Residents of the Egyptian village of Mit al-Harun have for decades eked out a living by recycling old tyres into baskets, landscaping materials and alternative fuels.
From early morning, workers covered in soot and dust can be seen sharpening their knives to cut huge tyres stockpiled on the village’s roadsides.
“The entire village works on recycling damaged tyres,” said 35-year-old Abdelwahab Mohamed outside of his workshop.
“We inherited it from our fathers and grandfathers.”
The small Nile Delta village, some 70 kilometres (43 miles) north of Cairo, has gained a reputation as Egypt’s top rubber recycling hub.
Dealers collect used tyres from across the country, delivering them to Mit al-Harun in huge trucks.
Mohamed said prices per tyre go up to around 70 Egyptian pounds (four dollars).
“We cut the tyres here and pull out material including wire rings, which are collected by steel and iron factories to be recycled,” he said.
“Tyre rubber is often chopped into small pieces to be used by cement factories as an energy source” — an alternative to low-grade mazut fuel oil.
Other parts are recycled into mulch for playgrounds, he added.
Mohamed said his work has grown unstable over the years, especially since the 2011 uprising that unseated longtime dictator Hosni Mubara and triggered years of political and economic turmoil.
“There are days with plenty of work and others with little to none,” he said.
At another workshop, 43-year-old Mostafa Azab fashions baskets out of tyres from trucks, tractors and industrial vehicles.
“We cut the tyre in half, then we split its inner layers using a winch, before shaping them into baskets and hammering nails around the edges to make them hold,” said Azab.
The heavy-duty baskets are often used by farmers, gardeners and labourers, he said.
Azab’s workshop, with a handful of workers, processes up to 10 tyres per day, producing between 80-120 baskets.
Azab’s brother, Haitham, said the job was “exhausting”.
“It requires physical strength to carry around the heavy tyres,” he said.
“If we had the option of a more stable occupation, we would have quit this one. But this is our only source of income.” AFP