When you walk around in China, you can find people walking around and collecting empty bottles. I always thought this phenomenon only exists in not-yet industrialized countries. The people are so poor that collecting those bottles and selling them to a garbage dealer allows them to make enough money to survive. But during the last few weeks, I began seeing the same phenomenon in Berlin, Germany.
Because social welfare exists in Germany, I thought that there will be no need to do this kind of dirty work in Germany. Welfare includes a lot of things, even a television. For a not working family with 3 children, they would get around € 1000 + rent, which is more than enough to survive. So it was quite astonishing to see a Turkish mother and her 3 daughters crawling through the garbage containers looking for bottles. At first I thought they were looking for something they accidentally threw away, but when I got closer to throw away my garbage, I saw how one of the girls fished a bottle out and happily presented it to her mother.
Yesterday, I was sitting in the train to go ice skating with my girlfriend. I saw a Turkish guy wandering through the wagon like he is looking for something he lost. I didn’t pay much attention to him until he picked up a plastic bottle and put it into his plastic bag. He wasn’t clothed badly, so I wondered why people needed doing something like that.
One bottle can be returned for 25 cent, so when you are able to collect 4, you get € 1. Now when I buy something to drink, I am always too lazy to return the bottle, so it ends up in the garbage. I am probably not the only one doing so, so I think they can approximately find 2 bottles in each garbage container and 1 bottle in every third garbage can. In average, you will probably need 5 minutes for each container or 1 minute for each garbage can. Let’s see how their hourly earnings are: 12 containers * 2 bottles/container * 25 cent/bottle = € 6 or 60 cans * 0,33 bottles/can * 25 cent/bottle = € 5! Wait, that is more than an average waiter earns per hour… Doing this a whole day will get you around at least € 40, a week without breaks would be € 280 and for a month € 1120! That is more than they would receive from welfare, meaning they would have untaxed 2000€ to spend each month and don’t even need to pay the rent.
I haven’t seen any Germans do this job, but it seems like some Turkish people have overcome their sham and live this way.