Egypt’s Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad has reviewed her ministry’s efforts to limit the use of single-use plastic bags in Egypt.
The Ministry of Environment’s efforts on this will see the additional support of a new project enhancing circular economy practices relating to single-use plastics.
The project will be signed in the near future with the support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). It will be implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) over three years with $3m in financing. Egypt’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Plastic Technology Center and the Chamber of Industries will cooperate in the project.
Fouad’s announcement came during a press conference, in the presence of: Ali Abu Senna, Assistant Minister of Environment for Projects; civil society organisations; and a number of leading companies in environmentally-friendly industries, including Nestlé, Badara, Banlastic, and We Care.
Fouad said that the project aims to support the Egyptian Government’s initiative to reduce plastic waste in the environment. It will consider the product design stage for single-use plastic products, and includes packaging based on circular economy practices.
Moreover, the project will enhance economic design practices in industry, and encourage the adoption of greener products, production processes, and environmentally-friendly technology.
Fouad presented the Ministry of Environment’s work on reducing the use of single-use plastic bags through gradual stages. This started with conducting studies, formulating policies and regulations, in addition to raising awareness and initiating community participation.
It also provided support for the proposals of civil society organisations and youth in reducing plastic consumption and recycling.
Fouad emphasised the importance of the Egyptian media’s role in helping the government raise awareness among citizens on the need to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic bags and the use of environment-friendly alternatives.
The negative impact of single-use plastic bags is not only a matter of health, but also on agriculture, food security, and tourism, all of which are key sectors to the Egyptian economy.
To illustrate their importance, the minister noted that the presence of plastic bags in the sea damages marine life leading to the huge deterioration of the ecosystem services upon which livelihoods depend. Technical studies have indicated that the degradation of the ecosystem results in the transfer of diseases from animals to humans.
To counter the negative effects, the Ministry of Environment has issued guidelines for protecting marine and land activities from single-use plastic in the tourism sector.
This included providing alternatives, such as paper products. Where the use of plastic products are required, boats are requested to safely dispose of them in specific Ministry of Environment-provided containers in the Red Sea and South Sinai. Tourists can also rely on their personal tools that can be taken back with them and used again.
Fouad said that the ministry’s “Live Green” initiative will include, in the coming period, campaigns that will be broadcast over audio-visual media.
These will contain messages focusing on raising awareness to reduce plastic consumption and recycling electronic waste. Awareness campaigns will also be launched among school students, which will highlight the need to use alternatives and emphasising that awareness and the alternatives are easy for all the citizens to do.
Fouad thanked all Partners in Development for the efforts conducted in this sector, including the Center of Environment and Development for the Arab Region & Europe (CEDARE), JICA, UNIDO, and the World Bank.
Those efforts are exemplified by the introduction of an article on single-use plastic in Article No 27 of the Waste Management Law, which covers awareness-raising activities and the preparation of technical studies.
Fouad said, “We are currently working on the draft of the executive regulations of this article, and will start preparing the general framework for the national strategy to reduce the use of plastic, within the implementation of the directives of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, in cooperation with the Ministry of Trade and Industry and with the support of JICA.”
The minister also said that, during the next month, a project will be implemented on Egypt’s coasts, focusing on one governorate in the Mediterranean and another in the Red Sea. The project will be implemented in cooperation with the World Bank, and with the participation of the Egyptian social enterprise, Banlastic.
Fouad praised the models presented, at the press conference, from the international and local companies’ experiences in the field of reducing the use of single-use plastics and success stories.
She highlighted the importance of developing a list that includes all workers in the single-use plastic bag system. The list would cover suppliers and workers in recycling or producing alternatives, and would determine the size of the market.
“We have to open a channel of communication between the government, civil society, the private sector and Development Partners, as well as connect consumers with retailers and suppliers of environmentally-friendly alternatives,” the minister said, “We have to encourage the work of all partners to overcome obstacles and study the possibility of creating incentives.”
Fouad further pointed out that the green package of incentives will be discussed with Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait, based on Environment Law No 4 of 1994 and Waste Law No 202 of 2020.
She highlighted that the Ministry of Environment is studying the possibility of providing incentives to encourage all environmentally-friendly alternatives and products.
Representatives from Nestlé also reviewed how to switch to manufacturing environmentally-friendly alternatives. The company has committed to reducing its carbon emissions by a large percentage by 2025, reaching 0% by 2050. The company has also committed to making the packaging materials for its products 100% recyclable.
The company is also working on innovation and development in the materials from which single-use packages are made. It has established the largest institute of packaging science in the world.
Nestlé emphasised that it still has a responsibility that extends beyond packaging, as it seeks to raise consumer and factory awareness of responsibility in this regard. Most of the company’s waste is recycled, and the company has also participated in a number of initiatives to clean up the River Nile.
It referred to the project it carried, with the support of the Ministry of Environment, which aims to collect the largest amount of plastic waste, while encouraging garbage collectors and fishermen to collect plastic waste from the River Nile. This is with the aim of achieving the concept of a circular economy by recycling this plastic again.
Other representatives from WE Care, Banlastic, and Badara presented their work as a start-up and the location of their work and future plans. All requested the support of the government by providing incentives to the eco-friendly products to be able to replicate and upscale their experiences.