Egypt coming to grips with plastics
Entrepreneurial young Egyptians are assisting in the fight against their country’s plastic waste problem by recycling junk food wrappers, water bottles, and other garbage that would otherwise end up in landfills or the Nile River.
Noisy machines gobble up huge amounts of plastic scraps of all colors, shred them, and turn them into a thick liquid at a factory on the outskirts of Cairo run by their startup TileGreen.
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The sludge, which is made of various types of plastic, including single-use shopping bags, is then molded into dark compact bricks that are used as outdoor pavers for walkways and garages.
“They’re twice as strong as concrete,” co-founder Khaled Raafat noted.
Each tile removes approximately “125 plastic bags from the environment,” according to his business partner Amr Shalan.
Raafat stated that the company uses “many different layers of plastic and aluminum that are nearly impossible to separate and recycle sustainably.”
According to a multinational study published in Science magazine, Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, is the biggest plastic polluter in the Middle East and Africa.
Every year, the country generates over 3 million tons of plastic waste, much of which accumulates in streets and illegal landfills or finds its way into the Nile and the Mediterranean Sea.
Microplastics in the water accumulate in marine life, endangering the health of people who consume seafood and fish caught in Africa’s mighty waterway, mirroring a global environmental scourge.
Egypt, a country of 104 million people, has pledged to reduce its annual consumption of single-use plastics by more than half by 2030 and to build multiple new waste management plants.
However, according to the World Bank, more than two-thirds of Egypt’s waste is “inadequately managed,” creating an ecological hazard that environmental groups have been attempting to address.
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