China travel

Published on November 18th, 2011 | by Paz


Litter and create a job..?

There are many oxymoron’s that we hear every day while living in China. Some are doozies! However the one that still gets us is when people tell us; “You should litter to help create jobs!!” Wait…am I confused…you are encouraging me to do what? Does your mother know you say this? That is what runs through my head. I know if my mom heard me say that…well let’s just say it wouldn’t be good. We finally have a grasp on this whole littering concept. (Don’t tell my mom)

Litter to create jobs! DO IT…these people need to eat too. huh??? 

If you are confused please don’t worry so were/are we. But let me explain.

As you walk the streets of China you see these people with HUGE straw brooms. They jumped right out of a Harry Potter movie and into these workers’ hands. I wonder if they know Harry Potter? Anyway…all they do is sweep, and sweep, and sweep, and did I mention that they sweep? They sweep up leaves, garbage, dead animals, and really anything that lands in their designated sweeping area.

So people walk down the street and throw anything and everything in their hand on the ground. However, it doesn’t stay there too long because along comes the street sweeper within 20-30 minutes and sweeps it up and puts it in a garbage close by.

So if they don’t throw garbage on the ground they would be out of a job and unable to provide for their family? Is that what everyone is saying? I guess with over a billion people to create jobs for you get a little creative.  Nevertheless, what else is going on?

NO littering areas!

As you enter any subway station, government owned area, tourist attraction, or special designated area you will quickly notice NO ONE is littering. So we are confused….we see no signs. We hear no rules over a blaring megaphone.  So we ask.

International Cravings: Why is no one littering here?

Answer: Because you don’t litter here.

International Cravings: How do you know where you can and cannot litter?

Answer: Well you just know.

Okay, I am not sure if there are signs or some secret flyer going around that people know when and where not to litter. There could be some secret club that has meetings about where and when people can litter to make sure that they are creating the right amount of jobs at a given time. But now that we have lived in China for 8 months, I can honestly say this is NOT happening.

The subways are super clean, the financial district is impeccable, tourist attractions are beautifully kept,  and the immigration office is squeaky clean. So no jobs being created there.

What happens when there are no cleaners and no secret rules?

Where we see the biggest problem is in the areas where there are no dedicated cleaners and no back door secret rules to follow. These are the areas that littering takes its toll on the scenery and the environment. There is no government funding to employ someone to come and pick up your trash. No secret rules to follow…so what happens?? It is a disaster!! People still litter, but the garbage just piles up.

When we visited the country and were done changing our little guys diaper we put them in a garbage bag and asked where to take it? Our nanny (we were in her home town) grabbed it and walked across the road and threw it in the stream!!! As you can imagine my mouth dropped. I ran out and asked her why and what and how we were doing this????? What was happening??? Did I just single handedly contribute to the death of the earth? The answer is YES! As we asked what is done with the garbage…well that is what is done. It is taken out back and dumped. I guess I am happy that we were really the only one’s in the town using diapers. Everyone else had split pants.  A good thing.

Zeek after sharing a few beers with some town gentlemen and local smiling kids!

You have to remember that you can’t judge her or her town. They simply don’t know or have been exposed to Earth Day or anything similar. It is just their way of life, and we were guests.

Littering at it’s best or worst. Not sure?

My first visit to a “Chinese public picnic BBQ”.

You walk up and you see tons of green lush grass and beautiful trees. Wait…you can’t go anywhere near that. It is forbidden. Instead you go to the 30 concrete benches with small concrete charcoal grills. Each concrete picnic area is about 12 inches away from the next. I was a bit disappointed. The last thing I wanted was to sit on a small concrete bench 12 inches from a complete stranger and their friends who are also huddled around a concrete grill. I didn’t know how you could call this a picnic.

That wasn’t all.

Here are the concrete benches basically covered in the last parties trash. We sat at a clean (soon to look the same) bench next to it.

The garbage is what made me lose my appetite. As you walk through the twelve inches you have to step over garbage. As you unwrap your food and prepare to cook it you just chuck your wrapper, and anything else on the floor right next to you. So as I sit on the little bench I am not only sitting next to our garbage, but my neighbors garbage as well. I don’t do well with the whole garbage thing to begin with, but with it 1 inch from my foot was really getting on my nerves.

I had to ask why we weren’t using a garbage bag. I could go buy one. Why was everyone okay with all this garbage laying around them? Was I the only one who wanted a ShopVak to pull up and clean this mess up? They so nicely explained that we would be taking away the woman’s job if we brought our own garbage bag or picked up our garbage. We had to make sure she was still needed. Huh?

They assured me that within 30 minutes some woman would walk around with their bags and pick up the garbage.

Then another man/woman would come around and collect anything that could be sold as recycle.

Then anyone else who saw value in what was left would probably find their way there to collect. By the next morning it would be clean and ready for the next round. for thought or recycle.

About 30 minutes later I witnessed them come around and begin the clean-up phase.

Litter and create a job?

Our conclusion is that we give China a thumbs up for being creative in the job creation field. Giving uneducated people a way to provide for their family. However, we give them a thumbs down on encouraging littering. Not only for the obvious reason of polluting the earth, but because it encourages people to not take care of themselves. Someone else will handle this job and it isn’t necessary for them to take care of their own mess. We see that as an equal negative effect on society and one that is visible in so many aspects of Chinese society.


About the Author

Paz is an avid adventurer in life and food. Traveling across the globe with her family they enjoy cultural immersion and checking out the local eateries.

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