photo by Nika (nika2 on Flickr Creative Commons)

When I lived in the US we separated our newspapers, cans and some plastic bottles and put them into a container to be collected by a truck once a week. In Sweden we divided glass (both dark and light), metal, plastic, paper, batteries and light bulbs in a special structure in front of my apartment building. In Ireland we just chucked everything into a big tip to be sorted through at a processing plant and then sold to the UK, which also has its own methods of recycling.

Below are two separate video reports by Al Jazeera English on two very different systems of recycling – though in some ways they are not so different from each other, it turns out. One in Cairo, Egypt and focuses on local waste, the other is in China, where a huge recycling industry imports trash and turns it into cash.

Cairo’s proficient recyclers

Cairo has one of the most efficient garbage recycling systems in the world, and that’s due to the community of garbage collectors known as the Zebbaleen.

China recycling world’s junk

It is the world’s biggest importer of waste, taking in plastics from the US, for example, before transforming them into new products to be shipped back to Western countries.