solicited and received technical and financial support from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Although the MSW disposal process after the conversion has led to less adverse environmental impacts, there are still some impacts that require mitigation. For example, Abu-Rukah and El-Aloosy (1997) studied the migration of various metal ions from Al-akeeder landfill site, which is the main landfill in northern Jordan. They concluded that there was a migration of heavy metal ions to deep layers. By monitoring the water quality of 11 groundwater wells in the vicinity of the Al-Akeeder landfill, Abu-Rukah and Al-Kofahi (2001) concluded that the water is contaminated in many of these wells. The water in some of the wells could not even be used for irrigation purposes due to the high salinity levels. Until the year 2003, the largest landfill in the country was the Russaifah landfill, which served both Amman and Zarqa. Due to its proximity to these urban areas, this landfill was the subject of a national debate for a long time in Jordan. In May 2003, the Greater Amman Municipality closed the Russaifah landfill and moved to a newly constructed sanitary landfill At Alghabawi. The new landfill is a well engineered facility with leachate and gas collection systems. However, moving to the new site has led to an increased hauling distance. The collection vehicles are spending a longer time in hauling the waste to the new landfill instead of spending this time on collection routes, which has affected the collection efficiency. Currently, the Jordanian Government is planning to move towards more sustainable options of SWM. Improving the collection efficiency of MSW and enhancing the

Table 2 List of the dumping sites characteristics that converted to landfills (JICA, 1996) No.

Site name

Site area 1000 m2

Number of site staff

Population served in 1000

Solid waste received ton/day

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Al-akeeder Mafraqu Humra Tafeela Maan Karak Aquaba Kufranja Madaba North Shuna

606 180 270 500 500 1000 60 71 52 67

27 13 17 4 8 4 12 8 4 3

714 128 171 81 70 125 62 100 72 75

571 100 136 56 56 100 60 80 57 60


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environmental performance of the landfill sites are main priorities. In addition, involving the private sector in the SWM process is being seriously considered (National Agenda, 2006). 4. Cost and tariff setting The financing of waste management infrastructure and systems in Jordan is provided by the municipalities. The Ministry of Municipalities offers low interest loans for municipal activities including solid waste management via the City Development Bank. Fig. 3 shows the expenditures on MSWM as a percentage of the total budgets of the three municipalities during the year 2000. The solid waste fee system is based on the Regulation of Waste Prevention and Fees No 89 of 1998 issued by the Ministry of Municipalities. The fees charged are flat fees and differ among municipalities based on their category and size. Residents of the first category municipalities pay a flat fee of 14 JD/year (US$20/year), while residents of second category municipalities pay 10 JD/year (US$14.30/year) and 6 JD/year (US$8.60/year) is required for the residents of the third and fourth categories. The fees are collected as a monthly supplement to the electricity bill. According to the regulation, the commercial sector pay 20% of the commercial license value; this is about the same value paid by the residents in most cases. The analysis of the financial records of the three municipalities covered in the study shows that the current practices of cost recovery for solid waste are poor. The revenue from the solid waste services is not covering the cost of offering the service. As shown in Fig. 3, the rate of cost recovery of the services offered is 53.7%, 48.2% and 40.5% in Amman, Irbid and Zarqa, respectively. The municipalities usually subsidize the services from their own budgets. The low cost recovery level may be attributed to the following reasons:



Expenditure on SWM as percent of total budget

48.2 25 20

Cost recovery %





40.2 40








0 Amman



Cost recovery (%)

Expenditure on SWM



Fig. 3. Fraction of municipal budget expended on solid waste management and percent of cost recovery in the three major Jordanian cities.

