Posts Tagged ‘Zabbaleen’

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.

Go see Garbage Dreams

Monday, August 3, 2009

CORRECTION: In the original post, I incorrectly assumed the Laila in the film was Laila Iskandar Kamel, the award-winning advocate, because I had heard about this famous Laila who worked with the Zabaleen. As it turns out, there are two Laila’s dedicated to this valient cause. This Leila apologizes for the error.

It’s been a trash-packed weekend, kids. After an amazing afternoon at the University of Trash on Saturday, I headed down to the IFC Center today for a noon screening of Garbage Dreams, Egyptian filmmaker Mai Iskander‘s documentary about three young men growing up Zabaleen in Cairo.  New Yorkers, take note, it’s playing through Thursday as part of DocuWeeks 2009. And if you’re in LA, there’s a docuequivalent.  Here’s the trailer for those who missed it the first time we posted it.

The story follows teenagers Adham, Nabil and Osama as well as  Laila, a social worker who runs The Recycling School, a place where young community members learn about everything from safe recycling practices to how to negotiate a fair contract with local residents to collect their trash. I won’t give away the whole plot, but a lot of the conflict centers around the fact that after 100 years of depending on the Zabaleen, the city of Cairo signs contracts with foreign waste hauling companies who threaten the trash pickers’ way of life. It’s an emotionally pulling conflict. My natural instinct is to root for the Zabaleen to win out and remain the city’s trash collection system, but it’s hard to feel good about all that comes along with that profession…life in a garbage slum, generation after generation working harder for less money, dangerous contact with sharp and toxic materials…

You never hear from the Egyptian government in this film. Or from the foreign waste companies. And I was never quite sure who was buying the plastic and metal recycled by the Zabaleen. The film left me curious about many things—not the least of which is the source of the often repeated stat that Cairo recycles 80% of its waste thanks to the Zabaleen. After watching the film, I believe it, but would like to know how it was calculated. Overall, though, the film accomplishes its main objective: to put a human face on a group of invisible people. Check it out and let me know what you think.

P.S. My favorite part is when two of the boys visit Wales to observe recycling in a developed country as part of some government program or something and one says to the other: “Dude, did you see that? That car just slowed down to let someone cross the street!” Spoken like a true Caireen.

A world of shocking odors

Monday, May 25, 2009
Shawn Baldwin for The New York Times

Shawn Baldwin for The New York Times

Great Zabaleen article in the Times accompanied  by a short video and these stellar images by photographer Shawn Baldwin.

It is a world of shocking odors and off-putting sights. But it is their world, the world of the zabaleen, hundreds of thousands of people who have made lives and a community by collecting Cairo’s trash and transforming it into a commodity.

Garbage Dreams

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Recommended by unconsumption and SXSW.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A friend at the UN researching nongovernmental organizations sent me this link today, to The Association for the Protection of the Environment (A.P.E.).

Garbage seperation project

Garbage seperation project

Since 1984 this NGO has worked to organize Egyptian garbage collecting families in and around Cairo. They run a composting center, health programs for mothers and children and a paper recycling program. They also coordinate a series of microfinance activities, helping families make and sell rag rugs, patchwork and recycled stationary. The funds raised go into community projects like new roads, schools, clinics and tree planting. Sadly, the links to buy their goods don’t seem to work or I would pimp them here.

RIP Sister Emanuelle

Sunday, October 26, 2008

From Voice of America:  “Born in Brussels, Sister Emmanuelle lived and worked with a scavenger community in Cairo for more than 20 years. She founded an association that built a school and provided trucks for the Zabbaleen community there, which has become internationally known for its recycling practices.”

Via FP Passport.  Photo ripped from the Washington Post

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