After several months' research it has been concluded that some 300,000 Beijing garbage collectors could earn 3 billion yuan (US$373 million) a year by collecting "gold" from rubbish, Beijing Morning Post reported on February 6.
Researchers from Beijing Academy of Social Sciences recently conducted in depth studies into the subject over several months and detailed their findings in "Beijing Garbage Collecting Troops Report." This was published along with the 2006: Social Development Report for Chinese Capital, an academic book which came out on January 15.
As garbage collecting doesn't require professional qualifications or specialist training most collectors say they could easily earn 7,000 - 8,000 yuan (US$870 - US$994) annually. If they work and save hard they would be in a position to return to their hometowns in two or three years to build new homes for themselves. Their hometown building costs are very much less than those found in Beijing.
The majority of these garbage collectors, who earn very little, are not originally from Beijing, states the report. The Academy's research involved several hundred garbage collectors being interviewed over several months. Of those 59.7 percent were from Henan Province, only four were over 60 years old and 76 percent were in their youth or midlife. There's evidence that husband and wife teams are involved and it seems even local Beijingers have an eye on the "gold mine."
The heavily populated Henan Province, a major agricultural area, with less developed industries was identified by researcher, Jin Shan, as a location where many people came from to earn a living by collecting Beijing garbage.
Garbage collector, Li Fuqiang, explained, "We could feed ourselves by digging out food from the earth, however, what if elders are ill? What if children go to school? What if children's marriage in the future, which needs money to build new houses?"
Interestingly it seems even garbage collectors have different classes. Jin Shan said they classify themselves in this way -- "the lowest level is to dig garbage out in some places, then better ones are: to pick up garbage, to carry garbage, to exchange garbage and the top one is to receive the garbage at home." To sit at home waiting for garbage to be delivered is every collectors' dream. People living at this level are usually smart enough to establish their own junkyards after many years' in the business while the novices still search the streets. If garbage collectors can establish strong working relationships with large companies or government departments they could legitimately enter premises to collect the likes of newspapers, old household appliances and furniture. This could lead to potential earnings of 2,000-3,000 yuan (US$248-US$373) a year.
Garbage collector, Du Maozhou, is a prime example of how from small beginnings great things can be achieved. This once poor Sichuan peasant has became a millionaire 15 years after becoming involved in the garbage business. Now the boss of his own company, Du is one of the leading lights in Beijing's garbage recycling industry, China Business Post said on February 7.
Du's success is backed by the management skills of Wang Weiping who has studied methods for dealing with garbage. Back in 1996 Wang met with Du and his brother to collect garbage at weekends. Nine months later he wrote a report about the situation. It stated, "31,000 collectors pick up garbage along the street, each earning 15,000 yuan a year; 20,000 get rubbish from hotels and malls, each earning 12,000 yuan a year; those 21,000 people stay in garbage towers and residential buildings earn 10,000 a year; other 10,000 spread around urban-rural junction areas." He concluded, "garbage collectors are suitable and credible practices for the theory of 'Garbage Resourcefully Disposal and Amount Reduction,' which should be widely promoted."
In early 1999 he assisted Du's family in founding a company to properly handle the garbage business and gradually erase the current disorganized methods. Wang said, "Beijing produces 4 million tons of garbage per year, and it will cost municipal government 700 million yuan (US$87 million) annually to deal with rubbish, excluding the expenses of buying dumpcarts, building junkyards, buying gasoline and paying workers' salaries. Then you will know where the garbage collectors' contributions are." It's thought that Du, along with the other collectors, could reduce 1.5 million tons of garbage and save the government expenditure of 210 million yuan (US$26 million).
(China.org.cn by Zhang Rui, February 13, 2006)