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.

aluminum-can-2-black

+ 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!

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

What’s your Plastic Footprint?

plastic footprint

You may know about your carbon footprint, but what do you know about your “plastic footprint”? How much plastic trash are you responsible for?

Activist and author, Beth Terry, has been collecting and tallying her plastic trash since 2007 and encourages others to participate in the Plastic Trash Challenge:

Do you know your plastic footprint? Join others from around the world. Collect your plastic waste (both recyclable and non) for one week or more. Then photograph, tally, and post it here.

On the page about the rules for the challenge, it states that “Guilt is not encouraged. Nor are comparisons with other people whom you perceive to be doing “worse” or “better” than you in terms of plastic waste. This exercise is for purely educational purposes. Guilt doesn’t help.” 

Actually, it goes on to say that two more times. That’s how important the message is. The challenge is meant to teach you, to show you the amount of plastic trash you are responsible for and hopefully encourage you to find ways to lessen your plastic footprint.

While I never participated in the Plastic Trash Challenge, it did prompt me to take a closer look at what I was “throwing away”. 

Here’s a quick list of some of the plastic that used to end up in my trash:

  • plastic bags for: flour, sugar, salt, pasta, bread, lentils, beans, eggs, take-away food, laundry soap

  • plastic bottles for: olive oil, vegetable oil, vinegar, tahina, molasses, honey, dish soap, shampoo

  • plastic boxes for: helawa, cheese, sour cream

  • polystyrene trays/plastic wrap for: cheese, nuts, strawberries, butter, agwa, meat

  • Tetra Paks for: milk, buttermilk, juice

  • yogurt containers

  • plastic packages for tissue and toilet paper rolls

  • tubes of toothpaste, deodorant cream, shaving cream

This list is not exhaustive. (And some of these items still end up in my trash.) It made it clear, though, that while REFUSING plastic shopping bags and bottled water was a good start, I could do more to reduce my plastic footprint.

In her book, Ms. Terry, recommends considering the following questions after you’ve taken a look at the plastic you “throw away”:

  • Which items can you replace with plastic-free or less-plastic alternatives?

  • Which items could you give up?

  • Which items are essential?

  • Which items have no alternative?

  • Are lifestyle changes necessary to rid your life of some of these plastic items?

Over the last few years, we have been able to find plastic-free or less-plastic alternatives for many of the items on our list. And that, of course, is what this blog is really about: sharing with you these alternative practices and products that are available and practical here in Dahab.

I encourage you to participate in your own Plastic Trash Challenge! Start to pay attention to what you are “throwing way”. And stay tuned. Over the new few weeks and months, we’ll be exploring and discussing the questions posed by Ms. Terry and how we can each reduce our plastic footprint. 

* Original photo of plastic trash above taken by Steve Wilhelm.

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

Don’t Mess with Dahab – What’s it all about?

The title for this blog was inspired by my Texan heart, who remembers with fondness the Don’t Mess with Texas anti-litter campaign, sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation. The campaign successfully reduced litter on Texas highways by about 70%.

Beyond its immediate role in reducing litter, the slogan became a Texas cultural phenomenon and the slogan has been popularly appropriated by Texans. Though the origin of the slogan is not well known outside of Texas, it appears on countless items of tourist souvenirs. The phrase “Don’t Mess with Texas” is a frequently cited example of pride in Texas culture.                                                              ~wikipedia

I lived in Texas for 9 years of my life, and the phrase Don’t Mess with Texas puts a smile on my face every time. You may even have seen my hubby walking around town sporting a Don’t Mess with Texas t-shirt (which puts an extra big smile on my face)!

So when I needed a title for this blog, my love for Texas and for the environment led naturally to “Don’t Mess with Dahab”.

This blog is not really about littering. But it is about mess.

If you have been to Dahab, you know we have a problem with mess, or rubbish, or garbage, or za3bella. No matter what word we use, there is no denying the problem. It’s everywhere! Residents understand and are quick to point out the obstacles we face in dealing with this problem: Garbage collection services provided by the city government are inefficient. Dumpsters are sparse and broken, causing the trash to be scattered along the road by the wind or hungry goats and sheep.

Getting things done in Egypt is never easy, but the Dahab community often comes together for clean-up efforts – in the desert, along the shore, and underwater as well – and have organized other initiatives to provide more bins and collection points.

But no one is talking about HOW MUCH rubbish there is. And that is the one thing that each of us can do something about personally.

If each of us “throws away” less rubbish, there will be less rubbish for the wind to blow around, less rubbish for the goats to scamper through, less rubbish finding its way into our seas and deserts, and less rubbish for everyone to clean up!

Makes sense, right?

If you’ve participated in one of the clean-ups or had a closer look at the piles of rubbish lying around, you’ve probably realized that a lot of our trash is plastic. (There are a lot of environmental and health problems associated with plastic, but for now, let’s focus on the fact that we need to – and can! – do something about the sheer amount of it.)

Learning how to use less plastic is something I’ve been working on personally for the last few years and I thought it was time to share with others what I’ve discovered. Hence, the blog.

I plan to share ideas and practical advice on how to reduce our use of plastic. I will highlight individuals, shops, and restaurants that make using less plastic easier. I will share our own personal experiences – sometimes frustrating, other times hopeful – in our adventure to live a life with less plastic here in Dahab.

I hope the blog keeps me more accountable for my use of plastic. If I’m going to be blogging to others about using less plastic, I’d better be following my own advice!

I hope that readers will also share their own ideas about how to use less plastic here in Dahab. I am not an expert and my life is not 100% plastic-free (and will most likely never be) so I know there is a lot still out there for me to learn. I am not a diver, a dog-owner, a surfer, a parent…so I’m counting on those of you who are to share the plastic-reducing challenges and successes that you’ve had specific to your hobbies and lifestyle.

I hope that we will discuss ways to live a more environmentally-friendly existence in general. I hope that we will become more aware, more responsible, and more pro-active.

I hope that you will join me on this journey.

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle