Sunday, April 27, 2008

Blessed Pascha

Today is Easter Sunday in the Orthodox Church. NPR did a story this morning on one of the most interesting and ethically futurist of my co-religionists whose way of life centers on reuse and recycling and participation in the global interpersonal communion.

The Zabbaleen
(Egyptian Arabic: زبالين "garbage people") are an Egyptian community of mainly Coptic Christians who are employed in the city of Cairo to collect and dispose of much of the city's waste. The Zabbaleen generally perform this service very cheaply or for free, making a living by sorting the waste materials for reuse or recycling. Waste food is fed to livestock (most often pigs) or poultry. Other materials, such as steel, glass and plastic bottles, are sorted by hand and sold as raw materials. Other items are repaired or reused. Some material is burnt as fuel. Traditionally, donkey driven carts are used by males to collect waste from homes, which is sorted by female members of the family in zabbaleen homes. It is claimed that zabbaleen reuse or recycle 80-90% of the waste they collect (a figure that the most modern waste management systems in the world aspire to), however this must be put into context of the fact that the zabbaleen do not collect all the waste, and concentrate on wealthier areas.

Until the 1980s, there was no formal system of waste collection in Cairo. All collection was performed by zabbaleen. This informal garbage collection system is still a fundamental part of the city's solid waste management. The zabbaleen collect between a third and a half of the 6,500 tonnes of Municipal solid waste that Cairo produces every day, with half being collected by the city and private companies and the remaining 1,500 tonnes left uncollected, generally in the poorest areas. Any uncollected garbage that is burnt will severely exacerbate the air pollution problem in Cairo.