Sunday, September 06, 2009

Recycling the Spirit

Talking about the idea of recycling, you wouldn’t think of China, would you? Even when they have installed rubbish bins for both recyclable and non-recyclable rubbish all over the streets of Shanghai. Everywhere you go, you can find these bins standing side by side. It seems that this city is making an effort to start recycling from grassroot level. Whether this is effective or not, I can’t tell.

Singapore falls badly behind in failing to make recycling a more accessible chore for the general public. Recycling bins for different materials can only be found specifically in a few locations. Being a super pragmatic country, we still haven’t realized the importance and economic returns of recycling.

I noticed that those recycling bins found in the streets of Shanghai seem to be a source of income for some people in the city somehow. Regularly, I will see people carrying a huge recycling bag on their backs and checking these bins one by one for plastic bottles faithfully all over the city. They are usually senior citizens.

For a city that discards so many plastic bottles everyday, there is an urgent need for plastic bottle recycling rate to be met. Those people who come and clear off the plastic bottles from the recycling points help to, in a way, speed up the recycling collection and at the same time, I think, provides a source of income to these people, no matter how meagre it is.

It doesn’t take long to realize that “recycling” idea in Shanghai is not as new as those flashy recycling bins. I often see some people pedaling some trolleys with their frail-looking bicycles. In these trolleys, there are all kinds of materials or junks, in my opinion. It seems that some people have the habit/need to collect whatever that they can lay their hands on in the streets and pedal them off to somewhere else for other uses or for monetary returns. There are some who pedal round a district with a little trumpet as a way of announcing their presence.

I see this as an alternative way of recycling.

The more you look around in Shanghai at the way some people live, the more you will believe that there is always a window of some kind to a man who is determined to survive. If the will is strong, one will always find a means, even in adversity, to make a living. The question is whether you are willing to live off yourself or to live off others.