Tuesday, 8 March 2022

The regs are out for the legislation that is supposed to solve Egypt’s growing waste problem

The executive regulations for the Waste Management Act are finally here. The regulations (pdf) set guidelines for the safe disposal of household, commercial, industrial, agricultural, and medical waste, and stipulate how waste disposal will be sustainably financed. The regulations also lay out a package of incentives to motivate private sector and small-scale players to chip in, as part of the drive to formalize waste management through a comprehensive national system.

Why do we need a Waste Management Act? First off, because we create a lot of waste at high expense. Egypt produces 50k-60k tonnes of solid waste per day, totaling 22 mn tonnes annually, at costs some estimate at as high as EGP 480 per tonne, as we reported previously. Solid waste collection fees introduced in 2005 don’t cover more than some 20% of that cost, while stubborn structural problems in the industry — including the lack of a nationwide collection infrastructure and a struggling recycling market — have proved a barrier to private sector participation.

A national strategy under one authority: The law tasks the Waste Management Regulatory Authority (WMRA) with creating and implementing a national strategy for integrated waste management. The exec regs lay out the strategy’s key aims: Limiting the production of waste; converting waste into profitable resources; and encouraging recycling. The strategy should also develop a framework for improving the environmental management of sanitary landfills.

With licensed private providers pitching in: Under the law, anyone managing or importing non-hazardous waste will need a license to do so from the WMRA, which will set the license fee. Applicants must disclose information on their operations, organizational structure and staffing, and equipment, and agree to keep electronic records of their business. Providers must also train workers in best practices. The authority should process applications within a month and the license lasts for a year.

Also under the WMRA’s remit: The authority is pretty much in charge of all things waste. It will advise on any new waste-related policy; approve development studies and projects in the sector; and sign off on waste-related spending in the draft state budget. The WMRA’s board will also approve each governorate’s local waste management plan. This all represents a much-expanded role for the authority, which had previously acted as an intermediary, rather than a policy leader.

The law aims to encourage small players and the private sector to get in on the integrated waste management system with a raft of perks and incentives (pdf). Among these are the promise of financial and technical support from the Medium, Small, and Micro Enterprises Development Agency (MSMEDA) for licensed municipal waste collectors, transporters and recycling companies who haven’t previously received similar perks.

Companies and facilities that voluntarily earmark a percentage of their net income to pay into the waste management system will also get tub-tubs from the Environment Ministry with an annual list of the best among these players, based on the impact of their activities on the environment.

The regs seek to limit single-use plastic bags: The regulations prohibit the sale, trade, or distribution of single-use plastic bags unless they comply with certain specifications, such as those issued by the Egyptian Organization for Standardization and Quality, including increasing their thickness to reduce their chances of being carried by the wind. Even then, retailers and producers are prohibited from distributing plastic bags without charge except with written permission from the WMRA. Medium and large outlets are also required to start using multi-use shopping bags and promote their use to customers.

Critically, there are financial incentives to support the alternatives: The Finance Ministry will offer incentives including tax and customs exemptions to encourage the import, production and manufacturing of safe, environmentally friendly alternatives to single-use plastic bags. These apply to projects recycling plastic bags or facilities manufacturing biodegradable plastic bags.

Producers will also get branding incentives to reduce waste: The WMRA and the Trade Ministry will grant “green label” certificates to manufacturers who make low-waste or recyclable products to motivate manufacturers to increase their recyclable inputs and reduce the generation of industrial waste. The green label will be awarded to products that are made without causing harm to human health or the environment, that rationalize water and electricity use in the manufacturing process, and that are packaged sustainably.

On municipal waste: The regs task authorities (whether that is NUCA or local governorate authorities) with putting an end to unlicensed landfills and waste dumps within two years of the Waste Management Act coming into effect. Under the rules, the authorities are responsible for everything from putting a plan for these dumps’ closure to safely disposing of their waste.The New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) will finance municipal waste management in new cities.The regs also include specs on where intermediate waste processing facilities should be located.

Toxic and hazardous waste: A technical committee manned by representatives from various authorities and ministries will create a list of the kinds of waste deemed toxic or hazardous, and lay out rules for its management. Companies working in toxic waste management must open a comprehensive ins. policy with a licensed ins. provider, with a value equal to at least 50% of their activity.

No more waste-filled construction sites? The WMRA will implement a new system for the collection, transportation and disposal of construction and demolition waste through licensed firms, including by working to provide treatment sites. Authorities including the Local Development Ministry, individual governorates, and NUCA will work in tandem to designate landfill and recycling sites for construction waste.

The rules for construction firms: Companies have 20 days after wrapping up a construction project to safely dispose of any waste on the site, for which they will bear the costs. They must contract with a licensed company to provide containers to collect the waste, which needs to be safely stored to prevent it polluting the surrounding environment. Hazardous waste needs to be separated from the rest. Firms who don’t comply with the new rules won’t be able to get their new buildings hooked up to utilities until their waste has been safely disposed of.

Industrial waste management will fall under the purview of the Trade Ministry, which will form a committee to set standards for and oversee its safe disposal or recycling.

Agricultural and medical waste: Animal and plant waste must be reused, treated, or given or sold to recycling companies, rather than left to rot in fields following the harvest or illegally dumped. The Health Ministry is set to introduce a system to sterilize and bury medical waste. Medical waste should be brought back to the supplier or factory of origin, if the expiration is yet to pass.

What’s next? Establishments have a year from when the regs were published to bring their waste disposal practices in line with the new rules.

Your top climate stories for the week:

  • EBRD to assess national green hydrogen strategy: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) signed an MoU with the electricity and oil ministries to assess the technical, economic, and regulatory feasibility of creating a “low carbon hydrogen economy in Egypt.”
  • COP27’s Dutch delegation will move around Sharm El Sheikh on bicycles.

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