‘Out to sea’ showcases plastic waste disaster
Darb 1718 guide next to plastic garbage collected from the Red Sea and Mediterannean - Hanan Fayed for The Cairo Post

CAIRO: An interactive exhibition on the hazards of plastic waste was opened Friday at Darb 1718 in Cairo, aiming to “change people’s behavior” towards plastic consumption, Roman Aerbersold, head of the Plastic Garbage Project at the Museum of Design, Zurich.

“Every year, more than 6 million tons of plastic garbage gets dumped into the oceans, with enormous negative consequences for health and environment,” Richard Brogle, executive director of Droses Foundation said.

The “Out to Sea? The Plastic Garbage Project” exhibition, ongoing until Monday, includes films about plastic ending up in the sea, piles of plastic garbage collected from the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, and samples from beach sand full of plastic particles. A guide explains the different kinds of plastic to the audience, and how some plastic products can be replaced with degradable alternatives.

Plastic particles in beach sand - Hanan Fayed for The Cairo Post

Plastic particles in beach sand – Hanan Fayed for The Cairo Post


A workshop concludes the exhibition, where products made of recycled plastic are displayed and attendees make wallets, decorations, and other things of used plastic bags, lids and bottles.

“The majority of the garbage collected was plastic. The garbage collected was not only from the shores, but also from the bottom of the sea. We do not know how they ended up there, because we found things that are not used by swimmers or boats,” said Reem Hatem, deputy head of Darb 1718.

The project is organized by the Museum of Design, Zurich and Droses Foundation, and has landed in Egypt after touring Europe, as its first station in the Middle East before Morocco, Lebanon and Jordan.

“Egypt produces 75 to 80 million tons of solid waste a year, 12 million of which are the waste of daily human activity. Of the human activity waste, six to 12 percent is made of plastic,” Amin el-Khayal, head of the solid waste department of the Ministry of Environment, said at the Wednesday pre-opening of the exhibition.

Because plastic does not break down for over 50 years, the ministry is supporting manufacturers make biodegradable plastic so it decays after a certain amount of time, Khayal added.

“Every year, more than 6 million tons of garbage reach seas, and 75 percent of them are made of plastic,” Aerbersold, head of the project, said.

There is not a square kilometer of sea water that is free of plastic particles, which enters the food chains with “serious impacts” on health, Aebersold added.

The consumption pattern of Egyptians changed due to the abundant plastic alternative, as they stopped using bags made of paper and cloth, with the lifecycle of a plastic bag around five minutes only, said Mohamed el-Mongy, vice secretary-general of Global Ecovillage Network, Africa.

 “The toxicity of fish that consume plastic particles and end up on our plates might be low now, but it is increasing,” Mongy said.

Former Minister of Environment Laila Iskandar led a campaign to separate solid waste from organic waste in households to facilitate recycling before she became the minister of local development in June.

Cairo and Giza produce 20,000 tons of garbage, Zabaleen (garbage collectors) collect over half of this amount. Apporximately 750 workshops of 1,500 are specialized in plastic and export recycled products to China, Romania, as well as sell them to local factories, Ezzat Naim, head of the Zabaleen Syndicate, said at the preopening.

“The most important thing you can take home after visiting the exhibition is that you start a process in your mind; you will reconsider how we use plastic. You will be aware next time you see plastic garbage on the street,” Aebersold said.

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