China Stops Importing Trash from Korea; Trash Pickers Desperate


Bad news for the trash pickers who made a living from selling discarded cardboard boxes, as well as other recyclable waste. Recently, China has decided not to buy more waste from Korea. As such, the rates have plummeted following this decision.

Who Are The Pickers?

The pickers we are talking about are mostly destitute elderly who have no other means of making money. Usually, they scavenge for trash and collect it with the purpose of reselling it. Many of them rely on a two-wheeled wagon for that. When it’s loaded, it can weigh even as much as 100 kilograms. This means it’s an incredibly heavy amount for plenty of elderly laborers. They need to carry it to a local depot, which will then buy the garbage.

Plummeting Rates

Back in March, the depots had reduced the prices they paid for the trash to half of the rates that were in January. Recently, the depots paid 70 won ($0.07) for 1 kg of discarded cardboard boxes, as well as 80 won for the same amount of newspapers. In comparison, back in January they paid 140 and 150 won, respectively.

The cutting down of the rates left trash pickers, together with depot operators, in a desperate situation. After hours and hours of picking up trash and pulling wagons with it, the pickers can only make enough to pay for a cheap meal.

What’s Going to Happen?

The slashed rates also have an effect on the depot owners. They claim that without the exports they made to China, they won’t be able to produce enough money to cover the costs of moving the trash to other parts. The Korea Environment Corporation had reported that the recycling depots in all 8 provinces paid 89 won on average for 1 kg of discarded cardboard boxes back in March. In January, they paid only 144 won, which is a cut of 40%.


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