Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)
Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Recycle now

Mahmoud Bakr talks to the new environment minister about her priorities during the transitional period

eg61
eg61
Al-Ahram Weekly

Laila Iskandar, Egypt’s new minister of state for environmental affairs, is a veteran of social and environmental work in Egypt and abroad. Winner of the Schwab Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2006, Iskandar served as a jury member for UNESCO’s International Literacy Prize. She has worked for several civil society organisations in Egypt, including Roh Al-Shabab (Spirit of Youth) in Upper Egypt and Hemayat Wa Tanmiyat Al-Mogtama (Protection and Development of Society) in Mallawi. She is also a trustee of the International Institute for Environment and Development.
Iskandar played a major role in organising recycling in Sinai and Mansheyet Nasser and cooperated with the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs on a project that aimed to relocate garbage recycling plants outside Cairo.
Iskandar, who resigned from her local posts before starting her ministerial work, spent 15 years helping organise, train and improve conditions for the zabbaleen (garbage collectors) of Muqattam.
One of her first priorities now is to introduce a recycling scheme for Cairo that has the support of the entire zabbaleen community. The scheme will require householders to separate organic and solid refuse allowing garbage collectors to handle each separately, making recycling easier and more efficient.
Iskandar told Al-Ahram Weekly that the ministry will cooperate with government and private agencies to promote a recycling and rubbish collection system that is labour intensive and requires only small or medium-sized capital. Traditional garbage collectors will be encouraged to set up their own companies to handle the city’s garbage collection and recycling. Young people who wish to set up companies will be encouraged.
Once the sifting is done, organic components will go to fertiliser factories and other end-users. Some components will be used in generating alternative energy while others will be used as fodder for animals.
A higher rate of recycling will be a boost for sustainable development, says the minister.
Households will be instructed on how to separate their garbage and community groups will be engaged in consciousness raising programmes alongside the ministry’s Information and Awareness Sector.
Egypt urgently needs a new approach to recycling, says Iskandar, arguing that more recycling can translate into more jobs for the young, a higher growth rate for the economy and a cleaner environment.
Aware that the current cabinet has a shelf life of only a few months, Iskandar says she is laying the ground work for her successor.
“Our plan is to level the field for the next minister and get the right projects ready for launch.”
The current system of adding fees for garbage collection to the electricity bill don’t make much sense, says the minister, since they basically force households to pay twice, once to the state and again to the garbage collector.
Iskandar stresses the importance of legalising the situation of garbage collectors, thus allowing them to set up companies and join insurance schemes. If the garbage collectors have a legal framework to work within they will have the chance to improve their operations, she says.
Agricultural refuse, rice hay and the notorious black cloud are high on Iskandar’s agenda, as is the possibility of using coal as fuel in cement factories and the production of bio-fuel from organic refuse. Rice hay, she notes, can be used to produce alternative energy and to generate bio-fuel.
Iskandar is also determined to act against infringements on natural protectorates, including the Wadi Al-Rayyan area.

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