Activity, Charity, Helping

Cardboard Collectors? Correction: We’re Urban Recyclers!

Remember the occasional hollers of ‘Karaang Guniii’, accompanied by the iconic honks of the rubber horns? Well, of course we’re familiar with these karung guni men, making their rounds in our neighborhoods, but what about our silent cardboard collectors?

How much do we know about the cardboard collectors we see on the street, pushing along loaded trolleys, backs hunched?

Going to shophouses and alleys, collecting used newspapers, assorted metal tins and old gadgets (etc. including clothes, wires, cans, bottles), they are our unsung heroes when it comes to recycling, therefore the term: Urban Recyclers, is used to refer to this special group of people.

Pushing around their assorted loot in rusty trolleys, we rarely notice them — this hardworking group of elderly that earns their livelihood from backbreaking work . However, they deserve recognition and dignity as well, since they are often neglected and looked down upon because of their “humble” job.

In addition, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many livelihoods have been disrupted, including the ones of our dear Urban Recyclers, who are bearing the brunt of this economic impact.

This is why Border Mission decided to reach out to this neglected group of elderly, and deliver help the best we can.

First, we organized an outreach walk in order to locate these Urban Recyclers in different parts of Singapore. Through our Social Media platforms, we managed to reach out to many volunteers island-wide and even covered 10 locations in the first week!

After locating them, we then engaged our volunteers to connect with them to understand their conditions and needs, before making the decision to donate new trolleys to our Urban Recyclers, so that they can collect cardboard with more ease and less effort.

We completed our first trolley dispatch in Ang Mo Kio, during the first month of 2021. At that time, we had already engaged with around 460 volunteers island-wide in 17 areas, and the numbers were still growing. In addition to providing them with better tools, Border Mission also helps by educating them on selling their collections as well as advocating higher prices for their items.

After much effort from our volunteers, we managed to organize trolley dispatches at 14 locations across Singapore, allowing our Urban Recyclers to go about their jobs with more ease. 

However, there is much that we can still do to help the vulnerable in society, and we shouldn’t wait for them to ask. Let’s all join in this effort to improve the lives of our Urban Recyclers, and make Singapore a better place to live.

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