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On a recent trip to Egypt in November as part of the ABTA 'thriving destinations' work stream I visited an amazing recycling centre in El Gouna - some 40 minutes outside of Hurghada. All of the hotel waste generated in El Gouna is taken to this site and separated into organic and non-organic waste. Cardboard boxes are compacted and sent to Cairo to be recycled, plastics are divided and things like shampoo and shower gel bottles undergo an amazing transformation - passing through various stages of washing, melting and cooling to eventually end up as a coat hanger which can be sold back to the hotels in the resort. Milk and juice cartons are manually turned into paper gift bags and envelopes - these can also be sold back to the hotels to go into their souvenir shops but this isn't yet as successful as the coat hangers.
Plastic bags have wreaked havoc around the red sea over recent years leading to a complete ban on them altogether last year in the Hurghada area. Not only are they unsightly but they are very dangerous to marine life, particularly turtles who can confuse them with jellyfish - leading to a very painful death. Most people think that plastic bags cannot be recycled however El Gouna has also come up with an innovative way of putting them to good use. A series of stages in different machinery turns the bags into extremely durable paving stones. The plastic is cleaned, shredded, melted and mixed with sand. Broken ceramics are placed into the bottom of a mould, the plastic and sand mixture is added and cooked - resulting in a very attractive hexagonal paving stone that can be used in the resort.
Approximately 1% of the waste from El Gouna actually goes to landfill, proving that it is a truly inspirational resort designed to minimise negative effects upon the precious environment that surrounds it. It would be a dream to see this replicated across destinations world wide - what a fantastic way of turning hotel waste into something useful that they actually buy back from you!
Jo Baddeley current student
Sustainable Destinations Manager
Thomas Cook UK & Ireland