Fayoum Governorate launched a plan to buy people's waste in 2016. Will it clean up the area or will traders just profit?
Ramadan Mohammed, 59, a state official, never thought he could profit so much from his waste. Ramadan used to dispose of solid waste items like cans, plastics and cardboard at a trash container near his home. But when a strange wooden store appeared below his house, Ramadan began to wonder what it was selling: when he asked the woman sitting inside, she said she was there to buy people's recycled garbage.
Sell us your waste!
The project was launched when Wael Makram, former governor of Fayoum, announced last June that city residents could sell their trash to the government. Fayoum was chosen as a pilot case for the project.
Ramadan says he has experience saving up his trash. He used to sell old bread but now a burgeoning corner in his two-storey house is piling up with dozens of bags of trash; cans, plastic, bottles and cardboard are neatly separated. When each bag is full, Ramadan trades it in with the woman in the wooden trash collection point below his house.
Fayoum Governorate set various initial prices: Alluminium and metals are valued the most, followed by cans and plastic bottles. Recycled food waste and paper are also monetized. The wooden collection points were staffed and equipped with digital scales courtesy of a collaboration between the private sector Arab Manufacturing Agency and the Ministry of Tourism.
Waste of an idea
Former governor Makram announced in June that 1,000 similar stalls would be distributed in towns and villages in the Fayoum Governorate. The pilot phase would see 200 stalls installed in the city center to begin with. The governor promised to regulate the collection and pledged that each new collection point would generate two new jobs. Advisors to the government argued that the project would improve the governorate's hygiene while providing a boost to the local workforce. While the plan sounded good at its launch, so far installed only 12 collection points have been installed, two of which are in Itsa town and 10 in Fayoum City.
"Doomed to failure"
Malak Hosni, owner of a garbage collection company in Cairo, believes the new trash initiative in Fayoum is doomed to fail unless garbage is collected directly from houses. "Trash separation workers will eventually know the big traders and sell their trash to them instead of selling it to stalls so that they benefit from the price difference," Hosni told Correspondents.
Hosni indicates that the cost of the stalls, built by the Fayoum government, is as high L.E. 25,000 (approx 1,400$), which prevents young entrepreneurs with limited capital from getting involved. Hosni says a similar project in Cairo failed because buildings' caretakers would select the valuable waste components to sell to traders and dispose of the rest in the streets.
The director of the Environment Service and Comprehensive Development Society at Itsa Center - which is administering the waste collection project, Dr. Suleiman Othman Dawood, counters that the new initiative represents a strong economic opportunity for unemployed youth.
"Establishing these stalls in residential areas will encourage the youth to set up local civil societies to collect and transport the garbage to the dumps," Dawood told Correspondents. While only two stalls have been set up so far as a pilot in Itsa, Dawood highlighted the need to raise awareness among young people. The media also has a role in promoting the initiative in order to achieve the desired effect of cleaning up the region, adds Dawood.
The campus of Fayoum University is also being tested as a pilot zone for the project. Four containers were installed inside the faculty of literature campus to encourage students to embrace the new recycling culture. A delegation from the neighbouring Sharqia Governorate also recently visited Fayoum to study the initiative, according to Dawood. Dawood says much more needs to be done if the new trash collection MO is to succeed, including integrating scrap dealers into this system and making them part of the state's official economy. Trash collectors are currently in competition with the government, engaged in a parallel market - the government does not charge them any taxes, insurance fees or other duties.
The current Fayoum governor, Dr. Jamal Sami, believes the role of the government in the project should be "limited to providing administrative and legal support." Responsibility for implementing most aspects of the project should "fall on civil society," says Governor Sami. Dawood agrees that the private sector should take the lead role. "I think it would be more appropriate if a group of businessmen undertook this project, so that we do not engage into competition with them," says Dawood. The project is currently run by Dawood's not-for-profit organization.
Same old trash
Ibrahim Mousa, head of Fayoum City and its center states, says the amount of waste removed from the streets by waste collection services in the region is the same, estimated at 400 tons, in addition to 200 tons of trash per day through three work shifts, as before the wooden recycling stalls were launched. Mousa believes the garbage problem can only end by engaging active companies to collect garbage from houses for a monthly fee of o.50$.
Dawood says punishing violators who illegally dump their waste in the street is a key priority. "Special regulations need to be developed," Dawood told Correspondents, adding that police reports are rarely, if ever, filed against offenders. Dawood calls for the instalment of surveillance cameras and hefty fines of L.E 1,000 (55$) for offenders.
The full list of prices is:
- Cans and thermal foil plates, L.E. 3 per KG (o.16$)
- Mineral water bottles, plastic items, and any other items made of plastic, 150 Piasters (o.08$)
- All kinds of paper and cardboard, including newspapers, books, notebooks, and cardboard boxes, 50 Piasters (0.03§)
-Wood, 20 Piasters (0.01$)
- Any kind of aluminum wares, L.E. 12 (o.66$)
-Metals like tuna and sauce canisters etc, 25 (1.25$) Piasters
- Organic garbage, such as discarded food, fruits etc, 10 Piasters per kg