In the ward of Manchiyat Naser in Cairo, ‘Atef collects or buys black plastic from local waste pickers to recycle it into clothes hangers, which he then sells on to wholesalers in the city centre. After years spent carrying bags, he became self-employed in 2004 after buying a hanger moulding machine for 800 euros. Since then, he has been able to earn about 80 euros per month. While Cairo rag pickers are seen by many as a symbol of archaism and poverty, ‘Asef’s story testifies to the fact that social and economic roles can be very diverse and that this community is far from uniform. Skills, initiatives and creativity are essential in ragpickers’ activities: far from being the city’s “garbagemen”, they are first and foremost recyclers and traders. This portrait aims to highlight this aspect of their profession.