The new sanitary landfill for the disposal of solid waste in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Beni Sweif will be operational in a few days as part of a national project to establish 30 sanitary landfills in 19 governorates.
Over the past few decades, Egypt has struggled with waste collection and disposal. In response, the government, represented by the Ministry of Environment and other concerned bodies, has embarked on a mega-project to establish sanitary landfills, the most recent being in the Senour district in the east of the Beni Sweif governorate, and it is this that will open this week.
During a visit to the site, Al-Ahram Weekly saw the waste burial cells, an evaporation lake, and administrative buildings. On site were samples of geotextiles and polyethylene insulation materials, now being made in Egypt and previously imported. Also on site was a unit for washing vehicle tyres to dispose of pollutants — a measure also applied on an international scale — and a scale to record data on every vehicle and its cargo entering the landfill area and to monitor the types of waste.
The Arab Academy for Science, Technology, and Maritime Transport (AASTM) is providing technical and scientific support for the national project to dispose of waste safely and eliminate random and unsanitary landfills. The move is in implementation of Law 202/2020, which states that random landfills and piles of rubbish should be properly disposed of within two years.
Yasmine Fouad, the minister of environment, said that the sanitary landfills had been established in record time, giving the credit to the AASTM team that has trained workers in several governorates, the Ministry of Local Development, and the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation.
Fouad called on the team to prepare a report on the workers and the equipment needed for the operation of the landfills that will be opened shortly. She noted that many ministries and other organisations had contributed to the sanitary landfills, adding that the state had heavily invested in the project that should be run in a sustainable manner.
The Senour landfill is built on 25 feddans of land. Its first cell, which will be open in a few days, is located close to administrative buildings and is spread over 11 feddans of land with a capacity of 95,000 cubic metres of waste. Two more cells will be built in the future, Fouad said.
The Ministry of Environment will release details of the criteria upon which the companies chosen to build or operate the landfills will be selected, she explained. The companies “should have plans to build and operate cells in landfills. The government initiated the first step, but the private sector is going to be a partner in the management of the landfills under state supervision,” she added.
AASTM President Ismail Abdel-Ghaffar said that in coordination with the ministries of environment and local development the academy had embarked on an expansive training scheme for workers in various governorates to enhance their skills in the integrated management of landfills for the safe disposal of solid waste as well as their operation and maintenance.
Academy experts had reviewed state-of-the-art engineering designs for landfills that are in line with the Egyptian code for such facilities, ensuring that they are environmentally friendly and safe, Abdel-Ghaffar added. He said the government was allowing the private sector to operate landfills under the supervision of the municipalities in different governorates.
The AASTM has released material for governorates that includes information on the sustainable management and operation of landfills, he said.
Khaled Kassem, assistant to the minister of local development, said problems at the landfills of Marsa Alam and Belbeis had been sorted out and that in the past few months work on other landfills was speeding up.
A scientific committee from the ministries of the environment and local development is drawing up detailed plans on the size and sort of waste encountered in different governorates, the population of each governorate, and the material needed to complete building the landfills in each location, Kassem said.
The project, to be implemented over four years, will cost LE12 billion. The first phase is estimated to cost around LE1.7 billion, he added.
Abdel-Moneim Sanad, assistant to the president of the AASTM for environmental and sustainable development, said some landfills had been completed in mid-May, stressing that the right equipment and trained workers were crucial to the success of the landfill system.
Another landfill that will be delivered shortly, Sanad said, had taken seven months to be built. It will be opened in tandem with the wrapping-up of the rehabilitation process of a waste-recycling facility.
As the technical advisor to the project, the academy, in partnership with the ministries of environment and local development and the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation, offers technical support and reviews architectural designs until the delivery of the landfills to the companies in charge of operation and management, Sanad explained.
Integrated system: Egypt has thus ushered in a new phase of the integrated and scientific handling of waste, requiring the establishment of comprehensive infrastructure, including sanitary landfills, Sanad said.
Work on landfills and on upgrading recycling is being done in tandem, he said, adding that they are being equipped with modern equipment to enhance performance. The landfills will be operational once the recycling facilities are completed and intermediary stations are established in order to set up an integrated system for the safe disposal of waste, he noted.
Abdel-Rahman Suleiman, an advisor to the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation, said that an integrated waste system includes collecting rubbish and providing the necessary equipment to raise the efficiency of the collection system, along with intermediary stations that facilitate the transport of waste, sorting and treatment units, recycling facilities, and safe landfills for the remaining waste after the operations of sorting, treatment, and recycling.
Egypt’s new waste-disposal system addresses gaps that were present in the past, such as mismanagement and a lack of experience and integration, he said. The new law on waste, Law 202/2020, would ensure sustainability and effective control over the management and operation of the system, he added.
Suleiman stressed that for the system to work, citizens should sort their waste first to facilitate the recycling process. Awareness campaigns should be launched, he stated, hoping that the waste buried in landfills would not exceed 30 per cent of the amount collected daily to prolong their life expectancy.
Tarek Al-Roubi, the environmental consultant to the project, said that the waste issue had caused enormous damage on the national and global levels. The matter should be properly managed within a legal and institutional framework to ensure success, he said. If the waste is not properly sorted, the system will fail, he stressed.
The earlier work of 57 facilities for the production of compost from waste was doomed to failure because the waste was not properly sorted before it was compressed, making it difficult to recycle, he said.
Between 50 and 90 per cent of the national project for the safe disposal of solid waste has now been completed across 19 governorates. The land allocated for the project’s first phase has exceeded 185 feddans, Al-Roubi said. Implemented over four years, the project is divided into four phases. Landfills in Fayoum have been built, as has 70 per cent of a burial site in Bir Al-Abd. Currently in the works is a landfill in Arish.
Nabil Amer, a professor of structural engineering in Cairo, said it was crucial to prepare strategies for integrated waste-management in Egypt. Families should teach their children to pick up their waste and place it in special receptacles in return for a financial reward, for example, he said. In some countries the use of cans for food and drinks has been reduced or banned in favour of recyclable glass containers.
Egypt is in need of a proper system to ensure the safe disposal of waste, he emphasised, noting that 25 million Cairenes produce 10,000 tons of waste on a daily basis.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 27 May, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly