Recycling Initiative of Karak municipality, Jordan

Karak, Jordan

A small project in Karak is making a significant shift towards more sustainable waste management in Jordan.

Establishing a proper system for solid waste management has become a crucial issue for Jordan as waste quantities are increasing due to population growth, including the Syrian crisis that has resulted in 12,00 refugees fleeing to Jordan, industrial and agricultural progress and changes in consumption trends. Additional pressure has been created due to a lack of environmental awareness and limited environmental legislation in solid waste management.

Procedures and processes that precede a shift towards a comprehensive and sustainable waste management include several mandatory stages from planning necessary facilities and securing financial resources for their construction and operation, to regular performance monitoring.

To mitigate its negative impacts, state-of-the-art approaches to waste management focus on two main aspects:

  • Reduction of solid waste generation at a source (as far across the supply chain as possible);
  • Recycling and reuse of components of solid waste (glass, paper, metals, plastic etc.) including production of compost from organic waste.

Originally published by the International Community of Practice for Sustainable Urban Development CONNECTIVE CITIES:


City information

Size and population development
Karak city covers an area of 3,495 km2, the 2015 census recorded a population of approximately 32,216, an increase of +4.01% from the 2004 census.

Population composition
17,811 (52.2%) of the population identify as male and 14,405 (47.8%) identify as female. Karak boasts a young population, approximately 50% are below 19 years and as such are school, college, or university students. Most of the population of the city are Muslims (75%) and there is also a significant Christian population (25%) – this highest in Jordan. Both unemployment and poverty are high.

Main functions
Karak city lies 140 kilometres to the south of Amman, the capital city of Jordan, on the ancient King’s Highway. It is situated on a hilltop 930 metres above sea level and has a view of the Dead Sea. The city is widely known for its Crusader castle, Karak Castle, one of the largest in the middle east region. Al-Karak has been inhabited since at least the Iron Age and today, the initial form of the city remains the same, with the city of Karak located on a hilltop next to its historical castle.

Main industries / business
The economy of Karak is primarily based on agriculture; The majority of households are involved in some form of subsistence farming- herding sheep and goats and on growing wheat and barley. Olives are grown for consumption and oil production both for domestic and commercial purposes. A number of fruits and vegetables are also staples of home food production such as grapes and apples. Karak is also known for its production of tomatoes, which are grown in the ghour and shafa ghour areas. The Karak Governorate is rich with natural resources. A number of minerals are extracted from the Dead Sea such as potash, bromine, magnesia, and other salts. Karak is also rich with marble, and limestone, in addition to a number of natural minerals that have not been exploited such as shale oil in the Lujoun area, and sulfur in the Lisan area, in addition to zeolites and dolomites. The mining sector is considered to be one of the main economic activities in the Karak Governorate, and contributes significantly to the country’s total exports.

Sources for city budget
The National government of Jordan and income taxation revenue

Political structure
Jordan is a constitutional monarchy, based whereby the Prime Minister of Jordan is head of government and of a multi-party system. The Constitution of Jordan vests executive authority in the King and in his cabinet. The King signs, executes, and vetoes all laws. Legislative power rests in the bicameral National Assembly. The National Assembly has two chambers. The Chamber of Deputies has 130 members, elected for a four-year term in single-seat constituencies with 15 seats reserved for women by a special electoral college. In addition nine seats are reserved for Christians and three for Chechens/Circassians. While the Chamber of Deputies is elected by the people, its main legislative abilities are limited to approving, rejecting, or amending legislation with little power to initiate laws. The Assembly of Senators has 65 members appointed by the King for a four-year term. The Assembly of Senators is responsible to the Chamber of Deputies and can be removed by a “vote of no confidence”. The judiciary is completely independent from the other two branches of the government.

Administrative structure
Administratively, Jordan is divided into twelve Governorates, each headed by a Governor appointed by the King. They are the sole authorities for all government Departments and development projects in their respective areas. Karak Governorate covers an area of 3,217km2 and is located in the southern region on Jordan. Karak Governorate is divided into 10 departments, Capital Department (al-Qasabah) includes the city of Al Karak and 35 other towns and villages.

