Award-winning project Integrated Community Based Solid Waste Management

Cairo, Egypt

The Qalyubeya Governate aims to improve waste collection services in the Egyptian cities of Khosoos and Khanka, while simultaneously advancing the working conditions of the informal workforce who provide collection services.

Qalyubeya Governorate is part of Greater Cairo, one of the largest urban areas in Africa, with a mosaic of sub-cities where over 20 million people live. Rapid urbanization has caused an increase in informal settlements and enterprises.

The City of Cairo generates more than 21 million tons of municipal waste each year, with an annual increase of currently 2%. The City would be unable to manage this volume of waste in an effective and environmentally sound manner without the labour of approximately 20,000 informal waste pickers. Despite this, waste pickers face challenges of stigmatization, social exclusion, poverty and can often serious health problems from the hazardous substances that they collect.

The Qalyubeya Governate, working with international partners, has established an integrated community-based solid waste management system, that takes into consideration the informal workers and facilitates the planning and monitoring functions for waste management in both Khosoos and Khana. Over time, the system will increase the efficiency of the waste collection services leading to economic and health improvements for the informal workers and environmental sustainability for the city.

Award-winning project

This project was awarded the 'Guangzhou Award' in 2016. Learn more about the award.


City information

Size and population development
2011: 11,169,000; 1990: 9,061,000; 2025: 14,740,000; 2010-2015: +1.59% / year

Population composition
Few minority communities; Arabic is the most widely spoken language; about 90% of the population is Sunni Muslims

Main functions
Capital and largest city of Egypt; economic, educational and cultural center

Main industries / business
The majority of Cairo's work force is employed in the service sector (financial services, commerce, tourism...)

Political structure
The municipal governement consists of a governor, who is appointed by the president of Egypt, and a council called the Popular Assembly, which includes both appointed and elected members

Administrative structure
1 Governorate and 23 districts

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Background and objectives

Finding sustainable solutions to  problems caused by inadequate solid waste management practices is one of the key national priorities in Egypt.  The Qalyubeya Governorate and key partners have developed an integrated community-based solid waste management system in the two cities of Khanka and Khosoos to address these problems

The solid waste management component has five key objectives:

  1. develop a strategy for an inclusive and integrated waste management system.
  2. promote source segregation and raise awareness of the public on the importance of waste as a resource.
  3. build capacities of the key actors engaged in the various processes related to solid waste management.
  4. improve living and working conditions of informal waste pickers and operators.
  5. establish Integrated Resource Recovery Centres (IRRCs) to promote recycling of both organic and non-organic waste

The Integrated Community Based Solid Waste Management initiative implemented by the Qalyubeya Governorate involves public, private and community partnerships working together to achieve project outcomes.

Activities involved:

  • A local-based NGO and three private sector companies assisted waste pickers and recyclers in formalizing their status with the Qalyubeya Governorate and supported them in the creation of their own companies and equipping ten of the poorest collectors with motorized tricycles for waste collection.
  • The initiative partnered with NGOs and schools to build community awareness.
  • The project worked with a total of eight schools in both cities. Students established environmental guardian groups in schools to advocate participation in environmental related activities, especially issues related to waste. Capacity building seminars and workshops were conducted for both students and teachers to teach them simple paper recycling techniques. Activities focused on using art to deliver environmental messages and students’ creativity was unleashed with the support of professional artists.
  • The construction of a modern publicly-owned transfer station has allowed the waste pickers to dispose waste on the landfill instead of on empty land or in the Nile river. The transfer station was designed according to local requirements, with access guaranteed for the waste pickers. The transfer station is equipped with ten containers and three trucks to deliver the waste to the next landfill. Furthermore, the waste pickers are working on the creation of an Integrated Recycling Resource Center (IRRC) where recyclables and Refused Driven Fuel (RDF) used by the cement industry can be separated. Targeted training sessions have been delivered on the maneuvering of trucks with containers and the operation of the transfer station.
  • A “poor of the poor” group comprised of waste pickers who suffer most from a lack of financial and technical capabilities to improve their working and living conditions has been established. These waste pickers now have subcontracts with major contractors and owners of private companies to collect waste from households, commercial units or public markets and are paid a small amount. They are collecting waste mostly manually or using donkey carts.
Financing and resources

The lead agencies for the project are The Qalyubeya Governorate and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in cooperation with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who have contributed USD 5 million. Financial contributions have also come from the Egyptian Minisitry of Planning and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Results and impacts
  • Approximately 80% of the waste collection is now undertaken by waste pickers and collectors through formal contracts with the city council which has led to better working conditions, increased income opportunities and access to health care.
  • The construction of a new waste transfer station reduced the time needed for one collection service by approximately 50%, thus increasing the capacity for waste collection in the city.
  • Health hazard & environment contamination have decreased due to illegal dumping of waste on the outskirts of the city.
  • Increased employment opportunities for the urban poor in Khosoos and Khanka cities
Barriers and challenges

Integrated waste management approaches increasingly focus on the recovery of valuable resources that exist in waste. In Egypt, there is a long tradition of informal recyclers who recover resources out of waste. However, this work is often carried out in extremely poor and unhealthy working conditions and includes a high percentage of child labour. The informal waste pickers have been historically neglected by the official system and their efforts unrecognized. Moreover, the recyclables are mostly sorted in backyards and a considerable amount of waste is dumped on empty lots within suburbs or on streets and rivers. These illegal practices create significant risks for the health of the residents and for the environment.

Lessons learned and transferability

The Qalyubeya experience serves as a model for the national Solid Waste Management Strategy which is currently being developed by the Ministry of Planning.

Community awareness activities relied heavily on the participation of schools and are a corner stone to building the ongoing success of the system.

Establishing a partnership between the Governorate and the informal waste pickers and operators required an extensive communication and mediation process.


Integrated Community Based Solid Waste Management project, Urban Innovation Database, (accessed 8 June 2017).

Promoting the use of (GIS) for Improvement of Solid Waste Management Services, January 2014, Cairo, Egypt.

External links / documents