The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Fast Fitness - Recycling and the Movie "Garbage Dreams"

Here is Fast Friday Fitness - Recycling trash is honorable and beneficial for people and Earth.

Cambodian dump slums 

The word 'Zabal' is a person who collects trash. The Zabaleen of Cairo are a class of people who for generations, have collected the city's trash by hand, with devotion and honor, and the certainly that from their sweat, they do important work for their community and the world.

The Zabaleen recycle 80% of all they collect, all by hand. They build and run their own school to educate their children in literacy, manners, good and honorable conduct, studies, and recycling techniques.

The city decided it was progress to be modern and great like the West, and change to using trucks and companies to collect the trash, mostly dumped into landfill. The livelihood of the Zabaleen is dwindling. The movie Garbage Dreams shows their members visiting a landfill, incredulous that anyone would throw such literal treasure into a hole. One exclaimed that trash, and the possibilities and materials it possesses, is a gift from heaven, not to be wasted at cost to the Earth.

The movie tries to appeal to audiences by making it a drama of the decisions of three of the teen Zabaleen, but I hope the greater message the teens make is not lost. It is not progress to look down on classes of people. It is not progress to waste. It is not progress to be made to feel you are not good because you work to clean the world.

  1. See the movie Garbage Dreams.
  2. Learn a long-known, little talked-about world crisis encompassing health, politics, economics, sweat-of-the-brow work, pollution, and human rights.
  3. Notice litter on the ground. Stop littering. Know that it is good and honorable to pick up trash, not something beneath your values. Pick up trash today (be prudent what you reach into). Thank others who do this work.

Links to Zabaleen:

Related Fitness on Fitness Fixer:

Garbage Dreams was supported by a grant from the Sundance documentary film program. It won several Film Festival awards.

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Image (Cambodian slums) by venetia joubert sarah oosterveld via Flickr
Garbage Dreams movie poster from

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.