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Background and objectives

The City of Karak has a very significant location in Jordan and covers an area of 3,495 km2. The population of Karak Governorate is approximately 280,000 with 112,000 people living within Karak municipality district and 32,216 in Karak city. The Greater Karak municipality is the focal point of all development projects of the city and is responsible for many public services, including garbage collection and hygiene control for houses and public places. Recycling has been identified as an important step in conserving natural resources and reducing GHG emissions to support sustainable development. In turn, a decrease in waste volumes leads to a reduced need for fuel for garbage collection vehicles and helps mitigate impacts on the environment.


The Karak recycling project aims to:

  • create job opportunities in collecting, processing and re-manufacturing the recycled waste.
  • encourage business investors to start recycling businesses.
  • raise awareness and educate the local community in waste separation and environment protection.
  • capacity building and training for municipal workers, including field trips and workshops on state-of-the-art approaches to solid waste management.

In September 2015, the Karak recycling station opened and separate collections for three types of recyclables -  paper, carton and plastic - was introduced.  Prior to the opening, a project steering committee was established, comprised of representatives of partner organizations. The committee held meetings to define an operations mechanism for the recycling station as well as discuss legal, administrative and technical frameworks. Roles were defined for each partner according to their respective areas of expertise and authority.

  • Karak municipality allocated a piece of land within the vocational zone, provided equipment and offices for the staff to implement the project. The municipality also set up a ventilation system and helped fulfil public safety requirements. Metal boxes were provided to collect carton from market places.
  • To carry out the separation and recycling operations, Karak municipality appointed four workers that also received relevant training.
  • The German Association for Adult Education contributed to the project by providing equipment such as hanger, compactor for carton and plastic, as well as a forklift.
  • The German Cooperation Council supported setting up a metal umbrella to protect recyclables and organized study visits to similar facilities for technical and administrative staff.
  • Jordan Hashemite Fund for Human Development supported the project through awareness-raising campaigns in schools and in the local community, informing people about the necessity of waste sorting and recycling.
Financing and resources

The lead agency for the project is the Karak municipality with support from, German Association for Adult Education, German Cooperation Council and Jordan Hashemite Fund for Human Development.

Results and impacts

The project reduces the workload of waste collection vehicles and labourers by reducing the amount of waste to be transferred to the landfill by approximately 730 tons per year. In addition, it saves two daily trips by four-ton garbage trucks to the landfill and has led to fuel savings.

The project has had a significant impact in terms of awareness raising in the local community resulting in a growing number of citizens using stations to dispose of cartons.

The project has achieved financial sustainability, as the feasibility study shows that financial returns on the station have covered its initial operating costs.

A local business investor was motivated by the project and has set up a plant for both recycling and re-use of carton (depending on the quantities supplied by the municipality). Consequently, this has contributed to creating job opportunities in the recycling sector.

Barriers and challenges

The Karak municipality governemnt is under pressure due to limited financial resources and continuously growing service demand.  The Syrian crisis has resulted in a large number of refugees fleeing to Jordan, and the Karak municipality is currently hosting approximately 12,000 refugees, creating additional challenges in developing a comprehensive waste management system.

To date, waste collection and maintaining a clean environment remain a heavy burden for administrative and technical staff, as well as the municipal fleet of garbage vehicles, as 120 tons of waste collected daily should be transferred to the landfill site located 35 km from Karak.

Lessons learned and transferability

This project, however small it might seem, represents a success story for the Karak municipality and marks an important milestone in the city’s efforts to achieve sustainable development and apply an integrated approach to its waste management.

Among the major takeaways of the project, the following aspects are worth mentioning:

  • benefits of these initiatives should be inclusive and available to all stakeholders to ensure sustainability of the project;
  • encouragement of the private sector to participate in solid waste management is vital for effective collaboration for new economic opportunities and creation of additional economic value;
  • incentives and facilitation are important tools for encouraging those who contribute to waste reduction, recycling and composting;
  • awareness-raising and information campaigns that showcase best practices in solid waste management and are carried out in both public and private media, are necessary elements in preparing the local community to new and  alternative forms of waste management.

When it comes to future opportunities for the recycling station, its development must be examined in two areas:

1) Transformation towards quantitative production (more quantities means less costs) by providing a new compaction vehicle for carton and plastics, as well as involving nearby municipalities into supply of recyclables. This should improve economic feasibility of the recycling station.

2) Qualitative development should take place (i.e. extending the station operation with new types of products) to ensure effective use of the already available infrastructure.


- Recycling Initiative of Karak Municipality, Jordan | Small project marking a shift towards more sustainable waste management, Connective Cities:

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