Cairos Illuminating Garbage Problem[Draft by Anders Mikkkelsenamikkelsen@yahoo.com]
The Sundance Channel is airing Tuesday April 20th a documentary
Cities On Speed - Cairo: Garbage
about the colossal breakdown of garbage collection in Cairo, one of the biggest cities in the world.
Thedocumentary fails to answer some key questions, however it does document the failure of themercantilist state to do something as basic as clean up the garbage. While the film never states thisclearly, it appears that the government destroyed an old functioning private traditional system of garbage collection and recycling. The film beautifully documents the attempts by everyone to deal withand resolve the breakdown of order. Like any good drama, each character is allowed to speak and theirperspective reveal as much about their mental framework, values, and social role as about the problemitself.The documentary
begins by telling us that no one really knows how many people live inCairo. 18 million seems like a good number for Cairo, but some think it could be half that. Thedocumentary was made in 2009, and at that time garbage pick-up had broken down with trashaccumulating on side of streets and alleyways of Cairos rich and poor neighborhoods. At the end thedocumentary blames the garbage problem on the great increase in population. However thedocumentary gives plenty of evidence that there was a radical change responsible.According to the film, traditionally communities of Egyptian Coptic Christians used to pick up the trash.For a modest fee they'd come to your home or apartment every day and bring it back to the 'garbagevillage' neighborhoods they lived in. They'd sort and recycle everything they could, using it in their ownmanufacturing. The film shows the stages of the production process. Paper was used by the residents of Garbage Villages to make paper products like fancy paper bags and stationery. Fabric would makefabric products like stuffed animals. Plastic was used to make plastic products like hangers. The food fedthe pigs which were sold when full grown. While not surprisingly the conditions are unpleasant, thecommunities were full blown economies using garbage from Cairo as a feedstock instead of dumping itall in a landfill.What happened next is a little hazy in the documentary.The documentary said that the garbage villages couldnt handle all the garbage from all the people butit doesnt give evidence why this was true.Cairo brought in foreign companies to collect the Garbage. They insisted people use bins and westernmethods like big garbage trucks and corporations. People had to pay for this via an extra charge on theirelectrical bill.The problem was that people werent used to finding garbage bins and then putting their garbage in thebin. With the new system Egyptians would either put the garbage on the side of the road or next to thebin. The garbage companies thought Egyptians found it too taxing to actually put the garbage in thebins, and even produced commercials to encourage putting garbage in the bins not just near it. The