An Egyptian startup is aiming to turn more than 5 billion plastic bags into tiles tougher than cement as it tackles the twin problems of tonnes of waste entering the Mediterranean Sea and high levels of building sector emissions.

“So far, we have recycled more than 5 million plastic bags, but this is just the beginning,” TileGreen co-founder Khaled Raafat told Reuters. “We aim that by 2025, we will have recycled more than 5 billion plastic bags.”

At the company’s factory, on the outskirts of Cairo, workers carry large barrels loaded with mixed plastic waste to be melted down and compressed.

The resulting tiles are sold to real estate developers and contracting companies for use in outdoor paving.

Egypt is one of the worst polluters in the Mediterranean region with around 74,000 tonnes of plastic waste entering the sea per year, according to a 2020 report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a non-profit organisation.

Plastic waste is often discarded in the street or disposed of in informal dumps or burned.

The North African country, which hosted the United Nations COP27 climate summit last November, has in recent years banned the use of single-use plastics in several provinces.

Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad told Reuters at COP27 that the government was working with supermarkets to ban single-use plastics by mid-2023 and was aiming to ban them nationally by 2024. (Reuters)