Mass tourism can have a negative effect on the local environment. Hence, mountainsides can be seen filled with empty plastic bottles, and other types of waste left behind by tourists and campers. They do not only harm the environment – they are also putting the tourism industry at risk. Plastic bags in the landscape and sea are not exactly why tourists come to visit the country.
On the contrary, “Greening the waste sector” can generate multiple economic benefits. Recycling leads to substantial savings in resources. Recycling in all its forms employs 12 million people in these three countries: Brazil, China and United States. Sorting and processing recyclables alone sustain ten times more jobs than land filling or incineration on a per ton basis. It is estimated that recycling can contribute to a 2% increase of the GDP (UNEP, Green SWM, Investing in energy and resource efficiency, 2011). Furthermore, compost production contributes to organic agricultural development benefiting small farmers and rural ecosystems.
Greening the waste sector refers to a shift from less-preferred waste treatment and disposal methods such as incineration (without energy recovery) and different forms of landfilling towards the “3Rs”: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. The strategy is to move upstream in the waste management hierarchy based on the internationally recognized approach of Integrated Solid Waste Management or ISWM (UNEP, Green SWM, Investing in energy and resource efficiency, 2011); (see Figure 1).
These economic benefits of greening the waste sector can – as will be shown in this article – also contribute to the greening of other economic sectors, e.g. the tourism industry. “Green Tourism” refers to a more environmentally friendly and more sustainable tourism sector. The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism adopted this approach and is developing a “Green Tourism Portfolio” which is supporting hotels and other actors in the sector to switch to more sustainable technologies. According to the United Nations Green Economy Report (2011), the greening of tourism involves significant investment in efficiency improvements of energy, water and waste systems. The hope is that transforming the sector in this direction would also contribute to job creation and larger benefits of tourism for local communities – one way to do so, namely through an improved and green Solid Waste Management in coastal areas, will be presented in this article.
Figure 1. The waste management hierarchy
Under Integrated Solid Waste Management, activities of greening the sector can include:
- Resource conservation which avoids excessive resource consumption;
- Waste reduction through resource use;
- Optimization that minimizes resource wastage;
- Waste collection and segregation, ensuring appropriate waste treatment;
- Waste reuse which circulates waste and avoids the use of virgin resources;
- Waste recycling which converts waste into useful products.
In Egypt, Hotels and camps in coastal zones usually hire local contractors who dump the residual waste in the nearest mountain valley, since some of them are paid only for “getting rid of this headache, which is waste”. Some waste recovery activities are taking place in some hotels; especially those which are putting efforts into a “greener” hotel management and a more environmentally sustainable image (see Box 1). However, most hotels still lack a communal vision on what to do with residual waste, as it is not about fancy waste colored containers inside hotels, but rather the whole cycle including separation, collection, transportation, recovery, recycling, and safe disposal. Also, it is important from an economic, social and environmental perspective. A proper waste management system could contribute to prevent massive environmental degradation; it could create jobs in local communities and enhance resource efficiency and competitiveness in hotels.
BOX 1:Green Star Hotel Initiative, by Stefanie Reiher & Charlotte Breyer
Effective waste management is an important field of action when aiming to green the tourism sector. Waste management is therefore part of the “Green Star Hotel Initiative” an Egyptian national certification and capacity-building programme. In 2007, three major private companies operating in the Egyptian tourism sector, Orascom, Travco and TUI, joined forces to take an industry driven approach for greening the hotel sector. Initially, the programme was supported by the develoPPP.de Programme that the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) implements on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Together they developed a certification scheme for hotels with the aim of improving their ecological performance and competitiveness of Egypt’s hotel industry. The “Green Star” criteria take the local circumstances in Egypt into account. For the international market, it gains its credibility through being officially recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council Accreditation Panel. Since 2013, all hotels in Egypt are invited to become certified. The “Green Star” is endorsed by the Ministry of Tourism and sponsored by the Egyptian Hotel Association.
