From Trash to Trade: The Garbage Dreams Game

Posted on April 21, 2010

Filmed over four years, director Mai Iskander’s documentary Garbage Dreams goes inside the world of Egypt’s Zaballeen (Arabic for “garbage people”) to reveal the lives of three teenage boys born into the trash trade. Premiering on Independent Lens on April 27th (check local listings), the broadcast of Garbage Dreams is accompanied by the Garbage Dreams Game, in which players assume the role of the Zaballeen. The game demonstrates that recycling is not just good for the environment; it's also sound economic practice. 

Players start with cash and expenses, one very hungry goat, one neighborhood, and one paper recycling factory. To grow their business and build efficiency, players can make investments in new equipment to recycle other materials, buy extra trucks, hire workers, or expand into wealthier neighborhoods. Players sort through trash and recycle what can be recycled in Cairo — paper, organics, aluminum, tin, plastic, and glass — all against a ticking clock, sorting through trash piles with the speed, strategy, and efficiency required to match the 80 percent recycling rate of the Zaballeen within 12 rounds of play. Corresponding lesson plans for grades 9-12 and middle school complement the game and the film, and further explore the issue of recycling and the globalized economy. Goats, trucks, and territories; organics, paper, and tin. Learn how Egypt’s Zaballeen turn trash into cash. 

Play the recycling game.


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