1. The relatively low level of the fee against the service. 2. The Electricity Company deducts 10% of the collected fees as administrative charges. 3. In certain neighborhoods more than one household is connected to the electricity meter and yet they pay for only one house. This suggests the necessity for amending the current fee system to cover at least the operation and maintenance costs, especially if taking into consideration that such a flat fee system does not create incentives to minimize waste. The MSWM system cost per capita is expressed as a percentage of the national income per capita for Jordan. Based on the average annual per capita income of 1100 JD (1600 US$) in 2004 (Jordan Human Development Report, 2004) and average family size of 5, the cost/income ratio is about 0.3%, which is lower than the range for other countries in the region (i.e., in Tunisia and Turkey it ranges from 0.5% to 9%) and comes within the range of the developed countries like Spain and Denmark (0.2–0.5%) (Jorgensen and Jakobsen, 1994). 5. Legal framework Direct regulation may be considered to be one of the most appropriate means of addressing environmental issues. Direct regulation must be accompanied by proper monitoring and enforcement; it requires the government to set environmental objectives and to specify standards and measurements of environmental quality. The Environmental Protection Law No. 1 for the year 2003 (superseded Law No. 12, 1995) is the primary environmental legislation in Jordan. It is structured to provide for the management of environmental issues according to environmental media (air, soil, water, etc.) but does not explicitly address solid waste management. Solid waste management in Jordan is undertaken under authority of different legislation that are implemented through different governmental agencies, such as the Ministry of Municipalities Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Environment, with very weak level of coordination. These laws (Municipalities Law, Public Health Law, and Environmental Protection Law) are extremely generic. They simply indicate the responsible agency for waste management, the fees that should be collected against the offered service, and the fines that should be paid in case of noncompliance with proper management of MSW. For example, the recently issued Public Health Law No. 54 for the year 2002 did not specify the fines that should be paid by the generators who improperly or illegally dispose the solid waste generated at their premises. Therefore, there is a need for regulations dealing specifically with solid waste issues in a comprehensive, efficient and detailed manner, with clear responsibilities and enforcement mechanisms. A legal framework that promotes resource recovery and minimization options and enforces the polluter pays principle has to be issued and adopted.

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6. Service performance indicators Usually, solid waste collection is evaluated in terms of efficiency (i.e., amount of money spent per ton of solid waste collected). Consequently, it is necessary to be able to measure the effectiveness of the system, in other words, how well the task is being done and what is the level of public satisfaction. To evaluate the adequacy of SW collection service in the three cities, a community effect index (CEI) was estimated for each city (Vesilind and Rimer, 1981). CEI can be calculated based on the cleanliness of streets, by giving a rating to each street, starting at 100 for a very clean street with no visible litter and reaching zero for an extremely unclean street with scattered trash. Also, 10 points may be deducted from the rating given to the street due to the presence of certain conditions, such as littered vacant lots or abandoned vehicles (Vesilind and Rimer, 1981). CEI is calculated by the following formula: N X ðS  P Þi CEI ¼ ð1Þ N i¼1 where S is the street cleanliness rating given based on the inspection process; P is the presence of special conditions which leads to deducting of 10 points from the street rating for each condition; N is total number of the street inspected. To evaluate CEI for the three major cities in Jordan, 100 streets were randomly selected in each city and evaluated at the same day of the week. The values of the CEI for the three cities are given in Table 3. As shown in the table, the CEI value for Zarqa city is relatively low (47) as compared to other two cities (82 for Amman and 63 for Irbid). This is mainly attributed to the closure of the nearby landfill (Russaiffah), which was located 12 km from the city center. As a result, the hauling distance of the solid waste to the new landfill was increased to about 50 km, which adversely affected the performance of the collection vehicles. It can also be seen from Table 3 that the population served per worker is the lowest in


