October 22, 2009

Being Green in Egypt

When I first got to Egypt the first thing I looked for were recycling bins....and they were no where to be found. I kept searching and I found out that the American University in Cairo does have bins to recycle paper in. It is my understanding that they sell the recycled paper to NGOs to use. Then I realized that on our trash cans there are signs that say "Wet Trash" and "Dry Trash"...meaning Dry Trash are recyclable things and Wet Trash is not recyclable things. However, drama has started on campus because people don't know if the Dry Trash is actually being recycled. We (the hippie americans) are looking into this...I think it has gotten some wider campus acknowledgment though.

I clearly have gotten spoiled by SMCM who has recycling bins EVERYWHERE! You don't see a trash can without seeing a recycling bin close by. It's quite wonderful. Plus SMCM has started placing Compost Bins in places where student would be throwing away food. (eg by the dorms, by the Campus Center etc) I haven't had much stuff to compost at school since I have been living in dorms....but here we have been cooking a lot because food on campus is expensive and a part of me dies every time I have to throw away veggie bits that could be composted. I'm always tempted to throw them out in the gardens...but I know that if I do that the cats/dogs that roam campus will start roaming around the dorms and that poses many problems.

I also grew up in a house where we composted anything we could. My Dad pretty much walked behind everyone in my family my whole life telling us to turn off the lights when we left rooms. I was never allowed to leave food on my plate at dinner and we have been recycling for years. So I am pretty biased on this subject....but I feel like most people would agree with me that SOMETHING has to change and soon!

I have also seen a HUGE problem with students leaving trash everywhere. And I hate to say it but it seems to only be Egyptian/Arab students who do this. The vast majority of the school population at AUC is extremely privileged and they are used to having people clean up after them. Most of them have maids at home and they clean up after them. But they need to realize that they aren't at home! You can't just leave your trash outside of the Cafeteria and expect it to go away. Often the trash sits around for days before people can get around to cleaning it up. I have also been behind people walking down the path and they will drop trash on the ground right out in the open! I have to wonder if this is just complete and total disregard for what they are doing, or if it is because they are ignorant to the horrible consequences of constant littering?

I can only hope that AUC starts implementing some sort of active recycling plan in the near future and also environmental awareness education. Because when it comes down to it...things may be getting better in the United States with becoming more "Green"...but that is only ONE country. There are thousands of countries out there that need a complete and total U-haul.

Just something to think about...


  1. that's horrible. People really need to step it up. But unfortunately, the US isn't really stepping up either. We do so in name but not in action. We're the biggest perpetrators of global climate change, and we will be for quite a while...

  2. When I studied abroad in the Gambia it was really difficult to get used to the fact that trash was, quite literally, everywhere. There weren't even trashcans available to throw things in. Gambians find it completely normal and custom to abandon their trash on the ground, wherever they may be. It was especially difficult for me because I would often save any trash I had until I got back to my compound and disgard of it there. In the end, this was pretty useless because when the trash was taken out of the compound, it was just dumped in a pile behind a nearby soccer field. On the last Saturday of every month Gambians would have a national cleaning day and spend all morning sweeping up the trash in the streets and burning it - unfortunately it is the only system they have available to dispose of their waste (including toxic items). If I were you I'd be curious to look into the larger waste-management sytem of Egypt. I assume they have more structure (especially since there actually are public trashcans). Good luck spreading the word - clean up, clean up, clean up. The goats can't eat it all!

  3. Hi butthead! Just wanted to say I have been trying to catch up on your blog.. I am jealous of your life! Stay green and miss youuuu

  4. You bring up a good point sarah! It is basicly senseless for us (The USA) to try and implment anything with out the other countries being on board.

    As to people throwing trash on the ground right out in the open. I think it is more cultural then anything....... Its a lack of respect for things around them....

  5. I would completely agree with you Danny. The lack of respect around here blows my mind sometimes. (Wow we agreed again....what is this world coming to!!!??? LOL)