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Bangkok Street Life – Khun Sompong the local recycling man

Local recycling man in Bangkok

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

What ever you may believe the members of the urban work force that endlessly search through our rubbish, sorting and collecting any materials that can be recycled, are the backbone of the recycling drive in Bangkok which can only be a good thing for this country, and ultimately the world. On a good day these workers can earn over 500 baht, that may not sound much but considering the minimum wage in Bangkok is 300 baht per day then it’s really not too bad, and don’t forget, on some lucky days they really do uncover some great treasure!

“My name is Ar and I am a tour guide at Follow Me Bangkok Bicycle Tours. If you have visited us at the Follow Me Clubhouse in Bangkok you may have already seen Khun Sompong on one of our Bangkok tours, he is the very happy man who can be seen almost every day around the vicinity of Sathorn Soi 9 pushing around his small cart collecting any waste that can be recycled. The other day, he eagerly waved and greeted me again with his broad smile, as part of our Bangkok Street Life series I asked him a few questions so that I could share something of his life with you.”

As you can see from the video Khun Sompong comes across as a very proud and respectful man, we were therefore not really surprised to hear that he had spent over 22 years in the Thai Army.

Khun Sompong told us that he is from the north east of Thailand and he now lives in his own house in Bangkok, in fact it’s just a few minutes walk from our Clubhouse so we consider ourselves as neighbours. He told us that he has a full time job in his village taking care of 36 families, including his own, we know that what he means is that he does odd jobs to help other people in his community.

In his spare time Khun Sompong separates recyclable materials from rubbish in domestic dustbins in the local area, he collects plastic and glass that he sells to large recycling factories. In Thailand, due to the government policies to improve waste management, the recycling rate has increased significantly and over 22% of urban waste is salvaged and recycled. This is now the second most common method of waste management in Bangkok but the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) suggest that 30-40% of rubbish can be recycled, so there is a long way to go.

Khun Sompong told us that he chooses to do this work; he is not a refuse collector but merely collects anything of value and he considers it as a hobby and finds it fun. Many people give him tips and he is happy and proud at his age that he can do this and he will not stop until he cannot move anymore. To be honest, we were really surprised to hear that he is 80 years old, as he declares he is very healthy and to be sure this is due to his active and healthy lifestyle and a good mind set.

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