SwitchMed and CEDARE join forces for a bio-degradable alternative to plastic bags in Egypt
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In Egypt, the volume of waste being generated continues to increase at a faster rate than the expansion of solid waste management measures and ability of the municipal authorities to improve on the financial and technical resources needed to parallel this growth. Egypt consumes around 12 billion plastic bags annually, which destructively affects people’s health, the economy and the environment at large.
In this context, the Sustainable Consumption and Production National Action Plan (SCP-NAP) for Egypt was officially launched on April 18th 2016.
The national action plan aims to support Egypt’s overall developmental goals, reduce socio-economic hurdles and maximize environmental improvements. The action plan is focused on four priority natural resource and strategic sectors including: Water, Agriculture, Energy and Municipal Solid Waste. It also, promotes the replication and scaling up of SCP policies, resource efficiency programs, and green initiatives at the national level.
This component provide a select of projects to address different sides of one of Egypt’s perpetual challenges. Solid waste should be managed through a number of activities—waste prevention, recycling, composting, controlled burning, or landfilling. Using a combination of these activities together in a way that best protects community and the local environment.
On August 1st 2017, the Center for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe CEDARE, in partnership with the Ministry of Environment (MoE) and the Chamber of Chemical Industries at the Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI) brought together a wide range of plastic bag producers along with top retailers chains and consumers. This is the seventh consultation session discussing challenges and opportunities of altering non-degradable single-use plastic bags, in the framework of the National Initiative for the Reduction of non-degradable single-use plastic bags consumption announced by H.E. Minister of Environment in June 2017 under the slogan “NO MORE PLASTIC BAGS”. The initiative is implemented in collaboration with the UN Environment and SwitchMed Programme funded by the European Commission.
Eng. Nagwa El Menawy, Managing Director of the Plastic Technology Center delivered a comprehensive presentation covering the dangers of single-use non degradable plastic bags, other countries success stories, & the Egyptian market standpoint. Participants explored alternatives of non-degradable bags technically and economically; on top of which was bio-degradable plastic bags. D2W is a reasonable additive which breaks molecules when exposed to the sun or oxygen after 14 months. However, a 10%-increase in the cost of existing bags is really cost effective. Producers stressed the point they would definitely and massively supply the sustainable bags once demand is generated. On the other hand, retailers, as the major consumer, expressed their willingness to take part in the initiative provided that increase would not exceed 10-15% of present cost.
Dr. Hossam Allam, Sustainable Growth Programme Manager, CEDARE indicated that: “We are eager to contribute to developing such a vital industry by means of this pioneer initiative and we do have high hopes in seeing producers joining forces and adding to the competitiveness of products by turning bags into bio-degradable ones. Gradual progression is the key solution and producers ought to be proactively prepared to any legislation or banning of non-degradable bags, which will definitely lead to new markets and export opportunities ahead, especially to African countries. The new technical specifications need to be endorsed by the Egyptian Organization for Standards & Quality”.
“Networking through participatory consultations is the first step to set common grounds between the two main stakeholders: producers, manufacturers or importers in one hand, & consumers, retailers and franchisers in another hand, whereby win-win solutions are to be finally agreed upon”, stated Mr. Tarek Salah, SwitchMed Technical Support Coordinator, Ministry of Environment.
Eng. Khaled Abul Makarem, Head of Plastic Division at the Chamber of Chemical Industries, FEI, indicated that the volume of investment in plastics was estimated at LE. 140 billion in March 2016, and volume of export last year mounted to LE. 15.2 billion. 50% of production is considered waste in the plastic sector, of which 5% only undergoes a recycling process; a very little portion, besides it is wasting other resources that may compensate the lack of quite many exported raw material. Eng. Abul Makarem declared that the growing demand would enable manufacturers to be always committed to sustainability and to cater for retailers’ orders of bio-degradable or multi-use plastic bags.
The consultation session, which aimed at networking supply and demand and producers-consumers matchmaking, resulted in a number of resolutions:
- Plastic and Rubber Division is to prepare lists of trusted producers of bio-degradable and multi-use woven bags and CEDARE will be the focal point with consumers/retailers
- Technical specifications and pricing of bio- degradable and multi-use woven bags are to be identified by the Plastic Technology Center and sent to CEDARE to send to consumers/retailers
- Awareness raising, elimination of excessive use and free-of-charge needless distribution of non-degradable bags, and giving competitive advantages to bio-degradable bags
- Set standard regulations for consumers chains ensuring equity
- Trying to manufacture a bio-additive locally will result in a low-cost and more hygienic product; one of the producers is currently working on it
- Carrying on trials to locally manufacture a low-cost multi-use poly propylene woven bag; one of the producers is currently working on it
- Designing a take-back-system for recycling used plastic bags ensuring resource efficiency
The national initiative is in line with the international trend of sustainable consumption and production illustrated in reducing non-degradable single-use plastic bags. Due to vast consumption added to flaws in collection, waste management, and recycling mechanisms, plastic bags remain a real threat to human health, fish & marine life, coral reefs, diving and environmental tourism, water drains, desert animals and more. There is a bad need to a behavioral change in a sense that is exceptionally rewarding at the environmental, economic, aesthetic and health levels. To start with, the initiative basically seeks to decrease current consumption rate, improve consumers’ behavior towards resources, use an environment-friendly and sustainable alternative bag, and raise awareness.