Why Cairo Recycles Better Than New York City in Waste-Picking TaleWhy Cairo Recycles Better Than New York City in Waste-Picking Tale
January 20, 2015
Milad Tadros is a magician. He makes trash disappear -- at zero cost to taxpayers.
The 32-year-old is part of Cairo’s army of about 70,000 zabbaleen, Arabic for garbage people, serving the city of 12 million. For decades, they’ve weathered dictatorship and revolution to create one of the world’s greenest waste-management systems in a capital known for its dirt.
How they scratch a living out of 15,000 tons of daily garbage -- equivalent to 35 loaded Boeing 747 jumbo jets -- is an extreme lesson in the invisible hand of the market at work. Two-thirds is recycled, more than in New York City, without any technology. The zabbaleen work for cash tips and sell plastic bottles, paper, glass and aluminum cans to factories. Pigs -- kept out of sight -- gobble up the organic waste.