It finally happened! What finally happened you may ask?
June 8th saw the official launch of Camel Dive Club & Hotel outlets (Camel Bar, Pomodoro restaurants and Vanilla Café) only providing stainless straws for selected drinks and/or on request.
Why did it take so long?
A few local bars in Sharm el Sheikh had already started implementing no plastic straws from February 3rd (International Straw Free Day) after a group of eco-friendly residents who wanted to make a difference in Sharm set up a Facebook group, called “Straw Free Sharm” aimed at educating the local community.
Since its beginning in 1986, Camel Dive Club & Hotel has been pioneering eco-friendly ideas in Sharm el Sheikh thanks to their owner, Mr. Hesham Gabr, who cares greatly about global and local environmental issues. This latest revolutionary move was driven by the amount of non-biodegradable plastic straws that were found during Camel’s regular underwater clean ups, causing research to begin into reducing plastic straw use at all Camel Dive Club & Hotel food & beverage outlets.
The project had a significant number of challenges and we wanted to take our time and find a way that Camel could become straw free, whilst ensuring no detrimental effect on our customer service or the local environment. The Camel marketing team have been working on this project since November 2017. It has been an interesting journey where the whole team has learnt a lot about straw use in general. I think if any of us ever see another plastic straw again, it will be too soon!
We learnt that there are no eco-friendly plastic alternative straws available in Egypt. However, thanks to our fantastic engineering department we have also learnt that it is relatively simple to get them manufactured locally for a small fee. One of the most surprising discoveries that we made was that the outlets at Camel Dive Club & Hotel used 32,150 plastic drinking straws in 2017 alone. As Mr Hesham Gabr said: “This has to stop!”
After many hours of in-depth research and thorough road tests of samples that we had acquired, we decided that the stainless steel reusable straw was going to be the best option (even though we are a bit concerned about possible thefts.) The humble stainless steel straw stood up to hygiene and satisfaction tests, as well as definitely providing the best slurp-ability for the duration of the drink. Did you know that they even help to keep drinks cold?
The next bit of the puzzle was to find a supplier that could ship supplies to us in Egypt at a reasonable cost and if possible, without the stock being held up in customs for too long. Thanks to our friends Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown of Scubaverse, we managed to choose an extremely helpful supplier based in the UK called EcoStrawz.
After many emails and even more free samples, we placed the order. The project was finally starting to feel very real at last and it was very exciting. The stock destined for Camel was shipped to a UK address for collection by myself, then brought back to Sharm el Sheikh after a short trip to visit family. I can highly recommend it as a way to limit your UK shopping spree as an expat. There is not so much room for Jaffa Cakes and Marmite if you are trying to fit 150 stainless steel straws into your luggage!
150 stainless steel straws is not a lot you may think. However, after many calculations of how many drinks the Camel outlets sold in 2017, we decided that it would be enough as we only plan to give our guests a straw on request or with the slightly difficult drinks, for example cocktails that contain crushed ice, or the thick fruit juices and milkshakes that we serve.
The straws made it safely to Sharm after a brief discussion at Sharm Airport about what they were. (At four o’clock in the morning after arriving in Sharm el Sheikh via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines, even I was struggling to explain what they were, and as some of you know, I can talk for Wales!)
We held a soft launch on May 25th after training all our waiting and bar staff who were incredible supportive of this project, to gain as much feedback as possible. The outcome was fantastic with enormous support from the whole community and, of course, our guests.
To celebrate this innovative outcome of reusable straws in Sharm el Sheikh and Egypt as a whole, Camel Dive Club and Camel Bar hosted an event on World Oceans Day, June 8th, 2018.
During the day, Camel boats successfully completed a Dive against Debris, in which over 30 staff and guests from the UK, the USA, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, Russia and of course Egypt, collected over 22kg of debris in just one hour underwater at two different dive sites in Sharm el Sheikh. Resident 12 year old Luca Hales, who recently was nominated as a PADI Ambassadiver, took part in the events, boosting the importance of educating younger generations, as well as the responsibility of the diving industry to set a role model when it comes to protecting the environment.
In the evening of the same day, during the weekly Divers’ Night at Camel Bar, residents and guests enjoyed a Quiz in aid of Project AWARE with rounds that included plastic, the Ocean and Egyptian topics, accompanied by a finger food buffet and dancing, combined with some excellent Karaoke singing that went on well in to the night.
It was a lot of fun, and as a community it was great to see so many different dive centers there and over 70 people in total; all united in their support of a plastic free world and future.
Hate Plastic Straws? Love Sharm and Camel Dive Club!
Inspired? Take a look at www.cameldive.com and book your trip!