Egypt applies new strategy to get rid of street garbage

Sunday 02/10/2016
A worker picks through rubbish in garbage dump at a small recycling factory near Zaraeeb in the shanty area known also as Zabaleen or “Garbage City” on the Mokattam Hills in eastern Cairo, Egypt.(Reuters)

Cairo - Egypt is trying to clear its streets of millions of tonnes of garbage that have ccumulated over years by turning the wase into a source of income.
The plan calls for buying rubbish and sending it to Cairo for recycling.
“We have started receiving gar­bage from citizens in different areas,” said Ibrahim Moussa, the head of the council of Fayoum city, 120km south of Cairo. “We are talk­ing to everybody to spread the word that rubbish can now be sold for money.”
Fayoum is among the cities where garbage is being turned into a com­modity and a means for Egyptians to earn a living. The longer-term plan is to apply the strategy throughout the country.
Garbage has been a problem throughout Egypt since private companies commissioned by the government to clean the streets failed in doing their jobs. The gov­ernment said tens of millions of tonnes of garbage accumulated on the streets, turning some Egyptian neighbourhoods into major rubbish dumps.
A staggering 47,000 tonnes of rubbish, including 19,000 tonnes in Cairo, are thrown onto Egypt’s streets every day, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Environment. Environmentalists said such huge amounts of refuse could lead to an environmental catastrophe.
“You are talking about tens of thousands of tonnes of pollutants that are thrown on the streets every day,” said environmentalist Magdi Allam. “These pollutants can cause an endless list of diseases to people living nearby or passing by them.”
Instead of recycling the garbage, Egyptians often try to burn it, which reduces air quality, environmental­ists said
The new strategy, its advocates say, turns the garbage into a source of income.
Special collection centres buy the garbage and sell it to recycling com­panies in Cairo.
Now, there are a handful such centres in Fayoum city but the city council plans to establish 1,000 rub­bish collection centres in the com­ing months to keep up with growing demand.
The centres buy empty cans for about 40 US cents a kilogram. They buy plastics for about 20 cents per kilogram.
Amr Mahmoud, a 47-year-old teacher from Fayoum, said the strategy encourages people to stop throwing waste on the streets and helps them earn money.
“Now, everybody views gar­bage as a valuable commodity, not something they need to get rid of,” Mahmoud said. “Some people are starting to even collect rubbish from the streets and sell it to the centres to earn a living.”
Before taking it to the collection centres, Fayoum city residents sort the rubbish and put organic waste, cans, plastics, wood, aluminium and glass each in a bag specified for it.
Moussa said when he and his col­leagues started applying the strat­egy in June, few residents sold their garbage to the collection centres. Now there are so many people sell­ing rubbish that the few collection centres available cannot keep up.
“Everybody wants to earn money by selling the garbage that was once a problem to the centres,” he said.
The Fayoum city council also earns money. The council buys 1 tonne of empty cans for around $337 but sells it to recycling facto­ries for $585. It also earns money from other waste.
“This strategy can bring a lot of money to the different provinces,” Moussa said. “Garbage will turn into a major source of national income.”
To turn garbage into a source of national income, Egypt needs to establish more recycling factories, environmentalists said.
About 5% of the 47,000 tonnes of rubbish that ends up on the streets every day is recycled.
“Recycling factories must not be concentrated in Cairo alone but each province must have its own re­cycling factories,” Allam said. “If we do this, garbage will disappear from the streets in few days.”