Somewhere buried under all those bags of trash is the Egyptian city of Zabbaleen, where garbage reigns supreme. It looks like an object lesson, warning us of some impending garbage apocalypse, but there's something entirely different at work.

We've seen cities around the world ruined by radiation, pollution, political shifts, and depleted resources. At first glance, Zabbaleen looks like another set of modern ruins, a city crushed beneath our waste — a real-life version of Futurama's "Big Piece of Garbage."

But Zabbaleen is actually a thriving community built on the use and repurposing of waste. Residents of the city, which sits just outside of Cairo, collect trash from wealthier cities and use or reuse some 80 to 90 percent of it. Some of the waste is fed to livestock or burned for fuel; what can be repaired is fixed and sold. Much of their business consists of sorting and cleaning items and then selling them as scrap. Zabbaleen residents performed the service for the government, and now many waste management companies outsource their business to the city. But the citizens still live at poverty levels and amidst heaps and heaps of garbage.

Incredible ‘Garbage City' Rises Outside of Cairo [Inhabitat]