The city’s waste collectors, who help recycle rubbish from the streets, might be hit hard by a new recycling policy on the mainland. On July 18, Beijing told the World Trade Organisation it will stop accepting 24 types of waste, including plastics and waste paper, by the end of this year. Because of this, Hong Kong’s recycling firms are going to stop collecting waste paper from next Monday.
Sze Lai-shan, from the Society for Community Organisation, said Hong Kong has a few thousand active street collectors. Many of them are old people who live on their savings and community care funds, and middle-aged women who don’t have any other jobs.
A woman surnamed Cheung, in her 70s, has been collecting paper boxes and newspapers every day for the past five years. She has an infection in her left arm, which needs treatment, and it costs money. To pay for it, she collects waste paper. Cheung wakes up very early every day, has breakfast, and sets off with her trolley from a room she rents in Quarry Bay.
“If I’m lucky, I can earn HK$120 a day, but that will take up to four trips to the collection point – it’s exhausting,” Cheung said. She has some savings and a HK$2,000 monthly allowance from the government – but it’s not enough to live on.
“The more I earn, the more food I can have for breakfast,” Cheung said. “An extra piece of bread would be nice. I feel helpless, but it’s better to continue what I’ve been doing than nothing at all.”
Edited by Ginny Wong