The Recycling System of the Zabbaleen

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Aside from the recycling activities of the Zabbaleen that have been featured in the film “Marina of the Zabbaleen” - a film very much worth watching – much more is done by then as regards to recycling to my knowledge.

Some, at least years ago, for so it was reported in National Geographic Magazine, not only collected and sorted the waste for resale as recyclables but, for instance, reworked and upcycled – much like the Romani-Gypsy have done (and some are still doing) – waste, such as tin cans, into new resalable goods.

The difference between Gypsy recycling operations and that of the Zabbaleen is that the Zabbaleen take all the garbage feed the non-recyclable organic waste to their pigs.

Pigs are great for getting rid of that type of waste and that was one of the reasons that pigs were kept by people, aside from the bacon. Having a “house pig” was a way of getting rid of any food wastes in the peasant cottages of England, for instance, and there was no such cottage, virtually that did not raise a pig.

Until not so many years ago swill, that is to say mixed food waste, from restaurants and food processors was collected and fed to pigs on pig farms. One of the foot and mouth outbreaks put pay to that as the virus was claimed to have come from some of the swill; the government made it illegal to feed swill to hogs and ended up with overflowing landfills.

The recycler model of the Zabbaleen would be something that, to some degree, should and could find adoption throughout the world and would, in my opinion,, be a great economic activity for the Romani, with some exceptions, as some of the People would have problems with some of the stuff. Eastern European Roma that work on the rubbish tips do not, unlike some Sinti groups, have such problems resulting from taboos.

The ideal model for the Gypsy People would be, I should think, one of recycling and upcycling, as well as repair, as used to be done in the days of old.

There is scope there for a fair number of the People: Let's face it we cannot all be roofers, carpet traders, or in property maintenance, tree surgery, etc. Recycled and upcyclked goods, on the other hand, are marketable on markets, via stores and via the Internet.

Something to think about, methinks.

Not just for the Gypsy would such recycling and upcycling ventures along the Zabbaleen lines be something in order to have a business that benefits the owner and the Planet; for other people too this could be something, I should think.

In some countries nowadays you can no longer go a pick stuff from the refuse dumps, the municipal centers; they have “licensed” pickers who are the only ones permitted to retrieve stuff for recycling and upcycling, for repair and resale. A great shame really.

When I was a child we did a lot of house clearances and such and the stuff we could not use we would take to the dump. We did take more out from the dump again to repair and resell then we would take in and the guys at the weigh bridge use to joke about that. That was before the “licensed” pickers and the dumps were happy to get rid off anything that people wanted to take, no questions asked.

That was a good living or the Gypsy (and others) involved in this kind of business and also was good for the dump and the environment, for the stuff that could be reused did not have to go into the landfill sites.

In fact many of those dumps were not waste transfer stations as they are today but they were the dumps, the landfills, and any stuff that the likes of us took away they did not have to bulldoze into the hole in the ground.

Time the authorities rethought what is happening and everyone would benefit; the recycler and the municipalities and, ultimately, all of us and Mother Earth.

© 2009