Thieves or struggling for their lives?

Waste management in Egypt is a privatization mainly held by garbage collectors, also known as Zabaleen. These have been in charge of the garbage for more than 100 years and have created one of the word’s most effective waste-recycling systems. They collect more than 1/3 of Cairo’s garbage and bring it to their houses where women and children sort the garbage and take out what they can recycle; the rest “organic material” becomes food for mainly pigs that the garbage collectors raise near their households.

The Egyptian government keeps putting this privatization as a sideline which is shown in the decisions they take as having foreign waste collectors cleaning the streets of Cairo. As these companies doesn’t do their job the amount of garbage that s produced in Cairo… yeah you can imagine…

The new upcoming phenomena that have been created in the streets of Cairo are poor children sorting and collecting plastic bottles, aluminum and carton in order to resell it. In this process, as almost every Egyptian household doesn’t sort their garbage, these children opens the plastic bags and take out what they need and leave the organic material on the streets. This has created a lot of hard feelings during almost all my focus groups, to the extend that one participant clearly expressed that “these children are nothing but thieves.”

And here I am thinking “they are struggling for their lives!…” However, I strongly dislike that they make the streets of Cairo more dirty than it already is, still who owns the garbage? Does a Mafia rule this industry? Are these children thieves?





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