Cairo’s Growing Garbage Problem: An Open Letter to Local Residents

Garbage collection in Cairo is an intricate, complex and decentralized business, which means it’s also inefficient and inconsistent.

Sick of the waste buildup polluting our streets, one local resident is on a mission to find a solution. Read what Amira Tarkhan has to say below and leave your thoughts in the comments.


Dear Maadi Residents,

I am sure that many of you have noticed that the garbage problem in Maadi is increasing every day. While many people are working hard on tackling this problem, not many people are aware of the magnitude of the problem let alone the challenges. While I continue to read about this, speak to garbage men from Europa200 and independent collectors around Maadi, I myself have a lot to learn about this growing problem.

Today, Maadi is facing a huge problem with the number of people involved in the garbage collection process where there is no system or process that is followed – from Europa200 who are only responsible for street garbage to garbage collectors (Zabaleen) who collect garbage from houses and shops and, finally, the independent waste pickers who run small recycling businesses – but not part of any organization, company or municipality, what we call “Nabasheen“.

What we need to establish is a garbage collection system that regulates them all and helps them work in harmony, in addition to a system that helps collect and sort garbage from the core. We can clean the street every day and collect donations and raise funds through NGOs, however, if there is no system that guarantees sustainability, then we will never overcome this problem.

Many people throw all the blame on Maadi stores, whether on Road 9 or any other. The problem is that these stores will always have waste – if anything, an amount of waste that grows every day. Many of these stores collect their garbage in closed/sealed bags and look for the closest garbage collection point (which in many cases are not anywhere close).

The garbage collectors do not have an interest in collecting any organic waste (such as food) and this is due to the fact that all pigs were slaughtered in 2009, leaving us with a catastrophe today. Garbage collectors will only collect plastic, glass and paper. How can they collect what they want without opening each and every garbage bag?

They have to start their sorting process in the middle of the street, because otherwise they will be left with organic waste that they don’t know what to do with (not to mention that the organic waste is a very good source of compost production).

The same applies for the residential waste. The garbage bags are normally collected from the houses at a relatively high yet inconsistent fee. I have asked around and many people in Maadi pay a minimum of 20 EGP up to 50 EGP to the garbage man that passes by – and this is excluding the 8/10 EGP that goes on the electricity bill.

Again, garbage collectors who come to your house are not necessarily employed by the municipality and, even if they are, they have a vested interest in picking only the items that they want from the garbage because they sell it to private companies or Hay El Zabaleen (Mansheyat Nasser). Not all of them come from Mansheyet Nasser, which already has a strong sorting/recycling process, where it is in their interest to collect the garbage as a whole and then sort.




Therefore, today the problem we are facing requires a system, laws and regulations. It also requires awareness and for people to contribute to the solution and not just be part of the problem. We need everyone to participate: residents, private companies, stores and shops, Zabaleen, Europa2000, government and municipalities, etc.

While this is far more challenging then setting up a plan that can actually work, it is not impossible. Every day, I read about initiatives being taken by the government to tackle this problem – from Minister Adel Labib to Minister Laila Iskandar. Despite how much you believe they can do, the problem is very much acknowledged.

I have been working on a proposal – guidelines on what would be a suggested protocol that can be followed for Maadi. I speak to the garbage collectors, Europa2000 people, Maadi residents, people who are experienced in this field, private companies who have expressed many times their will to contribute financially, etc.

At the moment, feedback has been positive, but this will take time and collective efforts from you all. However, once we get to the point where action needs to be taken, we will face many challenges, which is why I need all your thoughts, suggestions and ideas on how this proposal can be complete. For example:

  • What are the areas where you find most garbage?
  • How many times a day do you suggest a garbage collection car should be passing?
  • Are you willing to pay more money per month for the garbage collection?
  • As a resident or store owner, are you willing to buy a minimum of two garbage bins to keep by your door to make garbage collection easier and faster?

I have walked around the streets of Maadi taking pictures of the garbage collection points – and this is an ongoing process that I still have weeks to complete – however, this is a start to documenting the type of problems we have today:










From there, you might raise important points that I need to learn more about, so your feedback is for sure going to help. I would appreciate it if you can send me all your thoughts and feedback: and I am sure that we will soon come up with a solution and be able to implement a system that will best work for everyone.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this.

Best Regards,

Amira Tarkhan



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