County demands its junkmen be licensed
Updated: 2012-10-04 08:17
By Zheng Xin (China Daily)
Local governments are beginning to establish a professional threshold for junkmen by demanding they become certified.
Heyang county, in Shaanxi province, adopted a regulation in this month on the management of renewable resources that requires all junkmen to have certificates.
The regulation is meant to better guard against fraud in the junk trade and prevent theft.
Heyang is not the first to come up with a junkmen-certificate policy. Beijing and Hebei and Henan provinces enacted similar regulations earlier to guard against theft by garbage collectors.
Some Heyang residents believed the regulation could effectively prevent thieves posing as junkmen from wandering around their community.
"The certificates are more of a guarantee for us," said Cui Pei, 26, of Tianjin.
Cui said her house was broken into this year. She reported the break-in to police, but the burglars have not yet been found.
"I'm not expecting to get my stolen possessions back, but I've become very alert to junkmen around the community," she said.
Some are just "sizing up the households", she said, and the certificates might eliminate burglars from their ranks, making neighborhoods safer.
However, some experts fear the regulation will serve no useful purpose and, despite its good intentions, might be harmful.
"The certificate system is like taking the junkmen by the throat and threatening their survival," said Yi Shenghua, a lawyer at Yingke Law Firm in Beijing. "To impose restrictions on that group of people, instead of preventing burglary, will, on the contrary, cause social problems because many of the junkmen who are deemed 'unqualified' might resort to thievery."
Collecting scraps and garbage is not a regular job. Junkmen are very mobile, and they might resort to other, illegal ways of making a living if their livelihood is disturbed, he said.
According to Mao Da, an expert in solid-waste management at Beijing Normal University, different from other countries, China has largely relied on scrap collectors to help with trash disposal and recycling, especially as the State-run recycling stations are gradually disappearing.
Scrap collectors serve society through their work, Yi said.
"Although there have been some cases of theft, it's not fair to regard them all as thieves," he said. "Many junkmen in local communities have been of great service to residents, and their absence might bring inconvenience."
Chen Liwen, a researcher with Green Beagle, an environmental protection organization in the capital, agreed.
The consequence of putting out of work people who make a living gathering cola cans and old cardboard boxes is unpredictable, she said during an interview earlier this year.
There are some 200,000 scrap collectors in the capital, Chen said.
Yi Haiyan, 48, of Tianjin, has been selling used cardboard boxes and worn-out electric appliances to the junkwoman in her community for years.
"We have a good relationship, and she comes upstairs to weigh the junk for me," Yi said. "I have no idea how I'd get rid of it if she was put out of work for not having the certificates."
"After all these years, I trust her more than some new person who has the papers the government requires," she said.
According to the lawyer Yi, the purpose of the certificate system is to improve regulation of the mobile population and further maintain social stability.
However, the key to maintaining stability lies in the strict management of the large recycling enterprises, not individuals.
To better manage the industry has more to do with regular supervision and how and where trash is sent, not some certificate, said Ding Zhaolin, a special commentator for China National Radio.
To have the junkmen take examinations to get certificates - and most are neither young nor very well-educated - is imposing a great burden on them, he said.
"We should provide them with more subsidies instead of taking more from them, considering the contribution they make to environmental protection and convenience they provide," said Ding.