No matter how exclusive or popular a beach is, by the end of a busy day it will be covered with vast amounts of plastic waste.
Now, though, change may be afoot. Greenish, a local start-up which promotes sustainable environmental solutions, and Orcas, a mobile application that allows children to become involved in a wide variety of campaigns, both launched initiatives recently to clean up Egypt’s beaches.
With the help of dozens of volunteers, more than a ton of single-use plastic was removed.
The North Coast’s biggest clean-up campaign was managed by Orcas. It targeted five beaches — Hacienda, Stella, Ghazala Bay, Diplo 3 and Telal.
The campaign seeks to raise awareness of the destructive effects of single-use plastic on marine life, with a focus on engaging children and teaching them about recycling.
Dozens of families interacted with the campaign, which lasted for four hours.
“As an organisation focusing on children and providing job opportunities to youth, we found that this campaign serves our purpose,” Shams Adli, the chiff marketing officer at Orcas.
The campaign provides recycling workshops for children, and lectures on the dangers single-use plastic pose to marine life.
“Eventually, it’s not about how much trash we remove from a place, it’s all about the impact we have on the children which will spark a change in their parents’ attitudes,” she added.
Adli explained that these particular beaches were chosen because they were easy to access and that their visitors — mainly from the upper-middle class and well-to do families — represented the targeted audience of the campaign.
The Greenish team chose two public beaches in Alexandria, Bahari and Al-Dekheila, popular among working class families.
“The main challenge we faced was that the people using the beaches pay little attention to environmental pollution,” Shady Abdallah, founder of Greenish, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
In order to engage the beach-goers the Greenish team came up with a game. Beach vendors only sold their goods in exchange for a crypto currency, which could be obtained in exchange for plastic rubbish. The more garbage children and adults collected, the more they could buy. Before the two-day campaign started the beach vendors’ stalls had been stocked with goods bought from funds supplied by the Polish embassy.
“At first people did not fully understand the process, but once they did we were overwhelmed by the response,” says Abdallah.
By the end of the day more than a ton of plastic waste had been gathered from the two beaches.
A recent World Wide Fund for Nature study reported that 570,000 tons of garbage is thrown into the Mediterranean Sea every year. Egypt, Turkey and Italy together are responsible for two thirds of the total. Eighty per cent of the plastic dumped in the Mediterranean returns to land within a decade, polluting coastlines.
As awareness of the harm caused by single-use plastic grows, two cities, Hurghada and Dahab, have banned it entirely.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 8 August, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Coastal clean-up