How is Egypt getting rid of single-use plastic bags?

CAIRO – March 25, 2021: Do you know that you have invisible killers in your home and at work? Yes, you are surrounded by these killers that indirectly harm you and the soil and water in your environment. It is “the single-use plastic bag” which the Egyptian Ministry of the Environment is trying to get rid of.

Single-use bags intoxicate the earth, as most single-use plastic bags take thousands of years to break down and turn into small plastic particles, which release toxins into soil and water. According to a study conducted by German researchers and published by the United Nations Environment Program in 2019, 80-90% of plastic particles exist in drains and release toxins in sewage sludge, which is considered a fertilizer for the soil. Thus, humans could eat plants grown in toxic soil and affect their health.

Second, marine life and ecosystems are threatened by plastic particles which are found in huge numbers in the oceans. Marine animals like whales, dolphins and other rare fish are dying from eating plastic bags. For example, a whale was found dead along a shoreline in the Philippines in 2019 after swallowing one hundred tons of plastic. Additionally, a dolphin was found dead along Hurghada in the Red Sea after a plastic bottle got stuck in its mouth, Egyptian newspaper al-Masry al-Youm reported in November 2019.

As a result, marine life in the oceans, which contains 51 trillion plastic particles according to data from the United Nations Environment Program, faces a deadly threat.

Rivers like the Nile in Egypt contain tons of plastic bags and bottles. In February 2021, the Verynile team, a non-profit organization dedicated to cleaning up the Nile, collected 4 tons of plastic from the Nile. According to a new study conducted by Sky News and published in June 2020, two-thirds of Nile fish contain microplastics.

“Thus, the government has launched its national strategy to reduce the use of disposable bags; a national committee has been formed and chaired by the Minister of Environment and representatives of the relevant agency to implement the strategy,” Deputy Minister for Environmental Projects Ali Abu Senna told Youm7 on Tuesday. “The Egyptian Organization for Standardization and Quality Control (EOS) is working on amending plastic bag industry standards to make the plastic bag thicker and ban the import of d2w, a substance that is used in biodegradable bags, as has been banned by the European Parliament,” he continued.

According to Abu Senna, the ministry, in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance, is currently working on developing a package of incentives and imposing taxes on the use of plastic bags to reduce the import of plastic bags. raw materials and to encourage supermarkets to use alternatives to single-use plastic bags.

As part of the “Live Green” presidential campaign, the Ministry of the Environment has focused on reducing the consumption of single-use plastic bags in order to reduce the danger of these toxic materials for the environment. Last week, Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad met with Japanese Ambassador to Cairo Masaaki Nuki to discuss the ministry’s efforts to limit the use of single-use plastic bags.

The ministry has signed a three-year project with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to promote circular economy practices in single-use plastics, with support from Japanese aid. This project will be implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) at a cost of $3 million. The project also comes in cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Plastics Technology Center and the Egyptian Chamber of Industries.

The Minister of the Environment stressed the importance of having green certificates for establishments that take into account the use of alternatives to plastic bags, noting that the Ministry of the Environment is studying the possibility of providing incentives to encourage all environmentally friendly alternatives.

The Environment Minister said there are examples of successful experiences of local businesses in limiting the use of single-use plastics, including Nestlé, encouraging them to recycle for a fee in Mansheyet Nasser.

The minister said earlier that supermarkets and hypermarkets consume the highest amount of disposable plastic bags, adding that the ministry has taken steps to replace single-use bags with biodegradable bags in supermarket chains.

“As for plastic bag manufacturers, policies of incentive mechanisms have been put in place to find alternatives to production, in cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce and the Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI),” said Fouad.

Egypt consumes about 12 billion plastic bags per year. In 2012, the consumption of plastic bags per capita reached 25 kg, with an annual increase of 6% since 2006, which recorded 1.64 million tons of plastic bags, according to official data released by the ministry in July. 2019.

In 2012, Egypt consumed 2.07 million tons of raw plastic materials, of which 28% is produced locally, while the rest is imported. The areas that consume the most plastic bags are Cairo, the Delta and Alexandria, with 40%, 23% and 12% respectively, the report adds.

Grocery stores and commercial stores lead the retail businesses that consume the most disposable plastics, with 25% and 17% respectively, the report continued.

The Minister of the Environment has recently been working on campaigns to raise awareness of the use of eco-friendly alternatives to plastic bags. Last week, Minister Fouad met with a number of shop, restaurant and cafe owners on Fouad Street in Alexandria Governorate. She discussed with them their desire to adopt alternatives to plastic to encourage the reduction in the use of plastic bags.

“A total of 110 stores in Cairo’s Zamalek district have actually started using plastic alternatives that are not harmful to health,” she said, noting that those stores were 10 stores at the start. , but have now reached 110, following awareness efforts to highlight the dangers of using plastic products.

Based on the experience of European countries, the Ministry of Environment has developed a strategy targeting the plastics industry to create employment opportunities to support the circular economy. The strategy is based on adopting a biodegradable material system, developing a plastic sorting quality system, promoting the use of biodegradable plastic products, banning plastic waste dumped in seas and rivers and the adoption of rules regulating the eco-labeling of biodegradable and compostable plastic products.

The head of plastic recycling division at the Chamber of Chemical Industries, Khaled Abul-Makarem, said Egypt has 1,250 plastic manufacturing plants across the country, which also import biodegradable plastic products for a cost about $3.2 million per year.

“The division provides training programs for producers on how to turn single-use plastic into multi-use plastic,” Abul-Makarem told Egypt Today.

He acknowledged that the cost of making biodegradable plastic is slightly higher than traditional plastic making; it is only 1% higher. “A kilo of traditional plastic costs LE 280, while the cost of eco-plastic is estimated at LE 285.

“It is unpredictable that Egypt will be free of single-use plastic products, because it depends on people’s demands,” he continued, adding that some manufacturers in Cairo, the Red Sea and Alexandria had began to replace traditional industry with environmentally friendly industry. .

Bryce K. Locke