I’ve waited for this moment. But I’m late. Can’t miss it. The consequences would be … unpleasant. Raining. Grab my umbrella. Quickly now.

Hands full, umbrella in one, bags in the other, I hurry there. Shoes splash through puddles. Rain whips my face. Wind threatens to steal my umbrella. Keep going.

Yes! I made it!

Winded, I wait for the entrance. The crowds emerge. A woman in a fashionable sweater. An old man, cigarette hanging from his lips. A wearied mom wearing one child in a carrier and dragging another by the hand. The flower shop lady next door, the waitress at the restaurant, a high schooler. Young and old, rich and poor, male and female, all there waiting in anticipation of the moment. The rain continues, but I close my umbrella anyway. I need both hands for this.

Finally, it’s here. The engine roars. The music starts. The lights flick on. Showtime!

The crowds moves as one. We fling our trash bags into the truck. It’s gaping maw crunches the bags as they pop and ooze forth a psychedelic mix of liquids.

People rush to throw their trash into the truck in Taipei, Taiwan

Then the beep of a truck in reverse gear alerts the crowd to its presence. It lurches backwards. A man hops out of the cab, clambers onto the truck bed and with great two-handed heaves throws bag after giant bag into the throat of the trash truck.

With my trash taken care of, I can now deal with the recycling.

I visit the old recycling grandma. She sits within a nest of cavernous bags filled with plastic bottles, cardboard, and tin cans. I give her things she can trade with the recycling plant for money.

Lady collecting recyclable material in Taipei, Taiwan

Afterwards, I still have a pile of things she cannot recycle. So it’s on to the recycling truck, which while only 5 meters away, can be a lethal game of dodging people, hand carts, scooters, and cars while crossing the street to get there. I enter the fray and manage safely. I arrive at a flurry of hands stuffing recycling into four large bags.

Most times Taiwan people are quite patient to wait in long lines for what they need. This is not one of those times. At the recycling truck it’s every man, woman, and child for themself.

Through the frenzy I thrust in my recycling to each of the sorted. Plastic bags. Styrofoam. Paper. Miscellaneous items. Thankfully my trash stop takes all recycling items everyday. Some stops only take plastic bottles one day, paper the next and so on.

Almost done. One more thing to handle.

I walk another 5 meters to a truck filled with large, waist-high barrels, two of which sit on the ground.

In one barrel people dump leftover rice and meats, sauces, half-eaten bread, and anything that a pig would be remotely interested in eating. This go to pig’s feed.

Kitchen waste is collected to be used for pig feed (Taipei, Taiwan)

In the other barrel people dump bones, fruit peels, vegetable husks, and anything else organic a pig wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) eat. This barrel will go to composting.

I dump what I have then sigh deeply as a wave of relief and accomplishment comes over me. I feel as if just having completed a great race or performance.

I head home. My my moment complete. In a couple of days I will will prepare for the next and eagerly await the cheery music and flashing lights of the trash truck announcing it’s beginning.

– Allan Tsai, Shopworkers Church

(Taipei, Northern Taiwan)

Start typing and press Enter to search