Experts are urging the country’s real estate developers to smarten up their techniques on urban waste management and set out a vision enabling the development of flexible, green, and adaptable cities. Invest-Gate looks into developers’ attitude towards waste management in Egypt amid recent government and individual initiatives to turn the waste disposal process green.
“With most projects in Egypt, not only real estate, we do have an issue with waste management,” Noor Noor, executive coordinator at Nature Conservation Egypt tells Invest-gate. Noor adds that most buildings and developments in Egypt lag behind in the environmental impact assessment measuring the negative and positive consequences of a plan, policy, program or concrete projects on the environment.“There is a legal system attempting to enforce that environmental impact assessment. However, there is not much weight given to its enforcement,” Noor reckons. “The legal system in its general framework is very weak when it comes to ‘environmental priorities’ so there is not much of an adherence to it.”
Waste has been a problem throughout Egypt as private companies -commissioned by the government to clean the streets- failed to do their jobs. The government confirms that tens of millions of tonnes of garbage are accumulated on the streets, turning some Egyptian neighborhoods into rubbish dumps.
According to a World Bank report, Cairo produces more than 15,000 tons of solid waste each day, with only 60% managed by formal and informal sectors combined. The remaining 40% is left on the streets and at illegal landfill sites, the report notes. About 5% of the rubbish that ends up on the streets every day is recycled, data released by the Egyptian Ministry of Environment indicates.
However, some experts believe that it is not all the case in many places across Egypt. “For instance, Aswan, Nubia, and Siwa are more aware of this topic. It is the most densely populated areas that have a waste problem,” argues Presidential Advisor on sustainable development Sarah El-Batouty,.
El-Batouty says that the way waste is dumped in Egypt “poses a risk on the entire community’s health.” El-Batouty is also the founder of the environment consultancy firm ECOnsult, currently working on the establishment of a smart village in Bahariya Oasis. “We are building a village that is the only Tarsheed-rated awarding building in Egypt. We managed to save up to 30% of water and up to 50% of energy,” El-Batouty says. Tarsheed is a simplified rating system applied in Egypt classifying green buildings in the country. It has been developed by the Egypt Green Building Council, globally certified by the World Green Building Council in 2015 and finally published the following year.
ECOnsult uses responsible segregation of garbage and greywater treatment in their village. Greywater is the domestic wastewater produced, excluding sewage. If well-treated, greywater can be used for laundry, toilet flushing, and plants irrigation. Treated greywater can be used to irrigate both food and non-food producing plants.
“We need to create a dual system of awareness and incentives, but we also need fines,” the presidential advisor says. “Segregation of waste into organic and plastic should become a culture in homes and the workplace with the government creating incentives to do so,” she suggests.
Earlier in March, the government opened two kiosks in the upscale district of Heliopolis encouraging residents to earn money in exchange for their recyclable materials. The kiosks were purchasing glass, paper, cans and different kinds of plastic from the public. Shortly after the opening, dozens of residents enthusiastically gathered in front of the kiosks to dispose household waste to earn extra income.
According to Cairo Governorate Spokesman Khaled Moustafa, this project aims to make use of garbage, so instead of throwing it out people can benefit from it – whether in generating energy or producing paper. “At the same time, such a strategy would help the government clean the country’s streets from the millions of tons of garbage accumulated over the years,” he tells Invest-Gate. There were reports, saying that the initiative had stopped. However, the government denied that.
The project was originally proposed by two members of parliament, who had launched similarly successful initiatives in other cities on a smaller scale. Similar kiosks were opened in the Nile Delta governorate of Kafr el-Sheikh and Fayyoum, near Cairo, as part of the project. The kiosks compress and sell the material to factories for reuse. On the front of the kiosks, prices of each recyclable item is posted on a large green sign. A kilogram of empty cans goes for EGP 9 (USD 0.5011), while a kilogram of plastic is sold at EGP 1.
“The idea of this project is perfect for Egypt. Of course, there are other ideas that can prompt citizens to get rid of garbage in an environmentally-friendly way. But we think that this is best for Egyptians, especially amid hard economic times,” Nadia Henry, one of the parliamentarians, who spearheaded the project, tells Invest-Gate.
“With launching this project, we hope that citizens will begin to feel responsible for their safety and cleanliness of the country’s streets,” she adds. Henry also states that the idea is not new in Egypt as it has been applied in developments like Madinaty in northeastern Cairo; but residents do not get money in exchange for their recyclable garbage.
In Madinaty, residents are given three colored refuse bags to separate plastic, paper, and organic materials. The residents do so voluntarily without any pressure from the developer.
“When people become committed to separating garbage, they contribute to creating and preserving a healthy environment. This also benefits us with recycled products and energy that we are all in need of,” says Abdallah Gamal, a dentist and one of Madinaty’s residents.
Gamal adds that having this developed technique in collecting garbage distinguishes the developer of Madinaty from others as the technique is an added-value.
Dina Ahmed, another resident and a housewife, says that the idea of having colored bags for waste makes it very easy to separate garbage at households. “The idea also raises awareness among people about the significance of getting rid of and collecting garbage,” she adds.
Mohamed Montasser, a real estate expert, describes Madinaty’s waste management strategy as “promising”. However, he adds that more incentivising techniques like the one the government has introduced can be more encouraging as they prompt residents to maintain the practice.
Montasser suggests that developers install machines giving residents recycled toilet paper as gifts when they dispose their garbage. According to expert, given the fact that organic materials can be used to generate electricity, developers too, in cooperation with the government, could cut the energy bills of the residents, who keep separating their refuse. “There are many other rewarding methods, which I think can encourage many residents to collect their waste,” Montasser suggests.
Montasser is also optimistic that real estate developers in Egypt will apply such techniques in their projects because such methods make their developments much more competitive, attractive, and meet world-class standards. There has to be more cooperation between the government and developers as well as “growing awareness on the part of individuals about waste management to make this happen,” he reckons.
“Awareness is a huge part of the process; it is a cultural problem across all sectors that throwing rubbish is acceptable. People need to feel that the cleanliness of their environment reflects better health, education, and ethics,” El-Batouty concludes.
It seems that with recent individual and government initiatives Egypt is steadily moving in the direction of turning its construction sector green and sustainable.