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Elderly cardboard collectors struggle to walk up to 30 minutes after their Chinatown collection point shuts down

Mdm Lai Sau Choo and Mdm Lim Ah Lian spoke about the hardships they are facing with the collection point being further away

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Two elderly ladies who collect and sell cardboard for a living spoke about how much harder their jobs became when a collection point at Chinatown was shut down, causing them to have to walk up to 30 minutes more, pushing their heavy trollies, to another collection point.

In a video where they spoke to members of a non-profit organization Happy People Helping People (HPHP), Mdm Lai Sau Choo and Mdm Lim Ah Lian explained some of the struggles they now face because of the collection point being a lot further and more inconvenient.

Physical struggles

“Sometimes I push my trolley and collect cardboard at the same time. Sometimes my cart falls over and I have to get it back up again”, Mdm Lim explained. She also said that if she walked at a quicker pace, she could reach the new collection point in 20 minutes, but if she was slow and collected cardboard along the way, it would take her 30 minutes to reach the new collection point.

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Mdm Lai, who looked to be slightly older than Mdm Lim said, “You can’t just jay-walk you have to look for a traffic-light. It’s a busy cross-junction. No choice. I have to push my trolley slowly”.

She added that, “The previous collection point is nearer and traffic is not as busy. The traffic at the new location is a lot more busy”.

“It’s difficult for old folks to travel too far on foot”, she said.

Photo: Fb/Happy People Helping People Community

More meager earnings

The two women also said that in terms of profitability, “The boss at the new collection point pays (them) less”.

The boss at the previous collection point used to pay the women six cents per kilogram of cardboard. Now at the new collection point however, the women only get paid five cents per kilogram. They also only get 60 cents for every 60 drink cans, but the at the previous location the boss would give them 70 cents per 60 cans.

It may not be much to the common man, but Mdm Lai said, “You really have to load up your trolley just for that ten or 20 cents more, which is really not much”.

The women were partial to their previous boss, who not only collected cardboard and drink cans, he also collected old clothes that they would bring.

“Making the journey here can be dangerous and I would rather not have to do so, so I really wish we can have our previous collection site back”, Mdm Lim said.

Reaching out to the authorities

On behalf of these elderly cardboard collectors, the non-profit Happy People Helping People (HPHP) reached out to Member of Parliament Lily Neo from Kreta Ayer constituency in hopes that she could help in lifting the ban by Town Council on the karung guni lorry operating behind Blk 5 Banda St.

They wrote, “The lorry has been operating at that same location for years; more than 6 years at least, collecting cardboard boxes, cans and other items from our elderly cardboard collectors (65-99 years of age) in that area. It has never been an issue as the lorry uses a parking lot and only operates for 2 hrs daily. The location is also convenient for our elderly cardboard collectors because a majority of them are staying at the rented flats nearby”.

Watch their video here:

TISG has reached out to MP Lily Neo for further comment. /TISG

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