Help Keep Our Playgrounds Litter-Free!

Lately, we’ve been spending time at one of the playgrounds in the city. Most of the public playgrounds leave a lot to be desired, but this one is relatively nice and provides plenty of shade. Sadly, I rarely see children playing there (unless they’re with me) but the playground gets a lot of foot traffic as it’s on the edge of the city across the street from the resorts. Many local workers and residents walk from the hotels up to the city, taking a path that goes through the playground. That would be one explanation for the abundance of litter. Another would be the lack of adequate rubbish bins.

Today, I finally remembered a bag and cleaned up most of the aluminium cans. These can be recycled. In fact, they can be sold for LE 2.5 per kilo. I don’t have a good scale to weigh them, but I probably collected around 2 kilos today. I will give my bag of cans to a young Bedouin friend who will be happy to take the bag to sell the cans and buy some snacks with the profits. (On my next visit, I will collect the recyclable plastic bottles.)

Playground Cans

::Please help keep our playgrounds clean::

+ If you finish a drink and there is no rubbish bin around, hold on to the can until you find one or until you get home. Don’t throw the can or bottle on the ground.

+ Sort your trash at home and keep a bag for cans. Pick up cans you see on the street and bring them home. Call Hemaya to collect your trash and recyclables from your house. Read about the benefits of recycling aluminium here.


+ Skip the sodas altogether! Buy a refillable bottle or jug and make your own drinks. They’ll be better for your health and cost less money. Read some suggestions here.

The playful children (and adults!) of Dahab thank you!


Recycling: What It Is and What It Isn’t

The main focus of my blog is sharing ways we can all REFUSE disposable plastic, but I also encourage us all to RECYCLE. Not because it is the answer to our waste problems, but because I know that none of us lives a 100% waste-free life and it’s important to keep waste that can be used again out of the landfill.

Hemeya, the local NGO currently tasked with Dahab’s rubbish collection, sorts the metal, cardboard, glass, and plastic waste and sells it on to buyers for “recycling”. (Read more about Hemeya here.)

But what does it mean to recycle?

First, let’s talk about what it’s not. If you take an empty water bottle and make a planter or a candle holder, that’s not recycling. That’s a great way to REUSE or REPURPOSE the bottle, but it’s not recycling. To reuse something means to use it again after it has been used. You might reuse an item for the same purpose, like reusing an empty jam jar to store your own homemade treats. Or like the returnable Stella (the local beer) bottles that are collected, cleaned, and reused again and again. You might also think of a new use for an old item, like making a bucket from an old car tire. (You can buy these at shops in Asalah!)

A bucket made from an old tire.

A bucket made from an old tire.

Reusing or repurposing items is an excellent way to keep useful waste from ending up in the landfill. It helps save time, money, and energy.

Technically, if a product is recycled, it is broken down into raw materials and be made into the same product. Used printer paper would be made into new printer paper. Discarded plastic water bottles would be made into new water bottles. But these processes are usually difficult and/or expensive, especially when it comes to plastic. So most of the “recycling” that is happening actually involves producing different material, not the same. For example, water bottles are “recycled” and made into plastic egg cartons, like the one pictured below.

used to be a water bottle

An egg carton made from plastic bottles (in America)

Glass and aluminium are more often truly recycled into new glass and aluminium products but NOT plastic. Plastic is usually downcycled, or made into new material or products of lesser quality or usefulness. Over time, downcycling reduces the quality of a material. Plastic water bottles, when “recycled” are often mixed with other plastics to make a new lower-quality hybrid. This new material can then be molded into something like a park bench, carpet, or speed bump. Eventually, plastics that are downcycled reach a point when they cannot be used anymore and they end up as trash in a landfill.

Graphic via Activist Abby

Graphic via Activist Abby

When waste material is truly recycled, that is – made into the same product, there are many environmental benefits. It prevents waste of useful materials. It reduces the consumption of new raw materials. It reduces energy use. It can reduce air and water pollution associated with traditional waste disposal. But since plastics are downcycled, the benefits are much less. New plastic water bottles are continually being produced, using fresh raw materials, using much more energy.

We cannot solve the problem of plastic pollution by continuing to make new plastic products that cannot be recycled because there will still be a constant flow of new, or virgin, plastic – if there is demand. Our first priority, then, needs to be to REFUSE disposable plastic products when we can, REDUCE the amount of products we need, and REUSE them when we are able. The last resort before the landfill is to RECYCLE.

Plastic shopping bags are not “recycled” here in Dahab so if you do only one thing to reduce your plastic footprint, let it be to bring your own reusable bag to the supermarket and green grocer.

In my next post, I’ll talk about upcycling and crafting with reusables. Stay tuned!

