Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

BUSINESS DAILY

Drugmakers to join forces in tackling Ebola

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Exiled family returns to Somaliland

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Stability still a struggle ahead of 2015 elections

Read more

DEBATE

Rape as a Weapon of War: How to Stop Impunity in Eastern Congo?

Read more

DEBATE

Rape as a Weapon of War: How to Stop Impunity in Eastern Congo? (part 2)

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

Interview with José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

Read more

FOCUS

Indian uranium mines take heavy toll on locals and environment

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Provocative sculpture 'unplugged'

Read more

ENCORE!

Encore's Film Show: Brad Pitt's 'Fury' and Woody Allen's Magic

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

2014-10-19 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

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