Let's agree that you're a good recycler. Packaged products of a diverse nature come into your home, and you dutifully separate the various materials by their eco-numbers and then drop them off at the center. What do you think your recycling rate is? Twenty-five percent recycled? Forty-eight? The Zaballeen routinely hit eighty percent, friend — they're wiping the floor with you. On the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, there's a city essentially made of garbage. The citizens of this municipality are known as the Zaballeen, "the garbage people," because they comb the refuse and recycle everything they can get their hands on. They're a separate caste, a hereditary group who pass down their skills and knowledge as the family business. But now a huge corporation is moving into Garbage City with plans to commercialize all recycling — and they're not shooting for the Zaballeen's efficiency at the task. Mai Iskander's documentary Garbage Dreams follows three young men who must determine what the future will be for their way of life. It's not a glamorous life or an easy one, but it's worth protecting. Garbage Dreams screens at 7 p.m. at the Missouri History Museum (Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue; 314-746-4599 or www.mohistory.org). Admission is free.
Thu., Jan. 14, 2010