Parliament has approved a bill on waste management prepared by the Ministry of Environment and the other authorities concerned, and this will now be sent to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi for ratification.
When passed, the law will help Egypt deal with a problem that it has been suffering from for years. The new law is based on extensive studies, and it is designed not only to find solutions for current waste-disposal problems, but also to be flexible enough to meet future challenges, said Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad.
The law prioritises benefits for people as well as health and the preservation of natural resources and the environment, she added.
It is a step towards creating an integrated system for waste management, and it not only identifies the roles each party should play, but also is not only concerned with rubbish collection. It taps into the opportunities that waste can provide for other sectors, including the informal sector, Fouad stated.
While preparing the draft law, the government separated the roles of supervisory and executive authorities in order to ensure the effectiveness of the mechanisms being introduced, she added.
Fouad said the new law did not come into conflict with the existing law on industrial licences, as the government had been careful to unite efforts and to limit the number of authorities involved.
Articles of the law concerned with industrial installations were coordinated through the Industrial Development Authority to make sure that they complied with the regulations of the Water Management Authority.
Under the new law, an appropriate authority will be in charge of managing waste and monitoring its collection on the central and local levels to improve safe waste disposal.
The new law also aims at attracting investment to the collection, transfer, treatment, and disposal of waste. It has introduced incentives for investors in the waste sector and seeks to integrate formal and informal workers in waste management, including rubbish collectors, contractors, small companies, and recycling labourers.
The new system allows for the use of waste to produce energy and to develop a waste-management infrastructure, explained Mahmoud Shaarawi, the minister of local development.
A number of experienced companies with foreign partnerships have shown interest in investing in the system with a view to producing electricity from waste and then disposing of it safely.
Such proposals will help improve environmental and health conditions and generate revenues, Shaarawi said.
The ministries of local development and environment are coordinating efforts on the new waste-management system in different governorates to improve the services offered to the public, he added.
Yasser Al-Baroudi, an international expert and the former owner of a waste-collection, transfer, and treatment company, said dividing responsibility between supervisory and executive authorities would likely not be the optimal solution, however.
“It would be better if either of the two ministries, local development or the environment, were in charge of the whole process. Extensive studies should also be conducted to determine the cost of waste management in each neighbourhood and governorate,” he said.
“The law seeks to correct the mistakes of the past, and there have previously been two failed attempts to amend the previous law on waste management,” said Magdi Allam, an environmental expert and president of the Arab Environmental Experts Union.
“The new law regulates activities like the work of rubbish collectors that work individually, the large waste-collection companies that operate in the governorates, and the smaller ones that function in districts and villages,” Allam said.
The informal rubbish-collection sector is addressed in the new law, with those working in it sometimes not observing appropriate health regulations, he added.
The new law states that dumpsters will be provided close to rubbish dumps, numbering 53 nationwide, and landfills will be developed in coordination with the ministries of the environment, local development, and military production, and the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation.
Rubbish will be recycled instead of burnt, while industrial zones will be allocated to recycle different kinds of waste.
Allam urged the government to pay special attention to recycling and the mass production of organic fertilisers. He also called on the Ministry of Labour to legalise the work of rubbish collectors so that they were properly integrated into the system of waste management.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 September, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly