Cleaning up our city

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. And that’s what Adam Thacker did when he saw someone littering in the street. Along with HubHao he set up Beautiful Dongguan, a group dedicated to cleaning the streets of our city and educating its citizens about littering. Echo Zhang joined in the clean up.

Beautiful Dongguan is a group of lovely people living in Dongguan, both locals and expats, who dedicate their free time to cleaning up the city. This wonderful idea came from Adam Thacker, an Englishman who has found his second home in Dongguan and developed his love for this city as many of us have done. Having received great response from the community and with Hyatt Regency as a most supportive sponsor, HubHao partnered with Adam to organize and promote this event.

Since October, three events have been organized, once every month, in Dongcheng and Nancheng areas so far. My colleague told me about the first event he was in and invited me join in the next time. I wasn’t interested, thinking it’s a bit cheesy and awkward having people looking at you while picking up rubbish on the street, but I did, out of politeness. Then, on the third event, the latest one, I just turned up myself as I’ve discovered the beauty in Beautiful Dongguan.

I arrived a few minutes late and people in white Beautiful Dongguan T-shirts were seen spread out through the park already picking up rubbish.

On a sunny Sunday morning in November, I dragged myself out of bed and managed to get to the park near the flower market in Dongcheng, where the event would be held and I would meet the Beautiful Dongguan group. I arrived a few minutes late and people in white Beautiful Dongguan T-shirts were seen spread out through the park already picking up rubbish. A friendly lady handed me a t-shirt, gloves, a rubbish picker, and a bin bag. I put on the t-shirt and off I went to join the others. It was later that I learned she’s the wife of the organizer and their 3-year-old son is also a member of the group.

In a few quick browses, the park looked green and little rubbish could be spotted, yet the fact is most were hidden under the cover of grass and bushes and as you venture on, you will be surprised how many bin bags will have used. Apart from the volunteers in white tops, I noticed that there were quite a lot of young people, likely students, all wearing the same black t-shirts. I walked up to one of them and she told me with a shy smile “We are in the same class in City College of Dongguan University of Technology. One of our classmates knows Adam, the organizer, and invited us to join in as a kind of class gathering.” Isn’t KTV or BBQ a more enjoyable choice for a gathering? I thought. Yet she continued, “I think it’s a very good idea, doing something meaningful, something good to the city and the environment.”

The team was busily engaged; some were picking up litter by a half deserted pond, some were trying to drag out a plastic bag half buried on the ground, some were tying off a filled up bin bag. There were families taking a walk and people jogging around the park. Most of them watched, some commented and a few participated. A man jogged by and put his thumb up, said, “You are the best. Thank you.” A family asked, “Can we join in?” “For sure”, was the answer.

In an hour’s time, countless bags of litter were neatly placed by the bins nearby. After we put away the last bag and had our ‘Beautiful Dongguan’ photos taken, I had the chance to speak to Adam and learned a rather interesting story behind this idea.

“I’ve been living here for a long time and I always felt that there’s a lot of rubbish on the floor. A month ago, I saw a guy throw rubbish onto the floor in front of me, so I told him to pick it up and put it into the bin, which is right next to him. I spoke to him in Chinese. But in English, he replied ‘Go back home, if you don’t like it’. In the end I picked up his rubbish and put it in the bin myself. Then I started to think to myself ‘Go back home? I am home. I live here; my wife’s from here; my son is half Chinese’. So I thought ‘if this is my home, what would I do?’”

What I want to achieve is not just having people pick up rubbish, but to have people’s mindset changed.Adam Thacker

It was this little incident that triggered the idea of putting a Wechat message out, asking if anyone wanted to join him and pick up rubbish. Expecting around ten responses, Adam was surprised to have two hundred people in the group. For the first event, fifty people turned up and this time, over seventy people joined in. However, this is just the start of a long journey. “What I want to achieve is not just having people pick up rubbish, but to have people’s mindset changed. Especially the kids, they can learn to take care of the place where they live in.” Beautiful Dongguan is growing and more are welcome to join, like Adam said “if people live faraway in other towns and areas, they can start their own group”.

A few days ago, the group met up near One Mall area by Hongfu Road. It was a chilly morning but everyone seemed warmed-up and ready to pick some rubbish. We set off in small groups of two or three. There were friends, brothers and sisters, young couples, families, and a few young mothers with their little daughters. When I saw an old lady with grey hair working along with a young woman, I was intrigued. I asked the young woman tentatively “Your mum?” “Yes. Trying to educate her”, she answered with a laugh. The old lady joined in, “When you were little, it was us that taught you and now it’s the other way round.”

It’s true that it’s easier to change the younger generation’s mindset, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on the older generation. At least it’s for sure that there isn’t an age limit in joining Beautiful Dongguan.

Again, the group has attracted some curious passers-by. Some took photos to possibly post in their WeChat moments and spread the word while some stopped to ask how they could join. A foreigner on his way to work walked up to us to get our group WeChat, hoping he can join us next time.

I’m sure there will always be new faces. So see you next time in Beautiful Dongguan!

Play Your Part

What is Recyclable?

When we are going about our daily lives we sometimes don’t take the time to think if what we are throwing away is recyclable or not. Here is a helpful list so you know where your rubbish belongs.
Recyclable: mixed paper and card, household plastic packaging and plastic bottles, mixed glass bottles and jars, cartons, food and drink cans.
Non-Recyclable: Kitchen garbage, tissue, toilet paper, hazardous waste like batteries, used computer equipment, light bulbs, and leftover paints.

Help Your Ayi, Help The Environment

Most cleaners collect recyclable rubbish, so why not collect your household recyclable rubbish and give them to the cleaners in your apartment building. To make it easier to categorize your rubbish, color coded bin sets can be purchased from Taobao. What’s more, there is no harm in putting a recyclable rubbish bin on your floor to encourage your neighbors to do the same.

Keep The Streets Clean

There isn’t a lack of bins on the streets in our city, just a lack of the ‘Beautiful Dongguan’ mindset. Hold on to your rubbish if there isn’t a bin around and when you do find one just take a look at which is for recyclable items and which is for non-recyclable items. Also, most of the rubbish bins have a smaller battery-shaped pocket on the side, which is for battery recycling.

点此阅读中文: Chinese (Simplified)

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  1. Dan A
    July 31, 2017 at 4:48 pm Reply


    I am new to Dongguan. Do you know WeChat groups for English speakers living in DG? Especially for newcomer information and support.

    Dan A
    WC ID: 18975141387

    1. Hubhao Acton
      Hubhao Acton
      August 5, 2017 at 11:30 pm Reply

      Hello Dan, I just tried to add you, acton28. I’m John.
      Where are you in DG? Groups seem to follow most bars, some in Houjie, Nancheng and Dongcheng. ALso teaching groups, hiking, football etc.

      Shout if you need anything! Thanks, John

  2. Dan
    July 31, 2017 at 4:50 pm Reply

    English WeChat groups in Dongguan?
    Phone/Wechat ID: 18975141387

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