These Women in 'Garbage City' Are Turning Trash Into Treasure

Women from “Garbage City” are turning trash into rugs, bags, belts and more.

They live in a section of Cairo, Egypt, and the poor inhabitants there have one of the most efficient recycling systems in the world. They recycle 90% of the 7,000 tons of garbage they receive from Cairo each day.

“We use factory waste and recycle it. We use pieces of fabric from t-shirts and use it to make carpets, tablecloths, bathroom rungs, dinner sets, throw rigs, and multicolored items, we make all of this here.” Zainab Abdel Mawgood explained.

More than 200 women are trained in weaving and papermaking to transform discarded fabric, tins, and cans into everyday objects, to sell and make money. The Association for the Protection of the Environment started this initiative on the 80s to help the people living in Garbage City, known as the Zabaleen.

Its Head of Public Relations, Bekheit Metry stated, “We started thinking of projects that can generate income and from there move to education. In the late ‘80s and the early ‘90s, we brought in some looms in this building here and we started teaching how to make carpets from the shreds of fabric thrown away by factories.”

The nonprofit also gives reading and writing classes to the participants. Over the last 20 years, they’ve helped thousands of women and currently have 250 girls in recycling classes, gearing up for work.