Egypt: Solid Waste Management and Recycling

Successful solid waste management (SWM) is a vital component of Egypt’s sustainable development strategy, and impacts several sectors of the economy and the country. Areas that are most affected by the lack of a SWM systems include public health and the environment. Both an economic and environmental approach are required when addressing SWM issues.

To accelerate performance, the SWM sector is in need of more private sector support and commitment. This would require involvement on all levels including the government, corporations, labourers and the general public. There is an opportunity for US firms in the business of SWM operations, consulting, equipment supplies, and recycling. Environmental enhancements in the country are one of the government of Egypt’s top priorities, and foreign donors are contributing to this upgrade and allocating sufficient budgets to conduct pilot sites around the country.

The U.S. holds 45% of the current market share, while the EU and Canada make up the remainder.

Market Overview

There is a significant problem with the SWM structure in Egypt and this is among the top priorities for urban environmental issues. Sub-standard SWM systems have a severe and harmful impact on both public health and economic development. The open burning of solid waste contributes to air pollution and increased respiratory problems, while illegal dumping of trash in public areas attracts pests, parasites and vermin, greatly increasing the chances of contracting and spreading diseases and viruses.

International donors, funding agencies, and NGO’s are currently involved in managing and funding various SWM projects that service the community and environment. Final disposal of solid waste presents one of the components of an effective waste management system. Sanitary landfill technologies, solid waste collection, and recycling facilities constitute the main products and services needed in the environmental technologies and SWM market.

Five major challenges faced in the development of a SWM system in Egypt are: accumulation of garbage over long periods of time; an inadequate network of dumpsite sub-stations; population growth; no separation of collected waste (medical, commercial, industrial, agricultural); non-enforcement of penalties and fines.

Egypt generates 12 million tons of municipal solid waste annually, which breaks down to 25,000 tons daily. In Cairo, less than 70% of municipal waste is managed by a public or private sector collection, disposal, or recycling operation, and near 30% remains untouched and uncollected. The daily management of the waste remains inefficient and inadequate for the amount generated daily.

Currently, open dumping is the most common solid waste treatment method in Egypt. Also, there is no distinction given to the type of waste generated; industrial, commercial, agricultural and medical waste are typically collected and disposed of in the same manner. Hospital waste is estimated to be around 200 tons per year, 10-12% of this amount is highly toxic. The majority of hospitals do not implement environmental management programs, and very few hospitals have incinerators.

There are three solid waste collection systems in place in Cairo for the gathering of municipal waste.

  • Public Sector: The GOE is responsible for allocating the budget, manpower and equipment. The budget is limited and technical support is primitive.

  • Private Sector: Three foreign firms and three local companies manage designated areas of the city. The GOE has contracted out these specific areas to private companies and the GOE is paying fees for these different collecting, transporting and cleaning services.

  • Private Garbage Collectors: Some small and medium size private operators are currently involved in garbage collecting and sorting of materials. They are mostly family inherited business, concentrating on garbage collecting, separating similar garbage materials and reselling them to the recycling plants.

The private waste collection system in Egypt is semi-formal, and due to the substandard services provided by the public sector, the GOE has been working to privatize many of the SWM services. These efforts have been implemented in Cairo and Alexandria; two urban areas populated by more that 25 million people. The total estimated value of equipment and materials for the new activities in the SWM sector is estimated to reach USD $140 million.

In Alexandria and Cairo, the privatization of SWM services created thousands of better paying jobs and encouraged foreign investment; over 15,000 new general labour jobs were generated in the private sector, and 1,000 new contract-monitoring jobs in the public sector.

The Alexandria model for solid waste management is a private sector initiative lead by the Governorate of Alexandria and institutionally supported by USAID. The Governorate of Alexandria privatized their solid waste management and public cleaning system to serve this municipal area of more than 5 million people. In 2001/2002, the Governorate of Alexandria selected a private contractor and began implementing the new solid waste management system.

