Photo by (Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by (A.P.E. Cairo, Egypt)
Health and Environment; Recycling Issue in Cairo, Egypt.
Recycling is an issue that has been taking place in Egypt for a very long time, which threatens Egypt’s future regarding waste recycling with a very high percentage. The problem with waste recycling lies in three main points, such as the process of sorting out the trash to plastic, glass, metal, can, food waste, many other wastes is extremely time consuming, the cleaning waste requires a lot of time and energy to return it into a reusable state, it is very costly, although the costs of using recycled material is low, the production of recycled material increases the price.
This issue has been taking place in Egypt since 1950’s, when waste collectors or a group called “Zabbaleen” started to take charge of collecting all the waste and recycling it. This group lives in a slum area called Manshiyat Nasser, in a district called Al Zabbaleen district. It is home to more than 262,000 Egyptians. It covers around five point fifty-four (5.54) square kilometers and lies at the base of Mokattam hills. Its history goes back to farmers who started to migrate from Upper Egypt in the 1940s as a result of poverty. They started by raising animals like pigs, chickens, and goats, then they ended up collecting and sorting the city’s garbage as they found it more profitable. It is Cairo’s main destination for garbage collectors, where the Zabbaleen, bring Cairo’s rubbish there for people to start work on recycling. The main problem with Zabbaleen recycling the waste is that they use the recycled products for their own benefit and not the country’s. It is considered an illegal process for the Zabbaleen to collect the waste until it was legalised in the country few years ago, but still only 60 percent of the waste is recycled and the country does not take advantage of this recycled waste. According to Shirine Farragh, a member of the parliamentary Environment and Energy Committee, Egypt produces 22 million tons of garbage per year (Galal, 2017). There are many procedures taken by the country to stop this hassle of illegal waste collection. In 2003, the Egyptian government contracted with International Waste Management companies to start operating in Egypt, particularly in Cairo, Alexandria, and Giza governorates and Zabbaleen were sidelined. However, after six years of this decision, performance of solid waste management in Cairo still continued. And in this year that the performance had been dismal, the Egyptian government acknowledged that solid waste management had deteriorated with a very high percentage after the interference of foreign companies. Many projects in Egypt started to take place to help in solving the issue of recycling, for instance, Egypt now has an Association for the Protection of the Environment (APE) established in 1984, which helped in the process of recycling located in the Zabbaleen district.
We also now have a project called “Green Pan” powered by Tagaddod, it was established in 2013. It helps in the renewable energy and waste management and also collect cooking oil from hotels and restaurants and convert it to Biodiesel. There are also Trash-Buying kiosks now available in Egypt where you can sell plastic, cardboards, paper, glass, and cans and then they recycle them. We also have a project called “Napata”, where they convert the waste of date palm into bags and wallets. According to a report by GIZ, a German corporation contracted by the Egyptian government to help in the process of waste management, as still there is only 60 percent of Cairo’s waste is collected and only 15 percent of these wastes is properly recycled and a big portion of the waste is released in the canals or rivers even after the launching of all these products (Mostafa, 2014). So, as a solution to this continuing issue, we conducted an interview with Ms. Yasmine Mansour, head officer of the Sustainable Development office at the American University in Cairo (AUC). We wanted to know her opinion about what is the main problem hindering an efficient recycling process. “If we are going to talk from New Cairo, Cairo, and Egypt, I believe that the main problem is awareness,” Mansour said. “People who do not have awareness don’t know the importance of recycling for the environment and for the globe, and how this will be affecting the environment, the sea, the water, the air pollution, and everything.” So, we decided to collaborate with many of these projects to start implementing national campaigns to raise awareness about the seriousness of the recycling problem, we are going to have many recycling bins in all of Cairo streets and districts, and we are also going to try and implement it in Alexandria and Giza as well. We will try to collaborate with the government and Zabbaleen and involve them in the recycling process through contracts to reach a win-win situation for both parties and start implementing the idea of recycling that will benefit both Zabbaleen and the government, regarding that the country will benefit from these recycled waste products and the Zabbaleen will also get a monthly payment for recycling the waste and giving it to the government or the one in charge of such matters. We are also going to try and collaborate with the government to support recycling initiatives financially. We will try to use media to promote the new recycling projects, and we are going to have a project with collaboration with the government to give rewards for people in households who sort out their trash on a daily basis. We also created our first Facebook page called “Green Planet”, which promotes our two new campaigns “Sa3ed Baladak” and “Dawarha Sah” that help raise awareness of the recycling issue.
Galal, R. (2017, March 16). Cairo’s rich asked to sort waste at home. Retrieved from AL-MONITOR: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/03/egypt-garbage-crisis-buy-waste-sorting.html
Mostafa, R. (2014, April 22). Egypt’s garbage problems. Retrieved from The Cairo Post: http://thecairopost.youm7.com/news/107390/inside_egypt/egypts-garbage-problems