Reducing, reusing and recycling waste has been included into the Green Star criteria as one of eleven dimensions. For every certified hotel some basic measures of waste treatment are obligatory – meeting additional, optional criteria can increase the rating of a hotel from three to up to five “green stars”. Mandatory criteria include waste separation for further treatment, through setting up clearly marked bins in all areas, a strict reduction of disposable one-way products to pool area and take-away meals, and proper education of staff concerning waste reduction and recycling. For those areas where there is no proper waste management by the local authority in place, the hotel has to work on a strategy and additional actions for waste reduction, recycling and environmentally sound disposal.
53 hotels are certified across Egypt and are now contributing to an environmentally less harmful tourism in Egypt. 13 more are already in the cycle to prepare for certification. For more information on the program please refer to http://www.greenstarhotel.org/
However, this article will show a case study from Egypt on green solid waste management which was implemented in Nuweiba, South Sinai, and then replicated in large parts of the Red Sea Region by very active NGOs. It shows also how waste becomes “resources” for job creation, income generation, and environmental protection. Subsequently, social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainability are not only considered but also applied in tangible models for better and sustainable communities.
The story started when CID Consulting, and a team including the author (Mr. Berti Shaker), brought the major stakeholders from public and private sector together to find a solution to the problems that have arisen in the city. At that time, CID was led by Dr. Laila Iskandar who is currently the Minister of Urban Renewal and Informal Settlements in Egypt. Main partners were: the South Sinai municipalities, the Association for the Protection of the Environment (APE), Hemaya (a local implementing NGO) in Nuweiba, the national donor (Social Fund for Development), the indigenous population/ the bedouins and the hotel industry.
The lessons learned were transferred from the experiences of Zabbaleen, the traditional garbage collectors in Cairo, into South Sinai and Red Sea. Readers can get more information on Zabaleen work through another article also written for Sweep-Net by the author entitled “Exploring the Hidden Potentials“.
The aim of the project was to design and implement an effective and sustainable solid waste management system in South Sinai that would address waste separation, collection, transport, recovery, recycling and final disposal. Also, to engage the stakeholders in a partnership that would bring the people, the municipalities, the investors, the private sector, NGOs and the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) together to create a financially viable enterprise and a clean environment in the Sinai.
Therefore, the goal of this new system was to create jobs, generate income, introduce and implement a simple, safe and environmentally sound but effective solid waste management system based on existing best practice that can be replicated in other areas in Egypt, or in any developing country, specifically in coastal zones. This has been achieved by not relying on high technology or imported equipment. Instead, a people-centred and labour intensive approach to protect the environment from the mounting problem of solid waste was applied.
With clear objectives including:
- To implement “at source separation” scheme to organics & non-organics only in the target area.
- Orient and train kitchen staff at hotels, resorts, camps on at-source separation.
- Provide organics separated at-source to the local population to feed their livestock in a dignified way after making sure that it would not harm human or animal wellbeing.
- Establish Material Recovery Facilities for recovering recyclable waste – the non-organic portion.
- Reduce the transportation cost for recovered material through recovery and processing.
- Train the staff of the proposed recovery stations on collection, transport, recovery and recycling activities.
- Reduce waste volume that used to be dumped randomly.
- Extend the life span of controlled dumpsites by disposing only 20%, which is the non recyclables, instead of 100% of mixed waste.
- Provide practical solutions for flying plastic bags by collecting, transporting to these facilities to be compacted and sold in markets.
- Take advantage of vibrant markets for recoverables in Egypt and link the MRFs to them for maximum revenue generation.
- Create green and decent jobs for local youths.
- Integrate safety measures and upgraded solid waste handling methods in the system.
- Train staff in the facility of the management of the MR.
Figure 2. The Main Elements of the New System
The project began in Nuweiba and Dahab through a door-to-door and from hotel-to-hotel communication campaign about the concept of at-source separation into two components only: organic and non-organic. The marketing was carried out by the workers themselves after further training and orientation. The work at the Material Recovery Facility (MRF) started in Nuweiba in November 1998. The MRF was built on land rented from the municipality of Nuweiba to Hemaya, which operated the MRF.
