“They call us the Garbage City because we handle all the wastes. We call them the Garbage City because they are the ones creating all these garbage and polluting our society.”
Out of sight, out of mind
Manshiyat Naser, commonly known as Garbage City, is a slum settlement within Cairo‘s sprawling Metropolitan area. Home to 60,000 people, the small ward takes up the task to recycle and handle most of the wastes produced by the 20 million-people capital.
Life in this unsurprisingly unhygienic slum comes with countless challenges. Residents go out in the middle of the night to collect garbage in Cairo, door-to-door, for a bare minimum charge. Then, using their pick-up trucks and donkey carts, they efficiently transport the garbage back to the slum.
Children and toddlers take the mountainous piles of wastes as their playground. Insects plague through their homes while they eat.
Garbage City came to be as there’s no proper waste collection system ever established in the capital. The government has no intent to fill the gap. No one was coming up a way to alleviate the enormous burden put on the residents. Therefore, the people of Garbage City stepped in.
The professionally efficient recycling system
Despite the lack of support from the government for their public service, Garbage City is remarkably efficient. Almost 90% of garbage are recycled within these walls, which is significantly higher than the professional industry average.
Circumstances in the Garbage City aren’t ideal. Filthy roads, dusty houses, disheveled machinery and contaminated water source…Stigmas brought by the their line of work surely made obstacles for them to connect with society.
Despite originally going for the cave church and monastery in Garbage City, the conditions and people’s attitude seemed to be a much better story. For them, it’s life. It’s what they do for a living. There’s nothing inglorious about their work. On the contrary, they keep the city clean because of their work.
Who is the real Garbage City?
A man we met at the restaurant outside of the cave church told us with his high pride,
“We are not the Garbage City, Cairo is. They create all these garbage with no intention to protect and preserve their own city. We handle their problems for them. In return, we get such an infamous reputation.”
If you have ever been to Cairo, then it’s safe to say it’s not the cleanest city. Most people are unaware of the importance of recycling and reducing wastes produced. Excessive use of plastic, trash on the side of the road, not willing to invest in a better waste collection system…Heaps of issues Cairo has to change for its people to live a cleaner, more sustainable life. It lies with the government to take initiative to change the situation for all stakeholders involved. Although, as of now, it doesn’t seem any there will be any changes in the foreseeable future.
Don’t blame the one handling the mess, educate the one creating it.