The first phase determined the services to be provided and managed. The services included; residential, commercial, and industrial waste collection and disposal, street sweeping and cleaning, beach cleaning, composting/recycling facility design, construction and disposal, landfill design, construction and disposal, open dump closure, medical waste collection, treatment, and disposal. The second phase of the operation focused on the implementation of the new SWM and public cleaning project.

To deliver the new system to the community of Alexandria a Public Awareness and Communications Team was formed. This team established goals and strategic programs to support the Governorate. The team aided in developing a unit that coordinated efforts between a range of agencies and organizations involved in SWM.

Also on their agenda was to assist the Governorate in developing a unit that would be responsible for enforcing the contract as well as local ordinances pertaining to littering. The governmental authority placed high penalties on all parties not following the new instructions and the processes of placing their waste at designated collection points at allotted times. The work provided to complete this included: evaluate existing SWM law administration and enforcement procedures, recommend the establishment of legal policies and ordinances for monitoring, recommend a legal structure for fines and appeals, recommend a contract management and administration structure.

With the use of private contractors for SWM and public cleaning, the Governorate of Alexandria has seen significant improvements in several areas ranging from service delivery, public health, as well as economic and environmental conditions. The Secretary General of the Alexandria governorate reports a reduction in the occurrence of hepatitis and meningitis cases since the implementation of the new SWM and public cleaning program. The city is also enjoying the reputation as a cleaner and more pleasant place to visit, and in turn the metropolis has experienced an increase in tourism.

Best Prospects

Final disposal of solid wastes presents one of the important components of an effective SWM system. Firms may find opportunities in areas related to SWM and disposal, specifically, water treatment, sewage treatment, garbage collection, and recycling.

Currently water treatment and sewage treatment is a sub-sector managed by the Housing and Facilities Ministry and funded by the GOE. This sector is in the primary stages of expansion. The GOE plans to develop and extend the water and sewage network to rural areas through building new infrastructure for sewage networks and water treatment. It is expected that about 75% of these projects will be completed by the year 2010. This has led to a direct increase in purchasing the needed equipment to execute the different projects.

Garbage collection has the most attention of all sub sectors. The successful implementation of a complete SWM system in the governorate of Alexandria has led to increased interest in similar implementation in other governorates in Egypt. Lessons learned from the framework and the know-how will be implanted in other rural governorates. Success was due partly to their efforts to effectively devolve management to the level of the governorate and its local subdivisions. Garbage collection systems in Egypt need management systems that are efficient and cost effective in the handling municipal and agricultural solid waste in an environmentally sound manner.

Different recycling plants are being built around the country to make use of the wastes to produce fertilizers for the agricultural sector, such as plastics, glass, rubber and paper. There is potential for upgrading and introducing high technology in this area. Recycling is an important sub-sector as it contributes to the Egyptian economy. It cuts down on the importation of some of the recycled materials for example, just in the plastics sub-sector. It creates more jobs as new factories are being built, and an industry is being structured.

Market Entry

To access the Egyptian market, an Egyptian agent or distributor is advised. Unless the government tender is open to international participants, a foreign company cannot bid without a local partner. Egyptian companies in this field will select a foreign supplier and will bid on the tender on the basis of supplier specifications and pricing.

Partnering with an Egyptian company is advantageous beyond the tendering process. Egyptian companies are capable of providing maintenance and after sale services. Having local representation helps ensure lower costs, as there is no need to establish an office and after sales customer service is easily provided.

Working directly with the government is time consuming and bureaucratic, and the tender announcement process is not fully transparent. Again, a good local agent will succeed in overcoming these obstacles. Suppliers will need to customize their products to meet Egyptian requirements. Competing with European products means offering cost competitive technologies that are easy to maintain and do not require replacement of expensive spare parts. There are no strict language requirements in Egypt. English is acceptable; Arabic is official. Egyptians use the metric system of measurement.

Excerpts from “Egypt: Solid Waste Management and Recycling”, U.S. Commercial Service, July 2007.

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