Many people have emphasized the importance of recycling in today’s modern world. We use up so many resources that as the years go by, there are those who are scared there won’t be any left for the coming generations.
While awareness is widespread, it can be very difficult for homeowners to apply this in their own homes. For whatever reasons, recycling may not resonate as much with them as it does with commercial establishments that make it a point to practice strict recycling and trash segregation guidelines. The solution? The humble karung guni man.
The Karung Guni practice is very common in Singapore. They are men who go around properties in Singapore. They usually shout “Karung Guni” to announce their arrival so that the homeowners who have recyclables can get ready. They make visits in carts, collecting old newspapers and other unwanted items that would otherwise be thrown away. They do pay for the items they get. These will be resold at scrap metal sellers and eventually recycled or reused. “Karung guni” is a Malay phrase for gunny sack, which was used in the past to hold the newspapers. Now they don’t just collect newspapers, they also collect old clothes, old appliances, and the like.
The practice of Karung Guni helps foster the culture of recycling in Singapore. Old appliances and bottles can be sold to scrap metal sellers to be taken apart and reused in recycling. Newspapers and bottles and other glass items are sold by the kilo to recycling centers as well. Many karung guni men have made a great living out of recycling, fostering the initiative themselves when private homeowners might not be able to do it themselves.
It may seem like such a humble business, but it is extremely profitable. Even now, with the advent of modern technology, karung guni sellers collect old items like mobile phones, computers, laptops, monitors and other peripherals. They usually see if they can be fixed and then sold at a higher price. If they cannot be resold, then they are taken apart and sold to scrap metal sellers.
While Karung Guni men face so much competition these days, they really do play an important role in maintaining the level of waste in Singapore. Singaporeans have come to rely on them to get rid of their old stuff, and in turn they connect these old things to the right people so they can be reused.