Posts Tagged ‘Zaballeen’

Million dollar trashies

Thursday, November 5, 2009 sends a warm congratulations to The Spirit of Youth Association—an association of Zaballeen from the Caireen shantytown of Manchiet Nasser—who recently received a $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The grant was announced following a screening of the documentary Garbage Dreams (which we’ve touted here on more than one occasion) at the International Sustainability Conference in Cairo. The Spirit of Youth Association is the nonprofit that runs the recycling school featured in Garbage Dreams.

Iskander, Nabil, Osama & Adham

Mai Iskander, Nabil, Osama & Adham of "Garbage Dreams"

Special Kudos to filmmaker Mai Iskander for harnessing the power of journalism to raise awareness around the Zaballeen and informal trash picking communities in general and to Adham, Nabil, Osama and their teacher, Laila, for lending their life stories to the cause. More to come on this evolving story.

Solar Cities

Monday, October 19, 2009

Since the Egyptian government killed all their pigs, the Zabaleen trash picking community of Cairo have had no use for the organic waste they used to collect as food slops, thus creating a trash crisis for the city at large. NPR reports on a couple of positive developments. One, the Zabaleen neighborhoods now smell better (though other parts of Cairo now stink more) and an organization called Solar Cities has been building bio-gas and solar fueled heaters for the Zabaleen providing hot water to a community that has never had it before and creating a use for some of the organic waste plaguing Cairo.

Listen to the Weekend Edition clip and check out production assistant Kimberly Adamspost on NPR’s blog Soapbox describing her recent trip to Egypt and Solar Cities’ work there.

Trashtastic Tuesday with Mai Iskander

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Trashtastic Tuesdays return to today after a bit of a hiatus. Filmmaker Mai Iskander was kind enough to answer our questions about her powerful film, Garbage Dreams. Those of you in LA, take note,  the film is playing at the Arclight from August 14-20th with Iskander in attendance the first three nights.

Mai Iskander

Mai Iskander photo via

everydaytrash: How long did this project take you and how did you identify your main subjects?

Iskander: Garbage Dreams is a labor of love that took four years to make. By 2005, I had been working in the film business as a cinematographer for five years and decided to take the winter off and spend it in Cairo. I returned to the garbage village and started volunteering at the local neighborhood school, The Recycling School. The teachers and students really impressed me. Despite their difficult and impoverished life, they were extremely proud in their way of life and their history – and they should be.

The Zaballeen have created the world’s most effective resource recovery system, recycling 80 percent of everything they collect. They are actually saving our Earth. From out of the trash, they lifted themselves out of poverty and have a solution to the world’s most pressing crisis.

Unfortunately, in 2003, never having recognized these strikingly high recycling rates and following globalization trends, Cairo decided to hire three foreign waste companies to clean up its overpopulated mega-city of 18 million people. This Zaballeen community of 60,000 was slowly losing its livelihood.

Of course, as a filmmaker, I quickly saw potential for a story, but it was the teenagers who really drew me in. In addition to the fact that their way of life and community was in jeopardy, these kids were also facing typical teenage concerns: fashion, pop music and their workout routine, and their aspirations to be the coolest and most popular.
More after the jump

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