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China honors its sanitation workers


10-27-2016 03:59 BJT

October 26 is a special day in China: It is when the government and its citizens honor the country’s street cleaners and sanitation workers.

The idea was first launched in 1987 in northeast China’s Heilongjiang province and then spread to other parts of the country. This was an attempt to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation for the work of street cleaners.

Nearly three decades have passed since the special day was initiated, but that does not mean these workers still do not face difficulties.

Early in the morning in downtown Chengdu, while most people sleep, the city's street workers do their work in the dark. Wang Kaiyuan has lived this nocturnal life for five years.

“I get up at 2.20 a.m. every day, and start my work half an hour later. My job is to remove trash, in all types of weather, all year round,” Wang said.

Driving the garbage truck on city roads can be dangerous. Wang recalls an accident two years ago. And he remains fearful.

“It happened on a rainy day, and the expressway was quite slippery. The vehicle I drove tumbled into a roadside ditch,” he said.

Wang says he has grown accustomed to the hard labor. But there is one particular thing that still baffles him.

“Some people do not understand how hard our job is. Some even complain that we are disturbing them, and curse us. There have even been times when bottles were hurled,” he said.

Chengdu city produces 10,000 tons of trash every single day. And 20,000 street cleaners work hard to keep the city clean. If everyone did their part, and disposed of their trash properly, it would help the workers achieve that goal.

“Some people throw around litter, like waste snacks, plastic bags, and even lunchboxes. There’s a lot of it on the streets, especially around noon time,” said Xie Yanyan, street cleaner.

Xie earns about 2,000 yuan a month, higher than the provincial minimum of 1,500 yuan. She says she is satisfied, but it is still not enough.

“The pay can not meet my needs. Sometimes, I resort to my parents for help. My dad is disabled and cannot work. He sells vegetables that he grows himself to make money,” Xie said.

Xie is a single mother, with a two-year-old baby at home. She says she sometimes loses hope she will ever find a new partner now that her husband is gone.

“It’s difficult for me to find a new husband. Some people look down upon people who work as street cleaners. In fact, many people think that way,” Xie said.

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