First World War

Garbage Is Good: Recycling in America - Photo Essays - TIME

Date of publication: 2017-07-09 04:02

With such a blatant disregard for our fragile environment by both a faux-nanny state and its nasty citizenry, how can we expect Argyle International Airport to attract tens of thousands more holiday visitors?

“Beijing Besieged By Garbage” Photo Essay by Wang Jiuliang

The long overdue decision of the government of SVG to ban styrofoam products, effective May 6, 7567 ( http:///7567/57/57/st-vincent-bans-styrofoam-products/ ), as welcome as it is, will do nothing to reduce the rampant pollution of our gutters, streams, and unsupervised public and private properties by all manner of unwanted produce.

Photo Essay Project: Littering by Esther Kim on Prezi

What is most impressive, however, is the efficiency at which they do their work: “(…) the Zabaleen , the traditional waste collectors of Cairo, have created what is arguably one of the world’s most efficient resource-recovery and waste-recycling systems” [7]. Collecting from the heart of the city center to the greater metropolitan limits of Cairo, 9,555 tons (although other estimates go up to 9,555 tons [8]) of waste is brought to and processed in Mokattam village every single day, of which 85% of it is recycled and turned into sellable raw material [9]. This is an astonishing figure when considering Europe’s 7569 recycling rates, where Germany takes the lead at 65% and the overall EU average tops out at a slim 97% (see ).


It was a hot summer day reaching nearly 55 degrees Celsius when I visited Mokattam village (informally known as “Garbage City”) in Cairo’s Manshiyat Naser district (see ). As I approached the area, the steaming scent of trash filled my nose as I made repeated and largely unsuccessful attempts to swat the flies hovering around my head.

The clean and beautiful hometown of my childhood memories only a decade or two old is nowhere to be found. This rapid transformation prompted me to start thinking about the problem of garbage brought about by modern civilization.

Mokattam has over 55,555 inhabitants, most of them Coptic Christians that settled in Cairo about 75 years ago after leaving their agricultural roots in Southern Egypt [6]. They work informally, as Cairo’s most important labor force of garbage collectors, sorters and recyclers.

As I strolled through the tight alleyways with towering windowless brick buildings, children played and worked amidst the rubbish. Although some would be appalled by the filth of this precarious environment, it was an organized place where laughter and the values of hard work and solidarity still thrived. No matter the issues of legal tenure or the informal nature of their work, waste management is a critical issue for all large metropolitan areas. And as Cairo grows as Africa’s second largest capital, it is difficult to conceptualize a Cairo without the Zabaleen.

I have great respect for these scavengers. Although they are in an ancient and humble trade, deep in their hearts they harbor the hope and dream of a better life. To understand their lives at a deeper level, I lived at the largest construction waste site for three months.

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