In January 2019, Alaa Abdel Halim, governor of Qalyubia (a northeastern region of Egypt), announced that the governorate is in the process of establishing a three-stage waste recycling plant [1,2]. The plant will have the capacity to hold up to 4,000 tons of garbage per day and is intended to collect garbage, recycle materials, and generate energy (most likely through incineration). The decision was discussed at a meeting attended by officials of the company that will help in establishing the plant, Deputy Governor of Qalyubia Eman Rayyan, Director of the Department of Cleanliness Islam Ragab and Director General of Finance and Administration Adel Sabra [1,2]. The governor also discussed plans with the company to launch a smartphone application through which citizens can send images of locations with garbage for local authorities to remove [1,2].
Not many other details have been released about the plant other than the fact that it is intended to promote a healthier environment and prevent the burning of waste, particularly in the slum districts. While the overall plan seems like a good way to reduce the amount of garbage in the streets, it is unclear as to whether the plant would be diverting recyclables away from local wastepicker communities, who make a living by collecting, and repurposing/selling recyclable materials from residential areas and dumpsites. It seems more than likely that with the initiation of the private company’s recycling/incinerator plant effort, it will seek to maximize profits by privatizing and restricting access to recyclable waste. If this holds true, many of the region’s urban poor, for whom wastepicking is a viable livelihood strategy, will be further marginalized.
The construction of a waste incineration plant for power generation is not the only project underway in the governorate of Qalyubia. In May 2018, Khaled Fahmy, Minister of the Environment, announced a plan for the decommissioning of the most dangerous garbage dumps in the governorates of Cairo, Qalyubia, Monufiya, Daqaliya, and Gharbia. This will close down landfills and creating newer, more modern ones in remote areas . While there have been no open signs of protest from wastepickers who may be impacted by the incinerator construction project or the anticipated landfill closures and relocations, we’ll be monitoring the consequences of this undertaking closely.