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Delicious, Nutritious, and Plastic-Free Street Food

Where else can we REFUSE plastic shopping bags?

By Bernadette Simpson

Besides the typical shopping bags, there are other plastic bags that we can learn to REFUSE – like the small bags that are used at the local ful and tameya shops. If you are anything like my husband and me – lovers of this local traditional street food – REFUSING these smalls bags can save a lot of plastic from ending up in the dumpsters.

Nadim buys his lunch nearly every day: one ful with egg sandwich and one aubergine sandwich. His favorite place – and one that has learned his plastic-free habit – is Abu Ahmed’s. It has taken some time, but Nadim has developed the habit of bringing his own reusable plastic containers to the shop and asking the servers to use these instead of the plastic bags. It has taken some time for the shopkeepers to get used to Nadim’s request, but it has happened. In fact, a few weeks ago, he left the house without a container but decided to buy lunch anyway and the shop owner asked Nadim where his box was!

TIP: If you don’t own any lightweight reusable containers, check to see if you have any old food containers that you can REUSE, for example, the plastic boxes that cheese, sour cream, or helawa come in.

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My favorite shop is no longer open, but there they would wrap the loose tameya or sandwiches in paper before putting them in a plastic bag, making it easy to REFUSE the bags and take the yummies away in only paper. Many shops will still use paper for the loose tameya but not the sandwiches. I wonder why more shops don’t use paper for sandwiches and how we can convince them to do so.

TIP: If you forget your own container, check to see if the shop has paper. If they are not too busy, they should be willing to use that instead of plastic bags for your order of sandwiches.

TIP: If the shop is really busy when you arrive, be prepared to wait. Interrupting the factory-like production of the sandwiches with a request for no plastic bags is sometimes difficult. Hang in there! And don’t be discouraged if your request doesn’t always get fulfilled.

TIP: If you carry a backpack or a large purse, put your reusable food containers in the pack before you leave the house in the morning. That way you’ll always be prepared for a delicious, nutritious, and plastic-free snack!

Do you like to eat the traditional Egyptian street food? Would you be willing to try to bring your own containers? Or do you already use your own food containers? Do you have a favorite shop or can you recommend one that is willing to take the time to fill your containers instead of plastic bags or one that uses paper instead of plastic?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle


Bernadette Simpson is the author of the field guide Wandering through Wadis: A nature-lover’s guide to the flora of South Sinai and An ABC Escapade through Egypt. To learn more about her campaign to reduce disposable plastic, visit:

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