Tehran Waste Ends Up in Kahrizak Landfill

In the budget of the previous year that ended in March, $23 million was allocated to purchase more incinerators but the Tehran Municipality failed to take action in this regard
About one-fifth of dry waste is recycled and 80% disposed.
About one-fifth of dry waste is recycled and 80% disposed.

Like many big cities around the world, Tehran with a population of over 8.5 million struggles on a daily basis to cope with its huge waste generation.

According to Hossein Jafari, head of Tehran Waste Management Organization, the capital city generates around 9,000 tons of garbage every day. “The figure would be more than 10,000 tons if we take into account residential suburbs around the city,” the Persian-language weekly ‘Salamat’ reported.

The huge quantity of waste means Tehran is vying with cities such as Laogang in Shanghai, China, Sudokwon in Seoul, Jardim Gramacho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Bordo Poniente in Mexico City  for the title of the world’s largest waste  producer. Each typically receives more than 10,000 tons of waste per day.

Thousands of tons of solid waste daily ends up in the Aradkouh Complex for Waste Process and Disposal located in south Tehran near Kahrizak town on the old Tehran-Qom road.

“Part of the waste is incinerated for fuel production and a portion used for compost production. Some of it is buried unprocessed at the Kahrizak landfill which has been in use for over 45 years and so far has received over 35 million tons of waste,” Jafari said.

 Landfills are the most inefficient and unsanitary way of disposing waste.

At present, there is only one waste incineration plant in Tehran constructed in Aradkouh in 2015.

Last November, Rahmatollah Hafezi, chairman of the Health Committee of the Tehran City Council had said that in the budget of the previous year that ended in March, $23 million was allocated to purchase more incinerators “but the Tehran Municipality failed to take any action in this regard.”

 More Incineration Plants Needed

Incineration is a waste treatment process which converts waste into ash, flue gas and heat. Incinerators can reduce the solid mass of the original waste by 80 to 85%.

“We are in dire need of more incineration plants to help manage waste and prevent their accumulation in landfills,” Jafari added.

Rapidly developing cities such as Shenzhen in China are adding to the world’s 2,000-plus inventory of waste incinerators. With the largest one able to process more than 5,000 tons per day, concerns over ash disposal, air pollution and costs are rising too, according to

Explaining about dry waste (2,000 tons) Jafari said, “About 18-24% of dry waste is sorted, of which 95% is recycled. The remaining 5% (reusable items which are contaminated with non-recyclable materials, like a greasy pizza box) are disposed. In other words, about one-fifth of Tehran dry waste is recycled and 80% disposed.”

“The organization is not able to collect all dry recyclable waste itself, as many people don’t give recyclable items to our dry waste vehicles or recycling centers,” the official said. So, the remaining part of the dry discarded materials is collected from trash bins by waste pickers, who function in an unhealthy environment that can lead to the spread of various infectious diseases. They sort out and collect garbage to be sold to recycling centers.

 Waste Separation at Source

People should cooperate with waste separation at source. “If they do, then no recyclable waste will go into the trash bins to be picked up by rag pickers.”

According to Jafari, a 4-member Tehran family produces one ton waste per year. However, Tehran is the eight largest producer of municipal waste in the country. The figure is higher in touristic cities of the northern provinces.

Globally, the member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) together are the largest waste generators, producing around 1.75 million tons per day. Japan produces about one-third less rubbish per person than the United States, despite having roughly the same gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. North America and Europe have tried disposal fees, and found that as fees increase, waste generation decreases.

By 2100, solid-waste generation rates worldwide will exceed 11 million tons per day — more than three times today’s rate.