Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Hollande depicted as Hitler

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Boko Haram crisis: Militants forced from north eastern Nigerian town

Read more

REPORTERS

Syria: Wresting control of Kobani from IS group

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

A who's who of the 'Bettencourt trial'

Read more

FOCUS

Golan Heights on edge...

Read more

THE BUSINESS INTERVIEW

Eugene Kaspersky: Cyber attacks on critical infrastructure 'just a question of time'

Read more

#THE 51%

Equality in the workplace: Bridging the gender pay gap

Read more

ENCORE!

The culture stars trying to save the world

Read more

#TECH 24

Technology helping visually impaired people

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. Every other Sunday at 8.40 pm.

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

2014-11-16 Mexico

Drought emergency

After one of the driest periods in history, 2014 is on track to be the hottest since records began. How do we adapt to these extreme climate conditions which may be here to stay ?

Read more

2015-01-18 carbon emissions

Hydrogen, fuel of the future?

Is the universe's most abundant element the best alternative to petrol? As Toyota rolls out its first hydrogen fuel cell car, the Down to Earth team explores how this technology...

Read more

2014-10-19 carbon emissions

Climate therapy

Greenhouse gas emissions are rising at the fastest rate in three decades. Meteorologists warn the world is running out of time. In this episode, the Down to Earth team explores...

Read more

2014-09-21 environment

Global warming: A drowning planet

Rising sea levels are an inevitable consequence of global warming. Scientific research indicates that sea levels worldwide have been rising at a rate of 0.14 inches (3.5...

Read more

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