Egyptian Minister of Environment propagates Biodegradable Plastic Bags in 7 Hypermarket Chains
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In Egypt, the consumption of plastic bags is unrestrained at an average of 124 bags per capita in 2015, equivalent to 12 billion annually. The top 5 consumers in Egypt are groceries (25%), fruits and vegetables kiosks (20%), stores and shops (17%), supermarkets (14%), and fast food and restaurant chains (6%). Typically, plastic bags are given away for free by supermarkets and other shops which leads to excess use. These plastic bags are littering Egyptian streets and waterways including the Nile, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Red Sea.
A National Initiative on Reduction of Plastic Bags Consumption in Egypt has been launched by the Ministry of Environment on the World Environment Day on 5 June 2017. This unique public-private sector collaboration aims to reduce the annual consummation of 12 billion non-degradable plastic bags in Egypt.
Under the EU-funded SwitchMed project, the Ministry of Environment, the Centre for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe, and UN Environment cooperate with the 6 main supermarket chains in Egypt namely, Metro, Carrefour, HyperOne, Ragab Sons, Kheir Zaman, Fathalla Market & Al Raya Market.
Driven by sheer environmental and social responsibility, 72 branches in Cairo and one in Alexandria so far participate actively in the initiative that aims to encourage Egyptians to reduce their consumption of plastic bags and to shift towards more environment-friendly alternatives in cooperation with large FMCG chains, hypermarkets, pharmacies, and other key players via influential awareness campaigns and diverse activities.
The initiative, which unprecedentedly supplied its partner hypermarkets with 4.5 tons of biodegradable pure plastic bags devoid of any filler, showcased the importance of using biodegradable bags versus single-use non-degradable plastic bags.
“Environment Friendly” is written on the bag and “The National Initiative for Reduction of Plastic Bags’ Consumption” is inserted underneath
H. E. Dr. Khaled Fahmy, Minister of Environment of Egypt, visited four hypermarket chains to kick off the national campaign on raising awareness about biodegradable plastic bags. The event marked the conclusion of the first phase of this national programme and the first popular outreach and awareness-raising activity.
H.E the Minister interviewed customers and retailers and positively received promising feedback from customers and supermarket personnel.
H.E. Dr. Fahmy highlighted the hazards of the plastic bags currently used and stressed that the initiative’s ultimate goal is the shift to biodegradable paper, or multi-use, bags according to the nature of commercial activity. “Aligning with the widely adopted green economy policies and sustainable consumption and production practices, particularly banning non-degradable plastic bags, Egypt has to take a firm stance against hazardous single-use non-degradable plastic bags and dramatically decrease consumption as an initial step until massively achieving the shift to a sound sustainable alternative,” said Dr Fahmy.
Dr. Hossam Allam, Manager of Sustainable Growth Programme, Centre for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe, explained that “Egypt consumes around 12 billion plastic bags annually, which vastly affects humans’ health as well as animal and marine life. In short, it is economically and environmentally disastrous.” Non-degradable plastic bags are a threat to human health, fish and marine life, coral reefs, diving and environmental tourism, water drains and desert animals. “We are really impressed by consumers’ feedback and more importantly proud to be partnering with largest hypermarkets whereby we become more influential in changing Egyptians’ behavior decreasing the current consumption rate as a start, and improving consumers’ attitude towards resources”, said Dr Allam.