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CAIRO TURNS TRASH INTO TREASURE

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CAIRO, Egypt– In an attempt to help curb the city's stifling pollution and meet their energy needs too, a few Cairo families have begun to recycle waste. Now that the nation's pigs are gone by generating biogas from rubbish.
It is an ambitious project that is still in its infancy but may just catch on in this teeming city of 18 million people, often obscured in a dirty grey veil of haze produced mainly by the fumes from millions of car exhausts.
  • The idea has taken added urgency since the slaughter earlier this year of the nation's pigs, wiped out on government orders supposedly to prevent the spread of swine flu which would otherwise have eaten much of the waste.
  • The plan to transform organic waste into alternative energy was started by an American, Thomas Culhane, in east Cairo's Manshiet Nasser slums, which are known locally as Garbage City.
  • He runs Solar Cities, a non-governmental organisation that looks to design and develop technologies that solve very local problems.
  • Following a grant from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2007, he has been installing solar panels to produce hot water for families in Garbage City.
  • This is where thousands of freelance trash collectors called zabaleen, who are mainly Coptic Christians, hand-sort through tons of rubbish collected from the streets of the megalopolis and then sell recyclable material.
  • The idea was well received and began to spread to the neighbouring mainly Muslim area of Darb al-Ahmar, prompting Culhane and Hanna Fathy, a Manshiet Nasser resident involved in the scheme, to offer families "biogas digesters."
  • Made from two simple plastic tanks and tubes, the digesters convert organic matter into biogas through a process in which bacteria decompose the matter to produce methane for cooking and fertiliser which can then be resold.
  • "One man's garbage is another man's gold mine. One woman's trash is another woman's treasure," Culhane said.
Source: AFP
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