Friday, July 03, 2009

What It Takes To Earn A Buck In China

Several months ago, Z and I decided to undertake a little project. We had noticed that several places in our neighborhood collect bottles and take them to bigger recycling centers in Beijing. People collect bottles as a source of income, which you will notice if you are at any major tourist spot in China. Older men and women spend their time rooting through garbage cans and asking tourists for their bottles for this purpose.

So Z and I decided we would collect bottles just from our house, when we remembered to keep them out of the recycling bin, and take them to one of the recycling stations when we had the chance. Well, last week, we finally emptied out the cabinet in my room. We loaded close to a hundred bottles into a big tarp bag, and headed for the nearest bottle exchange business.

On the way down the stairs, we were hypothesizing how much money a bag full of bottles might be worth. We guessed as high as twenty kuai and as low as two kuai. As the lady pulled bottle after bottle out of the bag, and I snapped some pictures (you know we were thinking ahead about this blog!), Z and I kept thinking the total must be at least reaching ten, fifteen kuai by now.

Well, the magic number...six kuai (about a buck). Each small bottle was worth six fen (that is about a penny) and each big one was worth one mao (that is almost two pennies!).

While Z and I definitely can't go on a shopping spree, the greater gain was in the lesson we learned. It isn't easy to make a dollar a day here, but that is maybe what some people are living on.


PS: We have decided to keep up our bottle collection for a few kuai a week!


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