Citizens in action: fighting plastic pollution at the grassroots level
When Manar Ramadan and Ahmed Yassin co-founded their start-up Banlastic in Alexandria, Egypt, they had a clear mission in mind: to ban single-use plastic and create a more sustainable future for their community.
As residents of Alexandria, a bustling coastal city that relies heavily on tourism, Manar and Yassin saw firsthand the devastating effects of plastic pollution on their local environment. From the litter on the beaches to the plastic waste clogging the streets, they knew they had to take action. Plastic waste is a major concern in the city, as it not only harms the environment but also poses a danger to wildlife and human health. Plastic bags, bottles, and other single-use plastics are commonly found litter on the streets, in parks, and on beaches. This not only affects the aesthetic of the city but also contributes to the clogging of drainage systems and the pollution of the Mediterranean Sea. The problem is exacerbated by a lack of proper waste management infrastructure and a lack of public awareness about the negative impact of plastic waste.
It all began when Manar earned her degree in electromechanical engineering. But instead of pursuing a career as an engineer, she chose to work with people on environmental projects. It wasn’t until she completed a master’s degree in sustainable development practices in India that she was truly inspired to take action. In India, she saw firsthand how a country could ban single-use plastic in just 10 years by implementing policies at the grassroots level. When she returned to Egypt, she realized that no one was doing anything to address the plastic pollution crisis.
Discover the story of Banlastic’s founders in video.
That’s when she, Ahmed Yassin, a former development worker, and Abdelkader Elkhaligi decided to join forces and co-found Banlastic in 2018.
Their solution? Developing alternative products that can replace single-use plastic, delivering trainings and workshops to educate the community about the harms of plastic pollution, and organising environmental events that bring attention to the issue. In Manar’s own words, their most important mission however consists in working hand-in-hand with policymakers to support their efforts and activate environmental laws.
Besides the founders, the Banlastic team is made up of people from diverse backgrounds – an oriental languages expert, an architect, a fine arts graduate – and even more diverse volunteers, from lawyers to economists to artists. Manar’s face is full of light when she talks about her team, and it is with a warm smile that she tells us she is convinced that their team’s diversity is one of their greatest strengths. This diversity also reinforces the idea that climate change is not the affair of a selected few, but that every citizen, no matter their background, can bring their own stone to the edifice.
When asked about the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis, Ahmed displays an ironic smile. He compares challenges to a videogame where every day introduces a new level. Ahmed however believes that the motivation to overcome them never wavers as their team is fueled by passion to accomplish their mission. Energized by everyone’s creativity and spirit, he is proud of their work and holds several memories close to his heart:
“We have two great accomplishments we are quite proud of and the first one is having worked with the Ministry of Education to give them a curriculum about plastic pollution […]. Hearing King Charles III of the United Kingdom pronounce the word “Banlastic” was also really lovely.” – Ahmed Yassin
The work Banlastic is carrying out is a perfect example of how a small group of passionate individuals can make a big impact. By developing practical solutions, educating the community, and raising awareness about the harms of plastic pollution, they are working to create a more sustainable future for all of us.
If you’re looking to make a difference in your community, consider supporting this start-up by purchasing their reusable shopping bags, attending their workshops, or volunteering with their environmental events. Together, we can create a plastic-free future for Alexandria and beyond.
More on the ARLEM Award – Young local entrepreneurship in the Mediterranean
Each year, the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM), in collaboration with partners and the Union for the Mediterranean, grants an award to young entrepreneurs from the Mediterranean region.
In a post-pandemic context, the collaboration of local & regional authorities is much needed to overcome its social and economic consequences. The ARLEM Award aims at showcasing successful examples of these collaborations, to inspire, motivate and replicate best practices and is, since 2021, framed under the annual celebrations of the Day of the Mediterranean.
In 2022, the ARLEM Award was attributed to Banlastic.
More on the UfM and the fight against climate and environmental changes
- Discover the work carried out by the Energy & Climate Change division, as well as the Water, Environment and Blue Economy
- Learn more about climate in our region with the first assessment report on the effects of climate change in the Mediterranean.