Egypt built a plastic pyramid!

  • 2022-10-26
Egypt will host the next United Nations Global Climate Conference (COP 27) from November 6 to 18. Egypt's environment minister Yasmin Fouad said on October 24 that all shops and food stores in the city will use cloth bags or paper bags.

On the occasion of the Climate Conference, on September 17, 2022, volunteers collected bottles, cans and other plastic wastes floating on the Nile and built a "plastic pyramid" on the Nile, becoming the "giant symbol" of the country.

The pyramid was designed and built by the ecological initiative VeryNile, which was established five years ago. It consists of 170 building blocks, each weighing about 45 kg. By assembling these bricks into the shape and scale of the pyramid, the organizers hope to show the seriousness of the plastic waste problem, encourage recycling and responsible waste management, and promote the reduction of disposable materials. In addition, by imitating Egypt's most famous monument, the organizers also want to show that plastic waste is a thorn in the side of the country's beauty and heritage.

For thousands of years, the Nile has nourished Egypt's great civilization with rich fresh water, rich silt, rich fish, navigation and trade. Now, however, the river has brought another far less attractive gift - plastic garbage. According to Egyptian human rights organizations, about 4.5 million tons of waste flow into the Nile every year.

Helmholtz Environmental Research Center also found that the Nile is one of the 10 rivers that cause 90% of plastic waste to enter the world's oceans. Another study conducted by Sky News in 2021 found that 75% of Nile fish contain micro plastics.

The Middle East and North Africa region faces many challenges in dealing with the accumulation of plastic waste; According to the data of the World Bank, more than 570000 tons of plastics are thrown into the Mediterranean Sea every year, causing serious damage to marine dependent industries from fisheries to tourism.

In addition, the widespread consumerism in the Gulf countries has led to a large number of discarded disposable plastics. The five Gulf Cooperation Council countries (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait) rank among the top ten in terms of per capita solid waste generation. Saudi Arabia produces 15 million tons of garbage every year, only 5% of which is recycled.

Egypt is not the only country dealing with plastic waste. Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Tunisia have all implemented local and national laws restricting the import and use of disposable plastic bags. Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi have all implemented plastic bag charges and promised to ban the use of plastic bags by 2024.

Kuwait, Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have drafted laws or proposed policies to prohibit the use of disposable plastic bags or the use of biodegradable plastic bags instead.

According to the reform strategy of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia plans to invest more than US $6 billion in recycling by 2035. Saudi civil society also encourages people to recycle; The Mawakeb Alajer Group has established a recycling facility where people can discard everything from waste paper to unwanted furniture and clothes.

The Saudi Investment Recovery Company was established in 2017 to develop the recycling capacity of Saudi Arabia. The company plans to achieve the goal of Vision 2030 by creating a circular economy - namely, the economy of reusing, repairing and recycling raw materials and finished products in the longest possible time.

Last March, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the Green Saudi Initiative and the Green Middle East Initiative. Although they mainly focus on reducing carbon emissions, protecting and restoring natural habitats is also a priority goal.

The Crown Prince later announced the establishment of a government agency to monitor violations of the Kingdom's environmental regulations and vowed to hold the polluters accountable.

Egypt is adopting a national strategy aimed at eliminating the negative impact of plastics on health, environment, economy and society, and is striving to reduce plastic consumption in the coming years. The country's goal is to reduce the consumption of plastic bags to 100 per person by 2025 and 50 per person by 2030.

The campaign to ban disposable plastics often started locally, such as the Red Sea Province of Egypt, which banned the use of plastic bags and tableware in restaurants, coffee shops, supermarkets, grocery stores, butchers, fishing grounds and pharmacies, as well as during hunting and boat trips in June 2019. Following the steps of Red Sea Province, Zaihab in the south of Sinai Peninsula announced that the use of plastic bags will be banned in July 2021.

COP 27 is the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will be held in Sharm el Sheikh, a holiday resort in Egypt, in the second week of November. At COP 26 held in Glasgow last year, hundreds of countries committed to supporting the energy transition and climate change mitigation of the poorest countries in the world - these countries have few carbon emissions and pollution, but are most affected by climate change.

In May this year, Wael Aboulmagd, Egypt's Special Representative to the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference, said that helping developing countries adapt to climate change would be a priority of the upcoming conference, although rich countries said they would not honour their commitment to provide 100 billion dollars annually for the set goals.

At the end of September, Egypt appealed to all countries participating in COP27 to put aside their political differences. Some countries held a strike in June to protest Russia's participation in the United Nations climate conference in Bonn.

Although 90 heads of state have confirmed their presence at the meeting, the global economic pressure caused by the recovery of coronavirus and the conflict in Ukraine may put environmental issues on hold.

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