From The Guardian
The Zabaleen are a Christian community who migrated from Upper Egypt to the outskirts of Cairo in the 1940s. Extremely poor, they earned a living as the city’s ragpickers before turning to recycling in the early 1980’s. With the help of NGO’s, including Egypt’s Association for the Protection of the Environment, they have facilities for recycling plastic, paper and metal; they feed organic waste to the pigs they keep in their backyards. Animal excrement is sent to a compost plant in a Cairo suburb where it is processed and sold to farmers.
The Zabaleen currently collect some 9,000 tonnes of garbage per day, nearly two-thirds of the 15,000 tonnes of rubbish thrown away by Cairo’s 17 million or so inhabitants, and yet they have never been officially recognised by the Egyptian government.
Now the Egyptian government is aiming to give official status to the Zabaleen’s role in Cairo’s waste processing. Under the joint management of the ministry of the environment and the Zabaleen union, 44 local waste disposal companies, using a labour force of 1,000 families, have been officially registered. They will take over waste disposal responsibilities in the south of the city from a subsidiary of an Egyptian company.