4 best documentaries about garbage that answer the question: ‘What on Earth can we do with our waste?’

RTD’s documentaries about garbage go digging for dirt, investigating the murky reasons why mountains of rubbish are choking rivers, cities and communities around the globe… and even cluttering outer space. These top documentaries about garbage shine a light on the most disgusting waste dumps and the ultra-creative collectors and recyclers taking on one of the scariest scourges of our time.

1. Zabbaleen

Meet the world’s top recyclers! The old saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” has a very literal meaning for the residents of one small town on the outskirts of Cairo in Egypt. ‘Rubbish City’, as Cairo’s Manshiyat Naser District is known, houses the Zabbaleen, or rubbish collectors. It’s a Christian community that gathers and sorts all of the capital’s waste. In this film, these downtrodden yet indispensable and proud professionals tell their stories and showcase their unparalleled know-how.

2. Cry of a River

According to a World Health Organization report, one-third of the world’s population lives without access to proper toilets. This causes natural water reserves to become contaminated with human waste, which in turn causes disease. In this film, RTD travels to India to find out how rural populations are suffering as a direct result of poor, or no sanitation.

3. Madman of the Cathedral

What if you could use other people’s rubbish to express the holiest aspirations of the human soul? This film tells the crazy and inspiring story of a former monk who has dedicated more than 50 years of his life to edifying his very own cathedral. RTD meets 91-year-old Don Justo, of the small Spanish town of Mejorada del Campo and visits the house of God he has been building since 1961, using scrap, recycled building materials and as much good will as he can find.

4. Green Citadel

In this film, an entire community takes a stand against waste. Near Taos, New Mexico, you’ll find a sweeping plain dotted with odd-looking structures built nearly entirely from dirt and trash. This is not a large homeless camp or the set of a post-apocalyptic movie. In this film, RTD visits the off-grid subdivision dubbed the ‘Greater World Community,’ and hears from its residents why they have chosen to live in self-sufficient ‘Earthships’ and believe in “radical sustainability.” So, who is really crazy: those who send their trash to the landfill without a second thought, or those who refuse to pretend plastic pollution isn’t their responsibility?


Check out even more disturbing and fascinating documentaries about garbage below.