Egypt goes green: Clean, recycle, profit

Mahmoud Bakr , Thursday 30 Sep 2021

Plans for a new, nationwide waste management project have been given the green light

Clean, recycle, profit
New garbage bins to be distributed to garbage collectors


Cairo is about to get a new waste collection system after contracts were signed with the Irtiqaa and Enviro-Master companies to collect, transport, and recycle waste, clean the streets and public facilities, and dispose of waste in landfills. 

The new system was announced following a meeting between Minister of Local Development Mahmoud Shaarawi, Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad, and Cairo Governor Khaled Abdel-Aal. 

Shaarawi said the state has already spent LE2.9 billion on the first two phases of the new waste collection project which will improve sanitation across the capital. 

There are plans to expand the project, which includes establishing fixed and mobile intermediate transfer stations to enhance the processes of collecting and transporting waste, and building factories to treat and recycle waste, to other governorates, added Shaarawi. 

According to Shaarawi, the companies will operate three daily shifts to clean streets and collect waste, and 15,000 employees — workers, supervisors, accountants, and technicians — will work in the system, half of them from the informal sector. 

Sanitary landfills are being set up to dispose of waste and end random burning and piling in the streets, he added. 

Space is being made for young people and NGOs nationwide to take part in the clean-up campaign, with support from the Ministry of Local Development, Shaarawi stated.

Collecting, transporting, and safely disposing of waste in Cairo costs LE3 billion annually, he continued.  

It is imperative to coordinate with the ministries of education, higher education, youth and sports, religious endowments, and churches and mosques to spread awareness about the importance of keeping the streets cleans, said Shaarawi, and equally important that municipal heads and governorate officials work with all involved parties to the same end.  

“We are expecting to see a fundamental change in cleanliness in the capital and healthy competition between the two companies Irtiqaa and Enviro-Master,” Shaarawi said. 

For 18 months the Ministry of Local Development has been working with governorates on the collection of waste. It has set up nine mobile intermediate transfer stations in four governorates and is working to deliver 34 more across 11 governorates, and nine fixed transfer stations in five governorates, with 15 others in eight governorates planned. Five sanitary landfills are already in operation, with 16 others planned between September and October. 

The new waste system is three-pronged, said Fouad. The first prong is infrastructural, and involves collecting, transporting, and recycling waste. The second prong involves creating a legislative structure for the sustainable management of the system and allocating the necessary funds. The third prong covers follow-up and monitoring, carried out by the Ministry of Environment through the Waste Management Regulatory Authority (WMRA). 

Garbage collectors must be licensed or else face fines. To help workers enrol in the system the Ministry of Environment is launching a database in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Solidarity. It is also working with the Ministry of Manpower to allow garbage collectors to join an NGO and register for insurance. 

The WMRA is mandated to monitor and evaluate all activities relating to waste management and has prepared contracts to preserve the rights of all parties involved in collecting and transferring garbage, cleaning the streets and public facilities, and recycling and safely disposing of waste. WMRA specialists are extending technical support to private-sector companies as part of efforts to encourage investment in waste disposal. 

In addition to collecting garbage from residential areas and commercial complexes, cleaning the streets, ending the burning of waste on the streets and offering awareness raising programmes, the new project aims to limit environmental pollution resulting from the mismanagement of waste and generate jobs, said Fouad.  

Cairo Governor Abdel-Aal stressed that meeting public demands is the primary target of the new waste system, and called on people to participate in the scheme by separating waste at home to make it easier for garbage collectors to sort. 

Ahmed Kamal Abdel-Moneim, executive director of the Environmental Compliance Office at the Federation of Egyptian Industries, said projects that support companies that convert waste into energy are beneficial to all. He pointed out that the office has already funded two factories that convert waste into energy to the tune of LE4.5 million each. 

Magdi Allam, an environmental expert, argues that each governorate should designate a zone for the recycling of waste. He pointed out that organic waste, which comes from households and constitutes more than 50 per cent collected waste, is suited to conversion into fertilisers which are ideal for desert lands. 

Solid waste, which makes up 40 per cent of the waste collected, can be converted to energy, though this, says Allam, requires collective efforts from the ministries of environment, military production, local development and electricity. Allam expects the field to attract local and foreign investments in the wake of a cabinet decree that set the tariff for energy produced from waste at LE1.4 per kilowatt. 

*A version of this article appears in print in the 30 September, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.


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