A Greener Egypt: How to recycle in Cairo

Despite a fair number of concerns plaguing the protesters in Tahrir throughout the revolution, a more environmentally friendly Egypt ended up on the agenda. From day one, protesters were cleaning up–picking up trash and trying to make the protest environment clean and destruction free. With time, things in Tahrir had become very environmentally sophisticated and bins that once said “Donations for the NDP” on them were now divided into organic and non-organic, a sign that above and beyond cleaning up, protesters also wanted to see their waste go to good use.

But is it possible to recycle in Egypt? Yes. In fact, the Zabaleen community was recycling long before it became an international enviro-friendly fad. What you need to know from the person who picks up your trash is whether or not he is mixing garbage before the final recycling point. In any case, if your garbage pick-up service claims that dividing organic from non-organic rubbish is not going to help him at all, fret not–you can do the exercise anyway to teach your children and you can call on recycling organizations to come pick up recyclables from your house.

Here are some simple recycle (and reuse) ideas to get you started in what is likely to become a more environmentally friendly Egypt:


Wake up a little early and surprise your garbage collector with a morning chat. How can you help with the recycling process? Can you divide your trash? Will it help?

If he says it will, you will probably need at least two smaller rubbish bins for inside your house and two larger rubbish bins for outside–one will be for organic waste and the other will be for recyclables like plastic, glass, paper, and aluminum, or ‘non-organic’.

As an advanced version of step 1 you can also divide plastic from glass and paper–call Ressala at 19450 and they will gladly pick up paper for recycling; they are also willing to recycle old TV’s, computers and any other gadget you don't know how to dispose of.


Shopping Bags: Pass by Carrefour and pick up reusable shopping bags so that you are no longer tossing out plastic grocery bag after plastic grocery bag, filling the world with more trash. If you forget to take your newly acquired environmentally friendly shopping bags with you, be sure you can think of ways to reuse your plastic bags: trash bags for smaller trash bins, shoe covers for packing.

Paper: Write notes on old papers you don’t use any more. If you have children, let them use scrap paper for their crafts rather than going out to buy more paper. They won’t even know the difference. Wrap gifts with scrap paper and allow your children (or you yourself) to decorate wrapped gifts with little drawings to make them personal (and pretty).

Glass: While plastic bottles should be tossed out, glass bottles can be reused for drinking water, etc. Glass jars can also be reused for keeping odd objects like nails, sewing needles or thumb tacks. If you make jam, pesto or pickles, etc. old jars can be a nice way to package and you can relabel them and give them as gifts.

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