Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014

Read more

ENCORE!

Alain Choquette: A Hilarious Magician in Paris

Read more

FOCUS

France welcomes Iraqi Christian refugees

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Emmanuel Macron: A new economy minister with a pro-business agenda

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

#TECH 24

Changing the world, one video game at a time

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Socialist Party summer conference kicks off in explosive atmosphere

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Canada and Russia exchange snarky tweets

Read more

We travel across the globe and meet the people behind the most fascinating environmental, health and technological innovations in a bid for sustainable solutions to our changing world. Join us every other Sunday at 8.45 pm. We’ll be back in September.

DOWN TO EARTH

DOWN TO EARTH

Latest update : 2013-06-11

Cairo's waste war

At the base of Cairo's Mokkatam Hill is a neighbourhood known as Garbage City. Its residents are the Zabbaleen, a community that has become so adept at treating trash that it rivals the most advanced waste management systems in the world.

This week the Down to Earth team reports from a neighbourhood drowning in rubbish. Behind the filthy facade lies a highly organised network of micro-businesses that can recycle up to 85 percent of the waste collected from Cairo.

The Zabbaleen are Coptic Christians, an uneasy minority in a country now run by the Muslim Brotherhood. They try to keep their work away from the spotlight out of fear of aggravating the authorities, who have not formally given this work to them.

For many, the condition of the workers can be shocking. Most of the women sort through the rubbish by hand, without gloves or any sort of health and safety regulations.

In 2003, the Egyptian authorities tried to replace the Zabbaleen’s work with modernised systems by handing out long-term contracts to European companies.

After ten years, the general consensus is that the foreign models have failed. Meanwhile, the Zabbaleen have stepped in to fill the gaps.

Today, the next generation of Zabbaleen are determined to win the right to clean the city, a job their parents and grandparents have done in the shadows for more than forty years. 

By Mairead DUNDAS , Nicolas BAKER , Emilie COCHAUD , Juliette LACHARNAY , Marina BERTSCH

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2014-06-22 water

Microplastics: The planet's tiny threat

Tiny plastic particles, barely visible, are infecting the world's sea and oceans, where they're being eaten by fish and other aquatic species before making their way up the food...

Read more

2014-06-09 technology

Biomimicry: Hacking nature

Biomimicry is the science of mimicking life. Have millions of years of evolution churned out all the answers?

Read more

2014-05-25 technology

Japan: Robots that care

This week, Down to Earth explores Japan's efforts to embrace robots to fill the gap left by a growing shortage of manpower.It's no secret that Japan is facing a demographic...

Read more

2014-05-11 Sustainable development

Japan: Fukushima fallout

It's more than three years since an earthquake and tsunami crippled Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant and authorities are still battling to contain the fallout.

Read more

2014-04-27 women

South Africa's iron lady

She's been named Africa's CEO of the year and there's no sign she is going to stop there. This week we're Down to Earth with Daphne Mashile-Nkosi, the first woman to own a mine...

Read more