If you ever find yourself visiting Cairo, Egypt, then you might be better off avoiding the Zebela Medina area. It”s not to be avoided so much for the crime or the poverty, but for the smell.
Over the last 100 years, Zebela Medina has become the city”s unofficial garbage dumping ground. However, that hasn”t stopped the people there from creating one of the continent”s most profitable recycling businesses.
This is a common scene throughout Zebela Medina: trucks loaded with huge garbage bags filled almost to bursting.
The trucks come and leave the garbage in the district. It”s become a way of life for the residents there.
While it may seem insane that people would live where garbage is being dumped, the people of Zebela Medina City make it work.
They are known as “Zabbaleen,” or “Trash People”.
The Zabbaleen are responsible for collecting, sorting, selling, and recycling the majority of Cairo”s garbage.
In fact many of them are the ones bringing garbage into Medina Zabbaleen.
Of course life as a “trash person” isn”t easy, but when there are few other options they make it work.
From the outside Medina Zabbaleen looks like any other poor district in Cairo. The only giveaway are the stacks of garbage bags on every corner, and probably the smell.
The children of Medina Zabbaleen learn to spot pieces of plastic, cotton, metal, and iron within the heaps of garbage from a very young age. These are valuable materials that can sold for profit.
Despite their hardships, the area”s 60,000 residents have become a hardy community of self styled entrepreneurs.
For the last 40 years, the people of Zebela Medina have worked to refine and improve their garbage collection and sorting techniques.
Every man, woman, and child in the district works and contributes something to the sorting.
However despite some technological developments, the majority of the garbage sorting is still done by hand.
Because of this many “trash people,” are infected with hepatitis.
Still though, that has not stopped the people of Zebela Medina from being one of the most efficient trash collectors, and recyclers in Africa.
It”s estimated that Zebela Medina collects about 4,500 tons of trash every day, and that nearly 85 percent of the trash collected is recycled. That”s a better number than most western countries.
The business of recycling in Zebela Medina is in fact slowly becoming the most profitable business in all of Egypt.
Of course there are still health, and logistical challenges for the people of Zebela Medina to overcome.
But the people of Zebela Medina are hopeful for the future. Slowly but surely they are formalizing their garbage collection business, and they are even winning contracts from the city of Cairo, and some of its most prestigious businesses.
(source: Izismile, Upenn)
What the people of Medina Zabbaleen are doing is the definition of making the best of a bad situation, and that is truly admirable. Plus the work they”re doing is helping to save the planet, which is always a plus.