Imagine a town built atop an active landfill. That is “Garbage City” in Cairo, Egypt, longtime home to an impoverished, marginalized community of Coptic Christians for whom life is only going to get harder.
The so-called Zabbaleen have been the trash collectors of Cairo for generations. The fathers and their sons go out into the city and collect the garbage in beat-up pickup trucks or donkey-drawn carts. They bring it back to their community, where the women meticulously sort through all of it. They recycle an incredible amount, as much as 80 percent, selling whatever is salvageable. Particularly poor families rifle through the trash for food to eat. They have created a complex, labor-intensive process for getting the most out of what other people throw away.
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