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Today's Chinese Garbage Collector
At 8 o'clock in the morning, 34-year-old Ding Baogang, equipped with a gray Nokia 8850 mobile phone, leaves his apartment to collect garbage in Changchun city, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province.

Ding said, "If my clients want to sell any garbage, they know to phone me. My name cards and Nokia have helped double my monthly income to 1,000 yuan (US$120.5)."

Ding is one among tens of thousands of garbage collectors in Jilin province's capital city, Changchun, a heavy industrial base where residents earn average incomes compared to the rest of the country.

Ding said about 30 other fellow collectors also have name cards, beepers or mobile phones. He bought his Nokia second-hand three months ago for over 1,000 yuan (US$120.5dollars).

Ding said, "It is the information age now. We have to keep up with change."

Han Sujie, a local resident, said that garbage collectors used to be dressed in rags, and the neighborhood had little trust in them, often taking them as suspects of thefts and illegal dealers.

Han said, "Collectors look neat and tidy now. Whenever I want to get rid of garbage, I call Ding and the job is done neatly and quickly ."

Rather than aimlessly searching for garbage, Ding has asked clients who have garbage to contact him via his mobile phone so that he go and collect it. His profit comes from the difference between the price paid by state-owned garbage stations and what he pays his customers.

Ding shares an apartment with a partner on a monthly rent of 200 yuan (US$24) in the city's outskirts. After work Ding often visits internet bars.

Ding's father, 57-year-old Ding Guitian who was a garbage collector in the 1970s, criticized his son for his extravagance.

The senior Ding still remember his living in a shanty and begged at the restaurants while he was a garbage collector.

Garbage collectors have traditionally been unemployed or laid-off workers and migrants from rural areas, who were mostly on the lowest rung of the income ladder. But the new generation is changing this.

Local newspapers in Central China's Henan province and Beijing report their collectors are making use of mobile phones and name cards.

Song Donglin, a professor with the Jilin University said, "The contrast between just two generations of garbage collectors is a good reflection of China's rapid development. Competition is fierce and changes must come."

(Xinhua News Agency March 5, 2002)

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