News at Tipitaka Network
Buddhist foundation assembles volunteers to recycle
By Liu King-pong, Taiwan Journal, Friday, September 28, 2007
Taiwan's Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation can be seen as a role model for doing recycling on the island. Master Cheng Yen, founder of Tzu Chi, has encouraged millions of her followers to cherish the Earth and protect the environment through recycling. There are 4,500 Tzu Chi recycling stations and over 50,000 recycling volunteers in Taiwan, according to the foundation. Proceeds from the sale of recyclables cover nearly a quarter of the operating costs for the Tzu Chi Great Love Television Station, the Master claimed Sept. 21.
Tsai Bo-ji, a 78-year-old woman living in southern Taiwan, is one example of the foundation's dedication. Encouraged by her daughters, she became a Tzu Chi recycling volunteer more than 10 years ago. Since then, she has been devoted to gathering recyclables in her community. The more time and energy she contributed, the happier and healthier she felt, Tsai claimed Sept. 15. Some people teased her, however, saying, "You're not short of good food, so why bother scavenging through filthy garbage every day?" Tsai said their taunts did not shake her determination to keep the community clean. "I'm doing something nice for our neighborhood, so I'm not afraid of being made fun of by anyone," she remarked.
Tsai's dedication for Tzu Chi's recycling program extended beyond collecting reusable materials. She also donated a piece of land to be used as a recycling station. Many teachers have brought students to the station so they could appreciate the importance of recycling and environmental protection. After the on-site lesson, some students even participate on the weekends to sort through recyclables.
Liao Yong-xiang, a volunteer at the recycling station in Guandu, recalled Sept. 15 the many students who came to serve as volunteers during their vacations. After working at the station for a few days, students realized how much energy and resources were actually needed to make an aluminum can. They found it hard to believe that they could have ever tossed cans away so casually, Liao commented.
In order to create less waste, the students promised to reduce the amount of soft drinks they purchased. Such decisions also ended up benefiting their teeth and overall health. Moreover, the students learned to take every opportunity to protect the environment through recycling. "If more children can learn to conserve resources, the society will be blessed," Liao added.
Several volunteers have applied their creativity and skills to make their work more efficient. Wang Chun-xiong, a volunteer in Kaohsiung County, made a device that helped reduce fatigue in the volunteers about six years ago.
Volunteers usually worked for one to three hours in each shift at the recycling stations. Over time, this took its toll on the workers, some of whom were more than 80 years of age. "Repeatedly bending over, sitting down and standing up over an extended period of time were hard on the body," Wang recalled Sept. 19.
He then started thinking how he could make things easier for the volunteers. Wang hit upon the idea of a conveyor belt. Such an innovation would make processing the raw recyclables faster and might even put an end to the aches and pains that constantly plagued the senior volunteers.
Wang began designing the conveyor with a few basic considerations in mind. It had to be high enough to be comfortable for the majority of the workers, and just wide enough that volunteers could readily reach from one side of the belt to the other, he explained. The speed of the belt had to be easily controlled by a switch. Little by little, the original specifications were modified and improved. Gradually, the conveyor began to take shape.
While browsing in a hardware store, he noticed a transparent cover meant to protect the top of a desk. In the desk cover, Wang saw the ideal material for the belt that would carry the recyclables. Made of polyethylene, the transparent cover was pliable, impervious to water and resistant to most chemicals. Wang immediately purchased an adequate supply and rushed back to the station. The desk cover was a perfect fit. With that, the conveyor was officially launched.
Using the new machinery, volunteers unloaded the recyclables from trucks onto the conveyor belt. The six-meter-long conveyor moved the recyclables along while other volunteers stood on both sides of the belt, each one picking out his assigned material. Although everyone was just as busy as before, the aches and pains associated with the work decreased. Volunteers could work longer shifts without feeling tired.
Wang said he was glad to provide diagrams and assembly assistance to any recycling station considering adopting his device. Ten Tzu Chi recycling stations in Taiwan have already installed the conveyors.
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