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we recycle egyptian garbage to design contemporary lamps

workshop for Zabbaleen’s youths in Cairo



The context

If we look inside an Egyptian trash can, we will find basically 60% of wasted food and 40% of packaging of goods (plastic, paper, aluminum, glass, …). And every days more than 14 tons of rubbish is produced by Cairo itself.

Zabbaleen are the main garbage collectors of Cairo, Egypt who do an extraordinary hard work by collecting and by recycling the rubbish mostly manually and without personal equipment for safety work with an achievement of 80%. This christian community of around 60’000 people is facing an extreme harsh living condition with hight rates of disease due to the recycling activities.

Despite their remarkable work of recycling garbage efficiently, the lack of general recognition due to the unfair tag of “filthy garbage collectors” isolate them more and more from the Egyptian society. The guaranty of suitable incomes for the families will still ever remain uncertain without a long term support from the Egyptian government and the respect of the population for this minority. Consequently, the Zabbaleen’s community and moreover the youths face an enormous challenge; They have to improve their own infrastructure by themself and side by side to find future opportunities to develop new relevant activities.

Design workshop

Jean-Luc Marchina, Swiss Designer made a spontaneous proposal to Zabbaleen’s community to implement and lead voluntarily a design workshop in collaboration with the Spirit of Youth Association (SOY). The project namely “Project Z” could be a unique chance for the Zabbaleen’s youths to develop suitable activities by recycling  and designing valuable objects.

The challenge

The project Z aims, ideally, to guide and motivate zabaleen’s youths to be the entrepreneurs of tomorrow by initiate a social enterprise specializing in design. However, this ideal goal is a projection in a long term. The project has started on summer 2016 and it’s important, at this step, to focus on one goal for the near future before to plan any bigger one. Therefore, the wish is to organize an exhibition in Cairo in spring 2017 of the outcome of 6 months workshop of the participants in parallel with photographs of this community in the aim to describe the background of the workshop.

The first objective would be an important impact: it would be a “gift” for these deprived teenagers to show their creative skills and would give as well an unexpected positive image of Zabbaleen’s community.

The main activities


Boost the participants' creativity

The lack of cultural knowledge could be an important break to think “out of the box”. For that reason, many examples of relevant artworks will be studied and art galleries/museums will be visited in the aim to develop an open-mind spirit and improve their creativity skills during brainstorm exercises and development of prototypes of lamps.

Teach technical skills

We cannot pretend to build lamps if we don’t know how it works! Therefore this workshop will also focus on technical aspects of electricity in general and lighting systems in the aim to work professionally and safety for high quality production.

Zabbaleen's community

Support us

Although Spirit of Youth Association provides a place and Jean-Luc Marchina volunteers his competence as Designer to conduct the workshop, we do hope for financial support to be able to buy basic equipment and build the lamps for the exhibition. For that reason, any advice, proposal, help for fundraising, … will be a warm welcome to encourage us to succeed in this challenging project.

For further information about the previous projects of Jean-Luc Marchina, visit his website on and feel free to contact him for any enquiry.

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All photographs © Marchina