Al-Ahram Weekly Online   22 - 28 October 2009
Issue No. 969
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Emails to the editor

THE FOLLOWING flaws in the system of garbage removal have been noticed:

Most citizens use bags they get with their purchases from supermarkets to get rid of their garbage. These bags are overfilled and not properly closed, which causes the spilling of garbage during handling and transportation by garbage collectors. Other citizens get rid of their garbage bags, mostly open, by placing them in the middle of the street. Additionally, many people get rid of their garbage by throwing it away without any bag at all, just dumping their bin's content, which is a double problem in itself: a health problem and a cleaning problem. Collectors spill a lot of garbage in the streets while collecting the bulk of it. There is no synchronization between placing bags outside apartment doors and their collection. Each apartment gets rid of its garbage at any time, and many simplify their problem by throwing garbage directly from the window.

This chaos comes from the fact that schools do not teach respect for the rights of others and there is no penalty for littering. Raising awareness and educating children at school, while enforcing the rule of the law would solve at least 50% of the problem.

Garbage bags made of standard material, size, resistance and volume should not be overfilled and should be tightly knotted to prevent garbage from spilling. They should be placed outside apartments' doors at a specific time, ready for pick up. For example, during winter, Exit Time from 21.00 to 22.30, and collection time from 22.30 - 0.30. In summer, it could be done one hour later.

Such working hours would be convenient, taking into consideration high traffic especially in Cairo and Giza. Anyone who does not place his bag outside his door within the mandated Exit Time must keep his bag inside until the next Exit Time.

A half-size truck would shuttle between the area and the main collecting van, parked somewhere central between two or more areas. The truck would unload its bags using a hydraulic system in a few seconds and return to its area to collect more bags.

Shops having a high volume of garbage, such as groceries etc. should have a special removal system, several times during the day.

Rubble from buildings and apartments being built, destroyed or renovated should have a similar organized system of removal, by a special organization to remove such rubble ( Radsh in Arabic), including dumping it at the proper dumping site.

There should be a special phone number that would direct the van of proper size to the proper site for suitable fees. Each apartment or building would keep the breakage "inside" their premises until the collection van comes to pick it up. The fees would depend upon the number of bags to be disposed of, and the number of floors to climb, depending on whether elevators are allowed for that purpose or not.

Accordingly, the garbage challenge is seen to be composed of three main problems: 1) Mismanagement; 2) Citizens' behaviour; 3) Dis organized collection.

Aly Zulficar,
a caring citizen from Alexandria

THANKS for voicing how we all feel. Personally, I would like to be involved, but also I feel that we as the Peace Movement with our involved youth and our friends must assist in this effort because there is no way we can achieve our goal of building safe and secure communities unless we take care of our environment. One of the main problems is that people are not told what to do with their garbage. For example, people think the large plastic containers in the street are for them to throw their garbage. In fact, according to the governorate, they are not. These containers are for the street cleaners to clean the streets and dump the dust, rubbish from the streets only. People are supposed to keep their garbage and give it to the garbage collectors who are supposed to come to each building. I know that there are lots of "supposed to's" in the system, and that is why it doesn't work. But I do believe it would help if people were given clear instructions.

Nagwa Shoeb,
Director General, SMWIPM

IT'S GREAT to get a national initiative rolling, but how do we get to the root of the problem: the heaps are mounting because the garbage is not being picked up efficiently. Naturally we need to educate, but alongside we need to make possible actual and regular collection. We, Peace and Plenty, (Kheir wa Baraka), have been working very closely with the Governor, Abdelazim el Wazir, as well as the Minister of Environment, Maged George and implementing a program with the Cairo Cleaning and Beautification Authority. I believe the credibility of any project lies in visible results. If people comply with the ads, but there is still garbage in heaps, progress can't be made. I would strongly urge delving into practical solutions.

Nevine Elibrachy,
Chair, Kheir wa Baraka Association

THE ISSUE of filth and garbage piling up; this is a personal insult to our concept of "5000 years of civilization" and of course the deconstruction of our beloved "Um el Dunya." I think the campaign should work on two levels. Firstly: The logistics of the process, including trucks, personnel landfills and of course finances! On the other level I think we should have educational posters in Arabic. I think we should target these two concepts in order to prevent our civilization and our cities going down the drain in front of our eyes, while we apathetically look on!

Amira El Maghraby-Onsy

WE NEED a serious discussion of the steps required as we have to focus on practical sustainable solutions and avoid wasting resources on ads unless they are well targeted and carefully designed and provide people with real alternatives. We cannot ask people not to throw garbage in the streets if they have no other alternatives.

Ghada Waly, UNDP

I'M GLAD that AFICS is clearly identified with launching this issue---trusted and bi-partisan leadership is essential. I just wanted to reiterate that high level advocacy and a high profile national campaign is great, but unless it is based upfront on a thorough analysis of the problem and possible solutions, it will not be effective in the long run. So, my plea is to ask a group of people to immediately begin a serious, national level and comprehensive analysis of the solid waste management system, including its underlying social relations, structural constraints and recent developments. This will identify concrete bottlenecks (at many levels) and possible solutions---a lot is already there, but someone has to put it together and elaborate on it. This must be the basis for any solid movement forward, and an evidence-based campaign. I am very much looking forward to being part of this, and remain ready to help in any way

Heba El Kholy, UNDP

THE MASRY el Youm series exposing negligence in this sector was a fantastic reminder of the magnitude of the problem of solid waste and exposed the inefficiency and corruption of those nominally in charge. Can we encourage them and others to resume the campaign? Can this campaign also look at the relations of solid waste disposal? By this I mean the pay, terms of employment, incentive structure, training, equipment provided, and social/health security provided for rubbish collectors?

Hania Sholkamy,
Social Research Centre (SRC), AUC

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