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A comprehensive municipal solid waste management scheme requires a model that is economical, efficient and sustainable

Dr. Hisham Sherif, ENTAG-ECARU Group CEO, shares his thoughts on the state of the waste management industry in Africa, particularly Egypt, the challenges facing the waste recycling sector, the current trends and key developments in the country as well as his role and contribution to this critical sector in an interview with Swaliha Shanavas.

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Business Leader
October 20 2019 Dr. Hisham Sherif
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Please tell us about your background and experience in the waste recycling industry. What inspired you to enter this industry?

I earned my M.Sc. degree in Chemical Engineering from Minia University in 1989, and Ph.D. under joint supervision of Minia University and Strathclyde University, Glasgow, Scotland, UK (1994). I had also worked as a Lecturer in the Chemical Engineering Department, Minia University. Since 2005 I have been working as Chief Executive Officer of Engineering Tasks Group (ENTAG), an Egyptian firm specialised in the design, construction management and procurement of material recovery facilities (MRF), sorting, composting and alternative solid fuel production as well as design and construction of landfills. I have assisted over 30 Municipalities in Egypt and abroad to upgrade composting facilities and to plan, construct, and operate new facilities.

I have vast experience in local and international procurement, laws and procedures governing licensing, import, and joint ventures. Moreover, from 1997 till date I have been working as CEO of Egyptian Company for Solid Waste Recycling (ECARU), Pioneer Company in Agricultural Residues(Biomass) Collection, Transportation and Treatment. ECARU is also operating MSW treatment facilities through processing and disposal contracts with Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA), Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Local Development. Through these projects different utilisation of MSW and agriculture residues (Biomass) have been investigated such as producing compost, animal feed, alternative energy, agro pellets and briquettes and biomass production for Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), and Pulp and Paper industries.

In 1995, the Government of Egypt implemented the Waste Treatment Programme that covers major areas of Egypt; through public-private partnerships, a simple composting system, which involves manual sorting and mechanical separation to produce compost. In 1998, I had signed a cooperation agreement with National Organisation of Military Production (NOMP), Ministry of Military Production to work as a technology provider in all these projects implemented in Egypt. Since 2002 I have been working internationally in designing and manufacturing MSW Treatment and Disposal equipment and systems and developing turnkey projects (including MRF, composting, RDF production and landfilling) in Libya, Malaysia, Sudan, KSA, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Nigeria and UAE.

As the CEO at Entag what does your role involve?

My role as CEO is to lead the development and execution of long-term strategies, with the goal of increasing the companies’ values. Since 1995, I have established Municipal Solid Waste, MSW treatment and disposal projects (MRF, composting, RDF production and landfilling) in Egypt from scratch; Starting 1997, I have established Integrated Biomass Projects including collection, transportation and processing in Egypt from the ground up; In 2010 I had registered for the first and only CDM project in Egypt; From 2011 till date I have established alternative solid fuel (RDF – BDF) production and supply in Egypt from scratch.

What do you love most about your job, and what is the most challenging aspect?

Waste management is a challenging, but ultimately fulfilling area of work to get into. Essentially, it’s all about planning and managing schemes that help reduce the environmental impact of waste that is produced by human activity or industrial operations.

What is your view on the development of the waste management and recycling industry in Egypt?

The treatment and disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW) is still a new concept in low-income areas of developing countries. Ineffective management of MSW is one of the major environmental problems. In 1995, the Government of Egypt established a plan for implementing Waste Treatment Programme that covers major urban centres. One of the approaches used to meet the demands of this highly ambitious goal was to create a simple composting system, which involves manual sorting and mechanical separation to produce organic composts.

To accomplish the tasks involved in reaching this goal, public-private-partnerships were formed. The parts and equipment needed for MSW treatment plants were manufactured in factories owned by the Government, which reduced the manufacturing costs tremendously. Private companies participated as technology providers of the MSW services in collaboration with international companies that could provide required system and equipment. The evolution of technology involved in MSW in Egypt has gone through a series of developments and modifications.

A comprehensive MSW management requires a model, which is economical, efficient, and sustainable. In waste management and recycling industry, the main components are the development of technological solutions and building the institutional capacity to fulfill the needs of MSW management. The development of the waste management and recycling industry in Egypt could be summarised as follows:

Technical Development

• Activation of a dedicated regulatory institution for solid waste management that builds capacities at the national level

• Expanding public private partnership (PPP) programmes and incentivising small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to participate in the solid waste management sector.

• Create a framework for adopting Organic Residues Management technologies. This would include preset standards for compost.

• Create a framework for adopting waste-to-energy technologies. This would include preset standards for RDF and plans to integrate waste-to-energy projects into economic sectors such as cement industry

• Landfill regulations and standards that provide a basis for compliance and monitoring should be established.

Legal Development

There is a need to revise the existing tender documents for integrated waste management to include lessons learned from on-going contracts. Missing conditions such as requiring the contractor to treat at least 60 percent of the municipal waste collected should be included. The law should be enforced to prevent the dumping of solid waste in prohibited locations.

Managerial Development

There is a definite need for building capacity of management and technical personnel to effectively manage the treatment facilities. Training should be provided at all levels.

Social Development

Public awareness programmes should be launched for source separation. The public and officials in MSW sector should also be aware that treatment and disposal (including sorting, composting, and proper landfilling) are services.

Political Development

There are many strategies for municipal solid waste management, these have to be evaluated and a single strategy developed to be applied countrywide. The major challenges to proper waste management in Africa are:

• The need for institutional, legislative or legal restructuring to make available effective tools for waste management

• One major challenge of MSW in Africa is the creation of enough capacity not only limited to monetary terms but also technological and infrastructural advancement

• Lack of financing and technical support for assisting the waste management sector. What are the key issues you face in effectively implementing various waste recycling projects in Africa?

• Lack of financing in waste recycling projects in Africa.

• Private sector should be actively involved and should be encouraged and allowed to partner with government bodies; this will lead to positive social, economic and environmental impacts.

How important is recycling in the context of Circular Economy and what opportunities does this sector present in Africa?

For a circular economy it is essential to recycle materials from waste in order to ‘close the loop’. The recovery of materials and energy from waste also plays an important role for the circular economy by producing valuable products from recyclables (paper, metals, glass, plastic, etc.) and compost for land fertilising and alternative solid fuel for heavy energy consuming industries and increasing the treatment conversion rates and minimising the amount of rejects diverted to landfill sites.

What are the current programmes that enhance the performance of this industry in Africa/Egypt?

There are various financing, governmental, technical and environmental programmes to assist and enhance waste management industry such as: Ministry of trade and industry, for industry and trade development strategy; Clean Development Mechanism, CDM; UNDP Egypt; African Development Bank; United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, UNECA; World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies; USAID Programmes; World Bank; NDF, Nordic Development Fund; IRENA, International Renewable Energy Agency.

What changes can we expect in this area in the near future? What are the key trends that are influencing the market and could reshape the waste recycling sector in Africa or specific country within?

The Africa waste management market is growing significantly and is expected to continue to grow further in the forecast period. Africa needs effective waste management providers that meet the regulatory requirements and address the waste issues in an effective manner.

Key Trends

that are influencing the market and could reshape the waste recycling sector in Africa are:

• Growing need for effective waste collection services and increasing recycling trend in Africa for producing recyclables, compost, and alternative solid fuel and renewable energy.

• Enhancement of the waste management financial modeling