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The Zabbaleen are Coptic Christians who migrated to Cairo 60 years ago and became the garbage collectors of the city. 

Their family-run micro-enterprises have created one of the most efficient recycling systems in the world. They recycle up to 80% of what they collect, whereas most private garbage collecting companies can only recycle up to 25% of the waste.

The Zabbaleen’s method is efficient but it produces poor living conditions. They suffer from many diseases and injuries caused by working and living with garbage.

Their way of life has come under threat because Cairo decided to hire three multinational garbage disposal companies. 

More recently the Egyptian government ordered the slaughter of all pigs (the pigs were fed the organic waste) in response to the possible spread of H1N1 influenza. In Islam pigs are considered unclean, some see the slaughter as having religious overtones.

Photos: Garbage City by Jan Locus

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