Dow and WasteAid partner to solve the problem of the Plastic Nile

WasteAid, an international non-governmental organisation that shares waste management and recycling skills in lower- and middle-income countries, has entered into an 18-month funded partnership with materials science company Dow to advance plastic waste recovery and recycling in Egypt.

 The partnership extends Dow’s global commitment to help advance a circular economy for plastics and reduce plastic waste and pollution in Africa.

Fisherman on the Nile
In 2020, a Sky News documentary, The Plastic Nile, uncovered the scale of plastic litter in Africa’s greatest river from its source, to where it meets the Mediterranean

Scalable and sustainable solutions

The project will see the organisations work with the public, private and community-level actors in Aswan, Egypt to support scalable and sustainable solutions for the collection and valorisation of post-consumer polyethylene (PE), which is used in a wide range of packaging applications, such as food packaging and household products.

Ceris Turner-Bailes, WasteAid CEO says: “A circular economy depends upon all parts of the value chain working in unison, from manufacturers and brands, to waste collectors and recyclers. We are delighted to be launching this partnership with Dow to uncover local solutions in Aswan to the recovery and recycling of plastic, with a particular focus on supporting informal waste collectors and recycling innovators who play a critical role in keeping materials in the loop.”

WasteAid will explore hotspots of plastic pollution, and then support local organisations and innovators to increase PE recovery and recycling. The project will leverage the expertise of both Dow and WasteAid to develop strong links with existing markets for post-consumer plastics.

Plastics waste challenge in Egypt

Sami Mainich, president North Africa and Levant at Dow comments: “We have a duty to help address the plastics waste challenge in Egypt and the wider African continent. To do this, we must advance circular solutions to fully close the loop on plastics waste. We can’t do this alone however, so collaborations across the value chain are critical to driving and scaling innovative technology and initiatives that benefit local communities. We are confident that this important partnership with WasteAid will help us to achieve our vision of a circular economy for plastics in Egypt and potentially, further afield.”     

Adwoa Coleman, Africa Sustainability and Advocacy manager, Packaging and Specialty Plastics at Dow, says: “Having been aware of WasteAid’s work for a number of years, we are excited to be launching this partnership as part of Project REFLEX in Africa – Dow’s programme designed to recycle flexible packaging. Dow has a strong global sustainability strategy and this work in Africa underpins our commitment to keeping valuable materials in the loop, to the benefit of all of society and the environment. We are looking forward to working with WasteAid on this novel approach to building a circular plastics economy in Egypt.”

The Plastic Nile

In 2020, a Sky News documentary, The Plastic Nile, uncovered the scale of plastic litter in Africa’s greatest river from its source, to where it meets the Mediterranean Sea (1). Worldwide, 95% of plastic packaging material value is lost to the economy after a short first-use cycle, and 32% escapes collections systems (2). Through this project, WasteAid and Dow will be working with local partners to turn a pollution problem into an economic opportunity, and strengthening the market for post-consumer plastics in Egypt.

In addition to finding new uses for post-consumer plastic, the project will have a strong socio-economic focus, to maximise the benefits of a circular economy among grassroots groups in Aswan. The partnership seeks to demonstrate the importance of locally-crafted solutions in the drive for recycling, sustainability and a circular economy.

This partnership is enabled by the Dow Business Impact Fund, a competitive grant program that designates corporate contributions toward shared value projects to help address social problems through the Company’s technology and expertise.

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(1)    Plastic Nile: Pulling up plastic from the world’s longest river is horribly, frighteningly easy

(2)    Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “The New Plastic Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics and catalysing action”, January 2016.

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