Dedicated but undermanned, workers move a mountain of trash every day

Yang Yang
In Maqiao Town, 39 sanitation workers are processing 70 tons of garbage a day – a load that used to take more than 200 people to shift.
Yang Yang

Thirty-nine sanitation workers from Maqiao Town in Minhang District are processing 70 tons of garbage – normally the workload of more than 200 people – daily, as the lockdown drags on amid the COVID-19 resurgence.

Since March, the workload of the Maqiao Sanitation Co kept rising as the pandemic worsened. And more than 200 of its workers are away, in lockdown.

"The neighborhoods yield about 70 tons of garbage. That is a huge amount," said Yuan Haifeng, chief of the company, who had been worrying about how to efficiently process the garbage during the lockdown.

The 39 workers immediately got together. They divided themselves into a daily garbage processing team, a special quarantine garbage processing team and a logistics support team.

Everybody was racing against time to ensure the smooth and orderly processing of garbage at a time of adversity.

The quarantine garbage team consists of 11 members. A sanitation worker first disinfects garbage cans and their surrounding areas, loads the cans onto a truck, disinfects the truck and then steers the vehicle to its destination.

"A trip back and forth is about 100 kilometers. It's really a tough job," said a worker surnamed Jiang.

To ensure the timely processing of garbage, the teams work about 12 hours a day to disinfect, load, transfer and queue. At the end of a working day, their skins are crinkled like prunes when they take off their protective gear.

In addition to garbage processing, the workers are also responsible for disinfecting nucleic acid sampling sites and lockdown buildings.

"When we feel tired, we take a rest on the makeshift beds at our factory," said one of the workers.

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