Recyclers do dirty job for low pay

Updated: 2012-05-17 07:41

By An Baijie (China Daily)

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When the photographer that accompanied me to Yuanfuzhuang tried to take pictures of the recyclers as they trawled the trash, most turn their faces away from the camera.

"Please don't take photos," they said. "It's a shame to lead such a dirty life."

I tried to comfort them by telling them we worked for an English-language newspaper, so their friends and relatives would not discover their job. It only made them even more nervous.

"Such photos will ruin the image of our country," said 67-year-old Zhang Qingrui.

Some of the recyclers work despite the wishes of their children, who say it is an unhealthy job and the earnings are poor.

In my opinion, the waste recyclers should be honored and respected rather than humiliated. They contribute a lot to the reuse of decreasing natural resources.

On the 28-meter-high trash pile, the recyclers have to sift through rotten vegetables, shards of glass, used toilet paper and even condoms.

Governments at different levels have been promoting the practice of waste separation, encouraging residents to separate recyclable waste from other.

The practice is aimed at resolving the waste problem, which is taking up large areas of suburban land.

Beijing TV has been broadcasting advertisements about waste separation during prime time program for several years to call for the audiences to deal with waste in a recyclable way.

However, the government's efforts have been frustrated, and most people have got used to the habit of throwing their waste away without separation.

The waste recyclers are those who support the government's calls for the trash separation and have contributed most to the reuse of waste. They have no reason to feel ashamed.

It is the government in Kaifeng rather than the waste recyclers that should feel ashamed.

Lots of the villagers complained to the government that the landfill occupies their farmland in addition to denying them water and fresh air, but their protests have long been neglected.

It is difficult to gauge how much the site has affected the health of the more than 1,000 residents in Yuanfuzhuang, but what I do know is that the odor was so disgusting I had to take a shower immediately after returning home.