The country of 104 million inhabitants – where 67% of waste “is not properly managed”, according to the World Bank – has committed to halving the consumption of single-use plastic by 2030.
But before that, young environmentalists and engineers decided to use plastic waste: the former collect it from the waters of the Nile and the engineers make bricks with it, a green alternative to cement and its heavy carbon footprint. .
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Contamination of fish by microplastics
The 5.4 million tons of plastic waste produced each year in Egypt usually ends up in dumps which flow into the Nile and the Mediterranean, where they poison the aquatic fauna. More than three-quarters of fish caught in Cairo, on Africa’s longest river, contain plastic microparticles, warns a study published in 2020.
Further north, in Alexandria, this number reaches 92% this year, warn researchers from the Egyptian Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries. In Cairo, on the island of Qoursaya, in order to survive, fishermen began to fill their nets with plastic.
Hany Fawzy, project manager for VeryNile, a project supported by the Ministry of the Environment, buys “between ten and twelve tons of plastic a month” from 65 fishermen who collect and separate waste from their boats. The plastic is then compressed and then recycled or incinerated as fuel at a cement plant in the south.
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Bricks twice as strong as concrete
According to the OECD, less than 10% of plastic in the world is recycled, mainly due to the difficulty or cost of the process. Many plastic products – and more particularly laminated flexible packaging such as crisps packets – are “composed of different layers of plastic and aluminum that are almost impossible to separate and therefore recycle”, co-founder Khaled Raafat told AFP. -up TileGreen.
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“Most of the time this plastic with no or very little value ends up in landfills, incinerated or in our environment, our seas and our rivers”, adds his partner Amr Shalan. Behind him, a crusher swallows plastic to spit it out in the form of dark colored bricks, “twice as solid as concrete”, boasts Rafaat, throwing one to the ground.
According to the OECD, annual plastic production is expected to triple by 2060
“Only 11-15% of plastic waste is recycled in Egypt each year. We work with recycling companies and recover what they can’t use,” explains Shalan. One brick, he says, is equivalent to 125 plastic bags. TileGreen has already produced 40,000 and has set a goal of recycling between three and five billion plastic bags by 2025.
However, this will certainly not be enough. According to the OECD, annual plastic production is expected to triple by 2060 to 1.2 billion tonnes. At the same time, another number will double: that of 100 million tons of plastic waste not recycled or abandoned in nature each year.
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“Plastic is not going away. With their initiatives, they created a market and there was clearly a demand”, analyzes Mohamed Kamal, co-director of Greenish, which helped to create VeryNile. “Anything that creates value from waste in Egypt is a step forward,” he insists. “But we stay on the surface and that doesn’t solve the basic problem. »
(By Bahira Amen, AFP)