Amman (630 persons/worker). On the other hand, the average cost of collection and transport per ton of solid waste is the highest in Amman (29 US$/ton). This can be explained by the fact that Amman city is characterized by a mountainous topography, which makes the collection cost higher than that of Irbid and Zarqa where the topography is relatively flat. 7. Conclusions and recommendations As in many developing countries, SWM in Jordan is the responsibility of the municipalities. Due to the increase in population and changes in life-style, the amounts of MSW in Jordan during the last two decades has been rapidly increasing. Until 1990, the main disposal option for solid waste was open dumping with partial combustion. This has led to several adverse health and environmental impacts. Jordan is among those countries that have decided to move from traditional SWM approaches towards more integrated options. This decision was not easy for a developing country that is lacking the necessary technical expertise and resources. Therefore, external aid was sought to achieve this objective. Initially, the SWM improvement plan focused on the dumpsites, which were reported to be a source of several adverse impacts. Then the interest was to promote resource recovery options both on a formal and informal basis, so as to minimize the amount of waste disposed and to recover valuable products. Scavengers involved in the informal recovery process should be trained and integrated into the formal resource recovery system. Although many options of waste recovery have been considered, solid waste composting is not yet seriously considered in Jordan, but should be given more attention. Environmental legislations are still basic, especially when dealing with solid waste issues. Their mandates do not encourage the application of integrated SWM. Therefore, there is a need for regulations that deal specifically with solid waste to promote waste reduction, recycling

Table 3 Solid waste performance indicators of three main cities in Jordan Indicator


City Amman



Community effect index Number of Service regions Population served Population served per worker Population served per vehicle Average number of containers per km of collection route Average daily number of containers served per collection vehicle Average cost of collection and transport Average daily SW collected by worker Ratio of workers to inspectors

– No Person Persons Persons No No US$/ton kg/day

82 20 1,800,000 630 11,320 3.93 37.7 29a 557 8.6

63 12 371,000 742 14,840 3.7 42.2 20.1 650 12.5

47 9 483,000 867 15,580 4.5 31.8 22.7a 518 6


The cost for both Amman and Zarqa municipalities has to be increased due to the closure of the nearby landfill and moving to a new distant landfill.


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and resource recovery in order to minimize the solid waste directed to landfills. The review of the SWM practices in three main cities of Jordan revealed that the service level in the capital City (Amman) is good, while it is satisfactory in Irbid and unsatisfactory in Zarqa, due to the need to haul the waste a long distance to the new landfill. The revenue from solid waste services covers only 53% of the cost in the best case, which suggests the need to restructure the fee system based on polluter pays principles – at least for bulk producers of solid waste – so as to minimize the subsidies. References Ababneh, H., 2004. In: Proceedings of the National Workshop on Biogas Utilization Experience in Jordan, Irbid, Jordan, pp 12–16. Abdullah, F., Al-Ghazzawi, Z., 2000. Methane emissions from domestic waste management facilities in Jordan – applicability of ipcc methodology. Journal of The Air and Waste Management Association 50, 234–239. Abu Hijleh, B., Mousa, M., Al-Dwairi, R., Al-Kumoos, M., Al-Tarazi, S., 1998. Feasibility study of a municipal solid waste incineration plant in Jordan. Energy Conversion and Mangement 39 (11), 1155–1159. Abu-Qudais, M., Abu Qdais, H.A., 2000. Energy content of municipal solid waste in Jordan and its potential utilization. Energy Conservation and Management 41, 983–991. Abu-Rukah, Y., Al-Kofahi, O., 2001. The assessment of the effect of landfill leachate on ground-water quality: a case study. El-Akeeder Landfill Site – North Jordan. Journal of Arid Environments 49, 615– 630. Abu-Rukah, Y.H., El-Aloosy, A.S., 1997. Various variables migration in landfill site using statistical explanation. A case study El-Akader landfill site, North Jordan. Journal of Institute of Mathematics and Computer Sciences 10, 113–130. Agamuthu, P., 2003. Solid waste management in developing economies – need for a paradigm shift. Waste Management and Research 21, 487. Al-Khaldy, L., 2001. Feasibility of Solid Waste Recycling in Irbid City, MSc. Thesis, Jordan University of Science and Technology, Irbid Jordan.

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