Impact Day: Step Up 2013

Partner Organization: El Gouna Recycling Plant

CISVers: Elevation Step Up camp (43 people)

Task: Replace majority of plant’s employees for the time we were there & have a normal work day (most staff were given the day off)

To prepare for our Impact Day we watched a video of a news reporter at a recycling plant, and that was our first hint on what we were going to be doing the next day. The next day started early and we were all anxious to get started, at around 8:00 am we were transferred to the nearby recycling plant that handles all of El Gouna’s garbage and waste material.

On arrival we were briefed by El Gouna Recycling Plant’s staff along with our SU staff on the work they do there and how they operate.

The structure of the plant was very straight forward, they have different divisions for different types of waste; it starts with the separation line where the trucks unload all the garbage and is then separated into plastic, paper, cans and organic waste. The separated items are then transferred to pressing where they compress them into cubes. The last stage was the processing line where the plastic was first made into small bead sized balls that where then used into the manufacturing of plastic hangers and plastic trash bags. There was also two stations where they made carpets and a wood shop to make little souvenirs that can be sold to tourists from spare wood.

We were given the choice of where we wanted to start helping and were grouped accordingly, so some people went to separation, pressing, processing, even carpet making and wood shop. In every station there were the plant’s staff to orient us on the machines they’ve been working on for years and help us get the hang of it and with a little help in translation from the staff it went quiet smoothly.

After a couple of hours of work we took a break and got the chance to switch stations which was a very beneficial change having people at separation go to processing and see what the garbage they’ve been dividing became and for those in processing to see what the new garbage bags and hangers were made from.

At the end of our working day we all gathered in the room where they sell various souvenirs that they hand make in the wood shop and were thanked by the very moved and motivated staff of the plant, praising us for our effort and how they were not expecting this much from any of us having had tourists visit their plant before but usually to observe but never to actually “get their hands dirty” and dive in their work. They shared with us how they were not expecting this much from us that they planned for a slow production day and arranged for fewer garbage truck than they usually handle and to their surprise and ours they ended up getting processing more trucks in the hours we were there than they usually do on a normal work day.

Through out the day we talked to many of the plant’s staff and heard many of their stories the most memorable is the man who’s been working in recycling for 17 years, first in Cairo and then moving on to El Gouna. It was very touching to see how proud he is of his job given the stigma that goes with working with trash in most of Egypt.
This was a difficult challenge for many of us, but we did it and we learned a lot! Not only did we learn how the recycling process goes, but we were able to take small actions, and see them in the bigger picture. When we went back to our campsite,  we had a discussion and debriefing about the day and the work we did, some of the debriefing comments went something like this “if the workers can do it, I can do it”, “Now I am more aware of all the food and stuff we waste in our everyday life”, “many countries would be much cleaner and healthier for the people living there, if there were more plants like this one.” At the end of the day delegates felt that they gained more than they gave.