31 Oct 2018
Cairo, Egypt
Resource Efficiency and Sustainable Waste Management

Hadeer Ahmed Ghareeb did not think that the famous Egyptian folkloric puppet show, El-Leila El-Kebeera (The Big Night in Arabic) was going to be more than something to enjoy and sing along to. But while studying for her pharmacology degree, she ventured across a marionette-making workshop. She garnered huge satisfaction but sought for a quick revenue, which a traditional way of marionette making was not going to cut. That’s when Ghareeb decided to employ trash to turn to puppets, and eventually, toys through her initiative, Trash Into Toys.

Puppet shows in Egypt and where to go from there:

Egypt’s puppetry arts are as ancient as Pyramids being kept in tombs with their owners. With time, the puppet evolved to be represented by a bonneted glove or sock called aragoz. Being made of a cloth or a fabric, this can easily tie in with using an upcycled material. Egypt is not short of garbage: the country produces a staggering 80 million tons on a yearly basis, making it all possible for Ghareeb to partake in Egypt’s proposed development plan to tackle such a mounting plague.

Ghareeb had originally opted to conduct workshops for underprivileged kids, ideally with little to no resources. “Our job is to provide a technique to make toys out of – almost – nothing,” Ghareeb notes. She usually partners with NGOs and employs the talents of passionate volunteers making the experience all too personal. “One of our experiences included a camping trip where we collected trash to make toys out of them,” she adds.

Of the process of holding a workshop and working with kids and volunteers, Ghareeb says that any event or workshop is always preceded by communicating with the place or partner in question to keep some trash. “We ask them to ensure the cleanliness of the garbage to be used,” she explains. According to her, the workshops are run in a light-hearted, creative way. “The kids are typically more aware of their surroundings and the garbage spreading there so they end up being more creative, especially outside Cairo,” Ghareeb says.

Venturing abroad:

It did not take long before Ghareeb took Trash Into Toys abroad. She held workshops in countries like India, Morocco, and Colombia. What she’s going for next is developing a syllabus of how to make toys out of trash, and then deploying it to schools. “Through the syllabus, kids will learn to keep their garbage, which will, in turn, make them cut down on trash,” she adds.

Like any starting social enterprise, hurdles can vary from money problems to misplaced interests, but when it comes to Trash Into Toys, Ghareeb’s challenges are the limited resources her partner NGOs can work with. “Most NGOs focus on providing children with school supplies, clothes, and more chief needs, whereas the kids themselves often consider these toys as their most precious belongings,” Ghareeb notes. She is a staunch believer that for their spirits to grow, they need their imagination and creativity at work.

Another obstacle to her work is the lack of commitment she faces from a few NGOs, something Ghareeb herself is not fond of since she recently quit her job to allocate more time to her project. “It has been quite challenging especially that I need my own stable income,” Ghareeb says.

Ghareeb’s passion can be felt in her merry voice. “We all remember our favorite doll or toy, but some kids don’t even have that, and that’s my mission; to reach all kids around the globe with my initiative,” she adds. Ghareeb is hoping to connect with major plants and companies that have their own carton and plastic trash such as dairy and bottled water companies.

Her next big idea is to hold five different workshops, with the help and partnership of these companies where they’ll use their trash. Within each workshop, they select the most applicable toy designs and ask its creators to brainstorm with the companies to formulate tutorials to be added on packages.


Learn more about Trash Into Toys through their Facebook page.

Photos: Courtesy of Trash Into Toys.

Eman is an editor, and a finance and startup ecosystem journalist.Eman El-Sherbiny
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Trash Into Toys Resource Efficiency & Sustainable Waste Management