Scrap merchants

Published: May 24, 2004
Updated: May 24, 2004

No matter what time of the day we place our garbage outside our front fence, you can be sure that some person/s will open the plastic bag and check what is in there to see whether anything has any value for recycling. The garbage is collected by hand here every morning, so you can be sure that if we place the bag out at night, by the morning scores of people could have rifled through it at all hours. There are many many people in HCMC who make a living (I’m not sure how good a living) out of collecting or buying scrap and reselling it.
Some wander the streets with a pushbike that has large bags tied all over the back, others walk carrying the more traditional pole over the shoulder with a basket suspended from each end. Others use the Vietnamsese equivalent of a pick-up or utility which is a three wheeled affair with a metal framed timber tray on the front that turns to allow steering and there are motor driven or pedal powered varieties. If they are buying scrap then they will have a very old looking set of scales somewhere about and they usually announce their presence with a resonant and tonal singsong set of lyrics. The ladies usually wear conical hats tied with fabric under their chins that they can pull up to cover their mouth and nose and the better equipped wear gloves and carry a metal spike that they use to open and fossick through bags.
This morning, at a house across from ours there was a bit of spring cleaning going on and several unwanted items were being taken away by four of these scrap people. The most ambitious effort was a medium size refrigerator which was carryed out into the hem (alley) and tied sideways across the seat of a small Honda motorbike which meant that each end of it projected out on either side. Once tied on the driver started the bike, (with some difficulty) and wobbled off out into Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street. I can only imagine how many other riders he will nearly collect on his way to wherever this stuff gets sorted.

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