Yesterday I had an eye opening experience that definitely fueled my belief in people and the way people can fight adverse conditions to survive. We often think of the entrepreneurial spirit as something that is used by people to escape the 9-5 and follow their dreams but in the case of Garbage City in Cairo the entrepreneurial is used by this amazing community to survive.
Not long after I moved to Cairo I started to hear about Garbage City, a fabled place where a lot of the garbage is taken and all useful items are separated and readied for resale and reuse to local buyers and international corporations This amazingly progressive initiative is completely people led with no help Governmental help and hardly any international help. In Garbage City the saying “One Man’s Rubbish is Another Man’s Treasure” has never been more true.
Garbage City is not a place that will be in any guidebook, on our taxi ride in we started to see the piles of rubbish littered around the edges of the city including a foul smell and even a dead donkey out in the open. At this point I still was not fully sure what to expect when we hit the actual city. As we drove deeper in we reached typical Cairo back streets absolutely spilling with life and wormed our way through the streets up to an area known as the Cafeteria.
The Cafeteria was at the highest point of the city and it was here that we started our education. The minute we stepped out we was greeted with nothing but friendly smiles, broken English and a real sense of joy from the locals. Although the ride in started bad with the piles of smelling Garbage it was clear that there was something amazingly special about this community.
We met our guide Hana and he started us on our tour. Hana has been introduced to us by a friend and he is a truly amazing guy. His English was learned from reading books he found in the garbage as a child and he is now one of the most innovative people in the city building solar heaters and methane gas tanks that produce from organic waste. All of this built for next to nothing, really flying in the face of what green technology involves…. Hana and his cohort are flying in the face of wisdom that green technology is expensive and only for the rich!
Throughout the tour he took us from the cafeteria, showing us one of the most amazing churches I have ever seen and then down through the streets of the city to his home for tea with his beautiful family.
There is no mistaking that Garbage City is poor and the rubbish lined streets could hard to deal with for the average holiday maker however but people are working highly efficient systems that the rest of the world really can learn from and it has to be seen to be believed. Plastic is sorted and shredded to be sold back to manufactures in large bags. Useful items are reconditioned and re-sold. People use scraps to make recycled paper, material for rugs, clothing and more. Every single item has a use. The organic waste used to be eaten by some 300,000 pigs but after the Swine flu issue the Egyptian Government had every single one of these pigs slaughtered, leaving the people of Garbage City with an ongoing dilemma! Goats and Sheep just don’t eat enough!
I just wish the people of Garbage City has some more help and in return NGO’s and organizations can learn from the highly advanced recycling and re-use innovations being refined daily by this highly efficient operation. It really is inspiring!
Ok let’s take you on a little photo tour.
I hope you enjoyed an insight into Garbage City and found it inspiring. The residents of this city prove what a little hard work and innovation can do even if the odds are stacked against you.
I really think you should visit the city….
I’d love to know what you think about this and any comments you have at all.