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Sweepers donate 18 million won from disposal of recyclables

Kim Yong-hwa
Kim Yong-hwa
Nine cleaners for a Seoul district office have donated 18 million won ($17,100) they raised by selling recyclables over four years.

Though their lives are financially difficult ― four of them work just 120 hours a month, making 800,000 won ― they gave all the money they raised by separating recyclables from garbage and selling them, the Jung-gu District office said.

Kim Yong-hwa, 44, who leads a sanitation team working for the office, led the initiative for the charity drive.

Ever since he was hired in 1992 as a low-ranking janitor at the office, he has come to work at 6 a.m. every day. After cleaning restrooms, corridors, staircases and walls, he and his team members take extra time to collect recyclables from garbage bags.

In the first month, they earned about 100,000 won from collecting recyclables. The amount was enough to afford snacks and coffee.

Kim began to turn his attention to trash bins outside the office building in 2010. Some members of his team disliked the extra work at first but later started to like it.

The amount of recyclables they collected rose from 1 ton to 2 tons a month, and they managed to earn 300,000 won.

They donated 8 million won in December 2011 and 5.85 million won in December 2012. This year, despite the drop in the prices of recyclables, they made 5 million won to donate to the office on Dec. 4 for its charity programs. Their donations to date have totaled 18.85 million won.

“People sometimes look down on us for taking out recyclables from trash bags,” Park said. “However, I don’t mind them staring at me when I think that I can give a little help to those living a more difficult life than I.”

By Chun Sung-woo (