What are the significant initiatives, enhanced cleaning techniques and waste management practices that have been adopted over the past few months to combat Covid-19 in KSA, also ensuring business continuity?
We started planning our Covid response and business continuity plan before the first cases were confirmed in Saudi Arabia, liaising with local government organisations and the commissions created to address the pandemic. In some locations, such as the Royal Commission for Jubail, Averda teams formed part of the emergency crisis committees.
We had to adapt quickly, changing our services to increase cleaning and disinfection, but also changing how we accommodate, transport and protect our employees in order to keep them safe.
In addition to continuing to empty bins as usual, we rolled out new sanitisation services to ensure that public spaces were kept hygienic using special detergents mixed with disinfection chemicals. Our teams sanitised all markets, mosques, playgrounds, streets and sidewalks, working day and night. Together with the authorities we also identified common touch points where the virus could spread, such as ATM machines, and regularly disinfected them too.
We needed to ensure all the bins themselves were clean and sterilised, to protect both the public and our employees. A particular focus was put on the waste bins of medical centres and accommodation where people were being quarantined and/or isolated. These bins were deployed by separate vehicles and there was a bin washing vehicle working in parallel with the deploying route in order to ensure complete sanitisation and disinfection.
Could you tell us about some of the key challenges faced in dealing with the MSW generated at present, and the preventive measures that have been adopted?
The biggest challenge at the beginning was around lack of information about Covid-19; the ways the virus could spread and the risk-controls we needed to take. Was dumping MSW in landfills safe? Did we need to bring in incinerators? Should the municipal waste from medical centres be considered hazardous? These and many similar questions were raised when we were first making our plans. Fortunately, over time the day-to-day follow up with the MOH and WHO showed us how we should safely deal with waste during the pandemic.
What are the guidelines from the government with regard to cleaning and waste management at present, and what special measures have been taken to ensure the safety of residents and staff?
Our employees are key workers; they had to keep operating even during lockdown. In collaboration with the local authorities we put in place a series of measures to reduce the risk to them, and to reduce the possibility of virus spreading through our premises, equipment and vehicles.
This included changing accommodations to segregate those critical teams (medical healthcare, MSW collectors, main utility operators, etc.) in special isolated camps with increased security, and paying a lot of attention to social distancing. In practice, this meant halving the number of workers sharing each room and tightening sterilisation procedures inside accommodation camps. Transport was rearranged to ensure social distancing on buses and all our vehicles were cleaned deeply and sanitised twice per day. At work, our teams were fully provided with additional PPE to protect them from direct contact with waste or other people.
Constant awareness campaigns were conducted for residents and employees, both by the Saudi authorities and by us at Averda.
How is Averda contributing to the overall development of the waste management system in KSA?
Averda is one of the leaders in developing modern waste management systems in KSA with significant and diverse operations across the country. Over the last few years, we have been servicing and attracting many elite clients, which reflects the high standard of our service delivery.
At present we are looking to expand our service offering in Saudi Arabia, with an increased focus on recycling and sustainability both for commercial, municipal and construction clients.
We create cleaning solutions that reflect the unique geographies and needs of every metropolis we work in. Wherever we are, cities the world over benefit from the very latest technologies to keep sewers, beaches, parks, monuments, underpasses, bus stops and municipal buildings clean, healthy places to live, work and play.