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THE ZABBALEEN OF MANSHIYAT NASER

At the base of Cairo's Mokattam Hills lies a remarkable city known as Manshiyat Naser, or more colloquially, "Zabbaleen City." Its inhabitants, referred to as the Zabbaleen, an Egyptian Arabic term meaning "Garbage People" have developed an extraordinary waste management system. Despite its simplicity, the Zabbaleen's waste sorting processes achieve an impressive recycling rate of 85% from the 7,000 tons of waste they process daily.

To modernize Cairo's waste disposal system, the government has signed multimillion-dollar contracts with multinational companies. These companies, although officially licensed, struggle to navigate Cairo's narrow streets, hindering their effectiveness. In contrast, the Zabbaleen operate without official licences but have proven to be far more efficient and effective in recycling.

Integrating the Zabbaleen into Cairo's official waste management system could bring significant benefits to the entire city. Their expertise and proven efficiency in recycling could enhance the overall waste disposal process, reduce environmental impact, and provide the Zabbaleen with formal recognition and better working conditions. This integration could transform Cairo's waste management into a model of sustainability and efficiency, leveraging the strengths of the Zabbaleen while addressing the logistical challenges faced by the current system.

Cairo, Egypt 2019

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