Vol­un­teer group help­ing to re­duce trash along Yangtze River

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By XIN­HUA in Wuhan

Ev­ery morn­ing at 7 am, Li Shuangxi and his wife can be seen bend­ing over, stand­ing up and bend­ing over again on the marsh­lands of the Yangtze River in Yichang, Hubei prov­ince.

The cou­ple are not do­ing their morn­ing ex­er­cises. As their rub­ber-gloved hands and the plas­tic bags slung over their arms in­di­cate, they are pick­ing lit­ter along China’s long­est river.

They are joined by a dozen other peo­ple. Bags of trash be­gin to pile up by the road­side, wait­ing to be col­lected and sent to col­lect­ing sta­tions. Less than an hour later the group leaves, dis­ap­pear­ing into the flow of morn­ing com­muters.

“We call our­selves ‘ant-men’,” said Li, a hair­dresser. “All we do is pick up trash along the Yangtze for about half an hour ev­ery day.”

In Novem­ber last year, Li was in­spired af­ter read­ing a story about a young for­eigner who vol­un­teered to clean up the garbage in his lo­cal river ev­ery morn­ing.

“I was born and raised along the Yangtze. I have no prob­lem get­ting up a lit­tle bit ear­lier to do some­thing for my mother river ev­ery day,” Li said.

He bought garbage bags and gloves, and began his rit­ual the day af­ter read­ing the story.

Yichang is lo­cated in the Three Gorges, one of the most splen­did sec­tions of the Yangtze.

Li and his wife col­lected about 50 kilo­grams of trash on their first day, 100 kg on the sec­ond and more than 200 kg on the third day.

“The marsh­lands were like a garbage dump,” Li said.

As the amount of garbage they col­lected was be­com­ing too much to han­dle, he asked a friend to trans­port the bags to a nearby garbage sta­tion on a tri­cy­cle. The sta­tion re­fused to ac­cept the garbage at first, ask­ing for dis­posal fees. Li tried hard to per­suade work­ers there to ac­cept them for free.

Later he posted pho­to­graphs and a de­scrip­tion about what he was do­ing on his WeChat ac­count. Some of his friends said he should not bother as there was so much new trash ev­ery day. Some even ques­tioned whether the whole en­deavor was just a pub­lic­ity stunt.

Thanks to the sup­port of his wife and son, Li was not dis­cour­aged. Af­ter a month, about 100 peo­ple had joined him. He had “co-work­ers”.

In Oc­to­ber, Li es­tab­lished a vol­un­teer group called “Three Gorges Ant-men”, which now has more than 300 reg­is­tered mem­bers.

The Three Gorges’ Ant-men have also won recog­ni­tion from the city gov­ern­ment, which now sends garbage trucks to the col­lec­tion site and even of­fered the group an of­fice, where do­nated gloves and garbage bags can be stored.

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