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Taiwan garbage collectors return red envelopes back to community

Sanitation workers in Hsinchu have received NT$320,000 over past seven years

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City officials urge the public not to tip the garbage man. (Hsinchu City Gov't photo)

City officials urge the public not to tip the garbage man. (Hsinchu City Gov't photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Sanitation workers in Hsinchu are so loved by the community that they are frequently the recipients of red envelopes containing cash over the Lunar New Year.

The Hsinchu City Government generally discourages the practice, preferring to focus on the duty of trash collection. But still, there are some occasions when sanitation workers simply cannot return red envelopes as the citizen has simply run off and left them holding a red envelope.

When it is impossible to refuse or return such gifts from the public, sanitation teams, which include street sweepers and those who drive garbage trucks or sort recycling, are asked to surrender these red envelopes to a government office with the intention of giving them back to the community. In the past seven years, these red envelopes have amounted to some NT$320,000 (US$10,000).

Over the most recent Lunar New Year, the Hsinchu City Bureau of Environmental Protection said it received 282 red envelopes, totaling NT$76,021. This averages out to NT$269 per red envelope.

Donations come from all walks of life who want to thank sanitation workers for their hard work, especially during the holiday period when many undertake housecleaning, and the amount of garbage, including furniture, can be overwhelming. Hsinchu Mayor Kao Hung-an (高虹安) called upon the city's Environmental Protection Bureau to publicize and remind civil servants to not accept gifts for personal gain.

Taiwan garbage collectors return red envelopes back to community A nice gesture best to be avoided. (Taoyuan City Government photo)

This meant that all red envelopes obtained had to be handed over to the Department of Civil Service Ethics and handled in accordance with regulations. In the end, funds are generally distributed to causes which benefit needy families in the community.

“For many years, we told the public sanitation workers only collect garbage, not collect red envelopes. However, over Lunar New Year, many force our workers to take these red envelopes and then just run away,” said Hsinchu City Bureau of Environmental Protection Director Chiang Sheng-jen (江盛任) in a UDN report.

Nonetheless, he expressed his gratitude to the public for their enthusiasm and support of sanitation workers and hopes that they will transfer these good feelings into everyday activities like sorting, recycling and reducing garbage, as well as jointly maintaining the overall cleanliness of the city and creating a clean, sustainable, and livable Hsinchu City.