Save. Spend. Splurge.

Travel: What it’s like to visit China – Recycling as a Job

This is part of the Travel: What it’s like to visit each city series I’m doing, to talk about what it’s like to see each city I’ve been through, from a foreigner’s perspective.


Some of them are pretty poor, and they do their best to earn a living, and that living, is through recycling.


I saw that he was probably a recycler, grabbing stuff to re-sell the best he could.


In between shifts


Those are rice sacks he’s collecting.


Waiting for more newspapers in between shifts. Sometimes they sleep there.


Collecting garbage such as water bottles, cans, or anything found in trash bins to be resold.


Even working into old age.


Searching out for any opportunities to get more recycling


(To be honest, I wasn’t sure if this above was a STORE or a recycling bin. I want to say store.)


The haul for the day.


And this is a VERY good day.

It all goes to get weighed here…

(which is why sometimes you see them wetting it with water to make it heavier, so that they get more money):


And it all gets trucked away:


Beggars like this old blind man pictured, are VERY rare.


There aren’t that many of them, because people simply don’t give money to beggars.

They have to work for the cash, or die.

Say what you will, but these folks work, save and live out of sheer necessity and are very hard workers.


  • CorianneM

    The pottery cart is definitely a store!

    As to beggars in Beijing, not many people give money to them and there definitely seem to be more beggars in touristy places/places with many foreigners than anywhere else in the city. Same goes for the subway lines. I never saw beggars on the subway line 13 going north to the suburbs beyond the 4th and 5th ringroads, but there were always the same beggars on line 2 and 1. There was always this one old lady on line 2. She would go around the subway carriage asking for money. She only asked the Chinese passengers once or not at all, but us foreigners she asked 2 maybe 3 times (we’re white, so we’re rich – at least, that’s their logic). Someone also once told me that a lot of beggars are part of a gangster syndicate – can’t remember the whole story, but there are so many crazy stories that it’s sometimes hard to believe what is real and fake anymore. Here is a piece about fake handicapped beggars and how they supposedly rent children (!!!!!!!):

    • save. spend. splurge.

      I figured they only really hassle tourists, which is what I encountered. Otherwise, everyone else ignores them.

      I didn’t know that they could be part of the syndicate but I am not surprised if some are fake (they have fake beggars here in Canada too, one woman even had a 3-bedroom house fully paid from her begging).

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