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

Trying Out Hemaya’s Trash Collection

This weekend I decided it was finally time to test out Hemaya’s offer of free collection of sorted trash. 

Hemaya pick up (1)

Here’s what I had for them to collect:

  • one sack of plastic bottles (Mostly from the litter I collect from the streets, so it took only about 2 weeks to fill this sack.)

  • half of a sack of glass jars and bottles (I’ve been setting these aside for 6 months.)

  • two boxes of cardboard (Again, this is 6 months worth.)

Yes, it took us a long time to collect enough glass and cardboard to justify a call for collection. But we have enough space at the back of our house that it doesn’t bother me to hold on to these sacks for so long. And because I clean the street in front of my house on a regular basis, it didn’t take nearly as long to fill that sack of plastic!

My husband gave Shargawy at Hemaya a call on Saturday evening to arrange pick-up for the next day. He told us that they would call us between 8:30 – 9:00 a.m Sunday morning. It was no surprise really that 9 o’clock came and went and there was no call from Hemaya. We called them, no answer. At about 10 o’clock, they finally returned our call to tell us they were in the neighborhood and would be at our house shortly. And they were! 

Hemaya pick up (2)

We had placed the boxes and sacks outside, but did not leave them unattended because the goats would have had a feast on that cardboard – and left a mess behind! Plus we just wanted to wait to see the whole process through.

The driver told us that next time we could call Shargawy (the “big boss”) to let him know we had bags and then simply leave the sacks outside and they would collect them on their usual daily route, which passes by our house at around 8 in the morning. The goats, sheep, and other street animals do not usually manage to rip open the flour sacks that we are using, so as long as they are tied off properly leaving these outside shouldn’t be a problem. So even if you only have one bag for them to collect, go ahead and give them a call. They collect trash every day so it should not be a problem for them to pass by and collect your bag.

You can reach Shargawy at +0122 60 89 204.

Have you started to sort the recyclables from your trash? Have you tried to call Shargawy and arrange a pick-up? How did it work? Please share your experience with us. 

And if you missed the first post about Hemaya, read about Trash Collection and Recycling in Dahab.

Trash Collection and Recycling in Dahab

Have you ever wondered what happens to the trash you “throw away” in Dahab?

Have you ever wondered about the people who collect all our trash?

Meet Hemaya Association.

Hemaya, meaning “protection” in Arabic”, is an NGO, founded in Nuweiba in1997 by Sherif el Ghamrawy (of Basata Ecolodge). One of Hemaya’s many projects is the solid waste management here in Dahab. They are in charge of collecting, sorting, and transporting our trash. The waste is sorted – glass, plastic, aluminum, and cardboard – and compacted in the Industrial Zone in the city. These compacted bundles are then transported to 10th of Ramadan City (outside of Cairo) where they are sold to traders who RECYCLE the material. 

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We visited the center in the Industrial Zone today and asked them what we could do to make their job easier. The answer: Sort your trash. Then call Shargawy at +0122 60 89 204 to arrange free pick-up.

That’s right. If we sort our recyclable trash at home, Hemaya will collect it for free and it will be RECYCLED!

I have been sorting the glass and cardboard at our house and it’s taken a few months for the boxes to be full, but now that they are I will call Hemaya and request a pick-up. I will also start to sort the trash I collect from the street in front of my house.

TIP: REUSE the large flour sacks from the bakery or ask a shop for a cardboard box to use to sort your trash.

TIP: If you don’t want to wait as long for a pick-up, organize with your neighbors and together you’ll probably collect enough for more frequent pick-ups.

It was mentioned today that the local hotels could be doing a better job at sorting their trash, which they have all been asked to do. So if you are a hotel or business owner, please encourage (or better yet, require) your staff to sort the recyclable items in your trash. Provide separate bins for your guests. Then educate the staff and your guests about these bins. Some simple signs would help the guests. For example, it would be best if bottles were empty before being put in the bin. Having water left in the bottles slows the compacting process down as the bottles have to be emptied first.

If you are organizing a clean-up event, you can also call Hemaya and arrange for them to pick-up the bags from you. You don’t have to worry about sorting this trash. They will take care of that part for you. (Probably because it will be pretty easy as most of it will be plastic!)

For our clean-up event a few weeks ago, a Bedouin man drove the 40+ bags of trash we had collected to a center in Sharm el Sheikh where he was able to sell the trash to traders. He would probably have earned between LE 150 – 200 for the whole load (which is why he did not charge us anything).

Do you already sort the trash at your home? If not, are you willing to do so? Why or why not? Does your hotel/restaurant/business sort their trash? Do you provide bins for your guests? What tips do you have for other establishments wanting to sort their trash?

Read more about how Sherif started the organization here.

Read more about Hemaya here

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle