Solid Waste Management Overview

Solid waste is any discarded or abandoned solid or semi-solid, non-soluble material of domestic, industrial, or commercial origin. Proper management of the disposed material reduces the impacts on health and environment, by properly disposing of polluting elements and by recovering utilizable resources from the solid waste.

Households, schools, hospitals, hotels, markets, shops, offices - everywhere we go we use, consume, or exploit something, which afterwards leaves waste remnants. Thing about all the waste just one individual is responsible for producing a day; a package, a peel, paper, cartons and bottles - all the little things we handle and eventually dispose of on a daily basis. One would be astonished by the amount of trash that we all produce. The city of Hurghada produces almost 300 tons of solid waste per day.

The lack of a proper dedicated management strategy in the Red Sea governorate has led to an unacceptable accumulation of waste throughout the entire area of the Red Sea. To make matters worse, the generally strong winds blowing in the Red Sea has resulted in dispersed low density waste throughout the entire ecosystem. Piles of solid waste can be found in the desert and sea, which has had devastating impacts on wildlife and their habitats.

Lack of an effective solid waste management system has dire impacts on the environment locally and globally. Plastic bags and bottles are very often seen floating about in many of our most popular dive sites. Plastics don’t fully decompose and break down into smaller pieces that are ingested or absorbed by organisms all through the food chain. In many documented cases marine mammals and turtles mistake these plastics for food and die a slow and painful death by choking or entanglement. In 2006 70% of deceased marine turtles in the Egyptian Red Sea are believed to have died due to the ingestion of plastics.

Solid waste does not only impact mega fauna. Corals are often smothered by waste or shaded from sunlight, which is indispensable to their survival. The magnitude of the adverse impacts of solid waste on our ecosystem is frightful. If only 5% of the plastic bags disposed of in Hurghada end up in the sea, it is estimated that they would lead to the death of more than 250 seabirds and 25 marine mammals every month. Needless to say, the impacts on the ecosystem and on human health are disastrous.

An effective and comprehensive solid waste management plan can save our environment on a local scale by alleviating the disastrous effects of the solid waste on wildlife, and on a global scale through the preservation of the re-usable resources in the solid waste. If the paper based materials in Hurghada’s waste are recycled they would save more than 500 trees, 40,000 liters of oil, 79,500 liters of water, 69m3 of landfill space and 120,000 kilowatts of energy everyday!

We aren’t usually aware of the entire “lifecycle” of the “items” we use on a daily basis. By carefully analyzing the matter you can begin to understand that even as a simple consumer, every move we make plays a role in undermining the equilibrium of the world’s eco-system.

HEPCA’s strategy is to work both on a regional scale and on an individual level. HEPCA is effectively managing a majority of the solid waste of the Egyptian Red Sea, while simultaneously spreading awareness about what we can do as individuals. The key for us as individuals is the 3 Rs campaign; Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Real change in individual’s daily practices is a big part of HEPCA’s Red Sea solid waste management strategy.

Although environmental conservation is the ultimate goal of this campaign, it also focuses on the public health risks associated with the lack of an effective solid waste management system, the economic impacts of environmental degradation, the lack of hygiene, and the aesthetic pollution caused by pileups.

HEPCA’s comprehensive solid waste management strategy for the Red Sea was formulated in cooperation with USAID, the EEAA, the National Parks of Egypt and the Association for the Protection of the Environment, and private sponsorships including The Coca Cola Company.

In 2009 HEPCA embarked on the first steps of this strategy when it became solely responsible for the solid waste management system in the southern Egyptian Red Sea, in accordance to a protocol signed with the Red Sea Governorate. The comprehensive solid waste management system in the southern Egyptian Red Sea includes everything from door to door collection, to material recovery, and a recycling component.

In February of 2010 HEPCA took on the Hadaba Cleanup Campaign; a yearlong campaign aimed at implementing an efficient solid waste collection system and more importantly, to insight a change in the solid waste disposal habits of the community in this district of Hurghada.

So successful was this campaign that HEPCA was assigned the responsibility of waste management for the entire city of Hurghada; a city that is estimated to host around 250,000 people and produce nearly 300 tons of waste on a daily basis.

There is absolutely no way that we would be able to undertake this challenge without the cooperation of individual community members.