GARBAGE DREAMS, winner of 18 awards follows three teenage boys growing up in the world’s largest garbage village, on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. This film provides a penetrating look into their lives and their community, where tradition is clashing with globalization – a window into one of the world’s hidden populations, the wastepickers.

Far ahead of any modern “green” initiatives, more than 60,000 Zaballeen, a community of wastepickers, survive by recycling 80% of the garbage they collect. Some 15 million people around the world make a similar living. They are not employees of any firm or government, but they collect, sort, clean and sell recyclable materials from other people’s trash. In most of the world’s cities, they are the only recycling system.

Rather than being praised for this achievement, wastepickers are consistently marginalized and disrespected by society and governments alike. When the Zaballeen are faced with privatization by a multinational waste company, each of the teenage boys is forced to make choices that will impact his future and the survival of his community.

Garbage Dreams is a moving story of young men searching for ways to eke out a living for their families and facing tough choices as they try to do the right thing for the planet. Mai Iskander guides us into a ‘garbage village,’ a place so different from our own, and yet the choices they face there are so hauntingly familiar. Ultimately, Garbage Dreams makes a compelling case that modernization does not always equal progress.” Al Gore

GAIA has partnered with ITVS Community Cinema program and Working Films to raise awareness about the importance of the Zaballeen’s work as well as the much larger community of wastepickers globally. Learn more about GAIA’s work with wastepickers, and how we are tackling climate change. Learn about GAIA’s U.S. campaign Recycling Works! launched with the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters.

Opportunities to see Garbage Dreams:

In the U.S., watch Garbage Dreams on TV on April 27th,visit for more details.


Host your own screening of Garbage Dreams and use it to get people involved in your local efforts. Visit for further information on how you can join the Garbage Dreams’ Tour.

How to Help:

Please consider making a donation. To donate to the Zaballeen or the film Garbage Dreams please visit and click on “How to Help.” To make a donation to GAIA please visit

2009 Awards:

IDA / Humanitas Award, International Documentary Association (IDA)

Al Gore Reel Current Award, Nashville Independent Film Festival

Best of Fest, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)

Official Selection, South by Southwest Film Festival – SXSW

Best Documentary Award, Bermuda International Film Festival

Best Documentary Award, Lone Star Film Festival

Silver Screen Award, Nevada Film Festival

Human Spirit Award, Ojai International Film Festival

Best Green Film Award, Connecticut Film Festival

Golden Palm Award, Mexico International Film Festival

Special Jury Award, Montana Cine International Film Festival

Best Documentary Award, Hollywood Film Festival

Best Documentary Award, Vail Film Festival

Best Documentary Award, Landlocked Film Festival

World Cinema Audience Award, Phoenix Film Festival

World Cinema Best Director Award, Phoenix Film Festival

Best Editing, Woodstock Film Festival

Special Jury Prize, Dubai International Film Festival

Watch the trailer at