Egypt’s crackdown on plastic is emulative - GulfToday

Egypt’s crackdown on plastic is emulative

Egypt’s crackdown on plastic is emulative

Egyptian volunteers collect waste and plastic as part of a campaign to clean up the Nile River.Reuters

The oceans are a repository of valuable sustenance not only for marine creatures, but also for human beings. Unfortunately, global warming and toxic plastic are endangering sea life. In this connection, there is a pressing need for ecological protection.

The world currently produces more than 300 million tonnes of plastic annually. Scientists estimate there are at least five trillion pieces of the stuff floating in our oceans.

The United Nations says only nine per cent of plastic ever produced has been recycled.

However, all is not lost. Some countries are making sincere efforts to clear their territory – be it beaches, deserts or just plain land – of plastic.

In this connection the move by Egypt to fight plastic trash is noteworthy and commendable.

Six months ago the plastic waste in the Egyptian resort of Hurghada filled up trucks. A new drive has seen only five bags filled with plastic bottles, straws, shopping bags and other refuse.

Environmentalists had long battled polymer refuse floating on waves, washing up on beaches and harming coral reefs and marine wildlife.

Divers recently rescued a shark by removing a plastic ring from around its neck.

So in June the popular tourist resort and other cities of Egypt’s Red Sea province banned single-use plastic products, penalising offenders with harsh fines. Since then, disposable plastic shopping bags and throw-away utensils have been largely replaced with alternative products made from paper, other organic materials and biodegradable plastic.

A big difference can be seen at the city’s waste sorting plant. The amount of plastic waste received there fell to 141 tonnes in November, down from 230 tonnes during the same month a year earlier.

Egypt’s Red Sea province relies a lot on income from tourists, many of whom come to snorkel and scuba dive among its spectacular reefs – delicate ecosystems particularly threatened by both global warming and plastic pollution.

Authorities are taking the new ban seriously, fining a Hurghada shopping centre 20,000 Egyptian pounds (more than $1,200) after seizing plastic bags there, local media reported in August.

Since the ban, the group and authorities have distributed tens of thousands of reusable bags to residents and businesses, to deter the use of single-use plastic bags. Most hotels have given up disposable plastic cups and utensils.

It is not just Egypt that is making a determined bid to crack down on use of plastic. There are concerted moves by other countries also to tackle the plastic menace. The Philippines, for instance, is making considerable headway in this regard. Recently a village in the country was reported offering rice to residents in exchange for their trash. A report said residents of Bayanan outside the capital, Manila, could get one kg (2.2 lb) of rice, the staple food for Filipinos, for every two kg of plastic waste.

Philippine city Lamitan has turned discarded plastic bottles into flowers to fill a garden of thousands of colourful tulips, capturing tourists’ attention and building awareness about recycling.

The tulip garden, which opened recently, was built from 26,877 bottles collected from 45 villages around Lamitan City in Basilan, an island province on the southwestern tip of the archipelago.

The Philippines is a major source of ocean plastic and only a small amount of its waste is recycled.

An October report says Malaysia is negotiating with countries sending their plastic waste to the Southeast Asian nation to take back the trash and is waiving storage fees to clear hundreds of containers of scrap stranded at ports across the country for months.

In 2013, scientists were surprised to find the seas east of Greenland and north of Scandinavia as a dead-end for plastic. Some seas in that region are heavily polluted with plastic because of an Atlantic Ocean current which dumps debris there.

The reckless dumping of plastic in the oceans should stop as it destroys marine wildlife, fisheries and tourism. A joint global action to ensure that oceans are clean, peaceful and bountiful is a necessity that cannot be just brushed aside anymore.

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