Trash collection kiosks have popped up in Cairo’s more affluent neighbourhoods in an attempt to encourage sorting and recycling culture among Egyptian citizens. The kiosks, located in Hadaek Al-Qoba’s Ibn Sender Square and on Aswan Street in Heliopolis, are to be open for a six-month trial period, in affiliation with local NGO the Adam Foundation for Human Development.
They will buy empty cans and foil for 3LE/kg, plastic bottles for 1.5LE/kg, paper and cardboard for 0.50LE/kg, wood for 0.20LE/kg , aluminum for 12LE/kg, tin for 0.25LE/kg and organic waste for 0.10LE/kg.
“This project will achieve a major breakthrough in the field of hygiene, if successful, along with substantial economic feasibility, given the need of recycling plants that can find only 25% of its needs for the waste, as well as it will provide job opportunities for young people employed by the NGO’s,” Governor of Cairo Atef Abdel Hamid told local newspaper Al-Akhbar.
However, the initiative has stirred controversy among the public. Some welcomed it as a positive change in Egyptian society, as it will encourage people to sort their recyclable waste at home before selling it to the kiosk, which could be a much-needed solution to the accumulated trash in the streets of the capital. Others, meanwhile, believe that the idea was not very well-thought-out and could lead to more accumulated garbage, as sanitation workers would refrain from collecting the remaining organic waste since people would have already sorted out and sold solid garbage.
Garbage collectors in the Heliopolis district have already threatened to hold a strike, claiming the kiosks will limit their income, which is based on customers who pay them to collect their garbage. Head of the Garbage Collectors Syndicate, Shehata Al-Muqadas, has vowed to register a formal complaint to the Ministry of Local Development, protesting the introduction of the new kiosks.
He argued that the concept of the news kiosks doesn’t solve the issue of cleanliness and garbage collection, and is based on trade and profit.
“The Egyptian people are mostly poor and they do not drink bottled water or buy cans. The governor decided to implement this initiative in the affluent neighborhoods in Heliopolis, where he lives and where people are well-off. The initiative was not implemented in the slums and poor neighborhoods,”Al-Muqadas told local media.
On the other hand, Sherine Farragh, a member of the parliamentary Environment and Energy Committee, defended the project to local media, stating that it will not negatively impact garbage collectors, as they will still be paid the same amount they get from residential units. Farragh claimed that garbage collectors can still collect waste from residents as they did before, but it will already be sorted for them, and that they can then sell the solid waste at the nearest kiosk.
According to the World Bank, Cairo produces more than 15,000 tons of solid waste each day, with only 60% of it being managed by the formal and informal sectors combined; the remaining 40% is left on the streets and at illegal landfill sites.
There have been several initiatives since 2013 to encourage people to sort their garbage at home, but with no results.
Nevertheless, a similar strategy founded four years ago seems to be working in Mexico City, where a barter system to trade trash for fresh food as part of the city’s Garbage For Food Program was established. The Mercado de Trueque (“barter market”) allows people to exchange trash for vouchers, which they can then use to buy fruit & vegetables, organic food and plants at the local farmer’s market.
What do YOU think? Could the project affect positive change, or will it only exacerbate Cairo’s garbage crisis? Let us know in the comments!
By Salma Thanatos Rizk