“Beijing produces 17,400 tons of garbage every day, but the local garbage processing plants can process only 10,400 tons of them. Unless the gap is covered, the metropolis would be surrounded by garbage four years later.” A media outlet made this prediction in 2014.
Why? Because local garbage collectors, more than 100,000 of them, covered the gap－with their hands, literally. According to official data, garbage collectors can process 4 million tons of the 7 million tons of garbage Beijing produces every year, and thus can help recycle tens of thousands of tons of reusable materials.
In 2016, a photo of a garbage collector’s hands with at least two dozen cuts caused by broken glass went viral online. That’s the most ironic and painful part of a garbage collector’s life: despite making major contributions to China’s waste processing, they continue to suffer because many people refuse to develop the habit of sorting garbage at home.
News reports say Shanghai is amending its regulation on garbage. The new draft, submitted to the local legislature, emphasizes the role of every resident in garbage sorting, starting from home. Let us hope Beijing, for once, will follow the example of Shanghai－for the sake of the environment and to make the work of garbage collectors less dangerous and painful.