Saturday, August 18, 2007

Trash Collector Triathlon: Garbage Man Olympics

A while back The Real Taiwan did this article about garbage collection, particularly about the music that is played by the trucks as they are coming to pick up the trash.

I still wish he would dig a little deeper and see if you can find out how that piece of music was decided for trash collection. I have heard that they once changed the music to a special garbage song but it was a flop and it reverted to the original.

Lost of people have noted the ice-cream truck quality of the garbage pickup. Also, they have pointed out some peculiarities of the trash collection system too.

"Taiwan operates rubbish collection in a different way than most other nations. A person's rubbish is their responsibility until it is in the internals of the rubbish truck, not once it lies on the street but inside the truck. Every person must take their rubbish from their house and throw it into the back of the truck as it stops at predetermined points along the way. Every day and at the same time a truck playing a loud yet familiar tune (like that of the ice-cream van back home) will float past every house within 200meters. In fact two trucks will drive along, the first for general waste and the second for glass bottles, plastic bottles, paper, etc. So not only are they providing a convenient recycling operation but also providing it daily. And should the trucks be missed then there will invariably be another arriving around the corner or in another street close by within the next hour or so"

Not only this but most neighborhoods have recycle hounds (see the tricycle pic), as I call them, who are people in the community that collect recyclables from your doorstep in order to cash them in for a little extra money. In fact they'll almost beg you not to throw them away at the regular trash collection! This is a little cottage industry in Taiwan for older people who want to make a little extra spending money.

There is, however, one good story that has been missed by most writers and that is the Garbage Olympics. Perhaps it's because of a lack of info available on the Internet. I have in my possession an article that seems to predate the archiving of either the China Post's or Taipei Times' articles online. It's entitled "Garbage collector hopefuls compete". The long and the short of it is that Taiwanese actually compete to get garbageman jobs in Taipei!

According to the article:
"hopefuls [sprint] down the running track with heavy sandbags on their backs [....] [e]ach carrying a 15-kilogram sandbag [...] in a 90-meter dash [...] to decide whether they were physically qualified to work as cleaners or garbage collectors that the Taipei City Government needs to hire"

The article continues that the acceptance rate for the job is only 4%, even lower than the college entrance exam. Good education is not a requirement however many candidates are high school and even college or university grads. They have to pass a written test then a knotting garbage bags test as well.

One man is quoted as saying it's not shameful to compete for such a job especially when jobs are hard to find. What's not mentioned is the pension that the man would receive if he should land the job. In Taiwan, pension plans are the exception not the rule. Public service employees usually get a competitive pension plan.

In an obvious attempt at equal opportunity employment, Taipei City reserves half the positions for aborigines and people from low-income, underprivileged families.

Finally, failed candidates are also offered chances to become security guards, building custodians and cleaners.

Imagine that!
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