Non-organic waste only arrives at the MRF and is loaded on a central conveyor belt where workers sort it to its different components: paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, and metals. Each material is then channeled to its specific processing room. Certain types of plastic are granulated; paper, cardboard and metals get compacted, each in a separate machine.
The financial sustainability came from two sources of revenues. The first was based on granting the implementing NGO, Hemaya, the right to collect the fee for service from hotels by the local municipality. Therefore, there is a direct relationship between the service provider and the receipt. To provide an incentive for hotels complying the source segregation scheme, a certain discount was made from the monthly fees.
The second source of revenue came from selling the recyclables in a country where very vibrant markets of recyclables are taking place. The whole scheme gained support from local population, local municipalities, and tourism industry since the NGO was trying to keep every stakeholder involved.
The workers of the MRF were not treated as mere workers but rather as shareholders, as they were getting a share in surplus gained after selling the recyclables. Subsequently the sense of ownership and belonging was highly maintained.
Through these characteristics, the system responded to the specific requirements and opportunities in the coastal touristic area it is operating in. In addition, it is based on other features (extracted from a concept paper, “Vision for a new Solid Waste Management in the Southern Red Sea” submitted to LIFE Red Sea Project by Dr. Laila Iskandar, July 2005):
- The identified difficulty of not having an effective SWM policy in the region and a lack of government coordination between the different entities involved.
- The relatively high per capita waste generation rates due to the existence of a large number of hotels and tourist establishments.
- The high value of the waste composition arising from hotels, which are “resources” in the eyes of green economy.
- The existence of efficient management structures in hotels and tourism sector as compared to non-tourist towns. These can readily and effectively implement source segregation schemes in their establishments.
- The ability of the tourist industry to pay a fee for service, unlike other parts of the country where collecting service fees from service recipients is a challenge.
- The well-being and livelihoods of local and indigenous people of the region have not been adequately addressed as part of present and planned coastal development schemes.
The success of the project has motivated other cities to request its replication in an attempt to protect the environment and change behavior with regard to waste handling. For instance, HEPCA NGO and other stakeholders established a MRF in Marsa Alam, Southern Red Sea, in 2005. This MRF is to serve all hotels, camps, diving centers of Marsa Alam tourism centers. This was achieved under a USAID-funded project, LIFE Red Sea (see final reports 2005-2009).
HEPCA’s southern waste collection operation is made up of five trucks. These trucks visit about 34 subscribers who were stretched out along 200 km of coastline daily, collecting over 20 tons of waste a day. Subscribers are required to segregate organic waste from non-organic and an incentive program for further segregation is in its pilot phase with a small number of our subscribers. Building on this experience, HEPCA NGO succeeded to apply and sign a big contract with the Red Sea governorate for waste collection, transportation, treatment, and final disposal in Hurghada, the capital city of the governorate. The NGO started with a team of only about 20 persons. Now, hundreds of employees are employed in Marsa Alam and Hurghada cities engaged in SWM.
HEPCA MRF in Marsa Allam, Red Sea
The writer is proud to be part of the implementing teams in both regions, South Sinai and Red Sea, and both are running until today on a self-financed basis. The concept and design of this system are based on Egyptian indigenous patterns of development where the environment is linked to employment generation for youth and where the entire community becomes a learning community around the content of solid waste.
A model of a win-win situation can be designed and implemented enabling each of the main stakeholders to win, namely tourism sector, local environment, indigenous people and local residents. This model ensures sustainability as it provides an answer to the economic, social, environmental, technical, and public health questions and concerns. It is tested in various areas in Egypt and proved that IT WORKS.
Green Solid Waste Management for Green and Sustainable Tourism, article published on SWEEP-Net by Berti Shaker & Stefanie Reiher, January 8th, 2015