The Zabbaleen people are trash collectors and proud of it. This community of around 60,000 Coptic Christians inhabits a suburb of Cairo. For generations, they have been collecting, sorting, processing and recycling the trash this metropolis produces. They see it not as waste, but as a way of life. The arrival of foreign refuse companies using "modern" trucks and dumps is a threat to this people's continued survival. Suddenly, they are being forced to fight for their trash and it seems there is no future for the young generation. Garbage Dreams follows three Zabbaleen boys as they each find their own ways to deal with the new challenges facing them -- by either working harder or joining their rivals. Meanwhile, a social worker named Laila, whose roots are in the Zabbaleen community, tries to make her people aware of the risks of working with refuse and to solve the problem of their diminishing incomes. Almost poetic imagery combines with interviews with the boys and Laila to contrast the closely knit Zabbaleen community with the indifference of the city.