CCTV Anti-Littering Message with Nanjing Sanitation Worker

An elderly Chinese woman over 60 years old in Nanjing, China who works all year as a sanitation worker, sitting on the ground fishing out littered cigarette butts from a drain gutter.

An elderly Chinese woman over 60 years old in Nanjing, China who works all year as a sanitation worker, sitting on the ground fishing out littered cigarette butts from a drain gutter.

This was also among the top 10 Sina Weibo microblog posts of the day yesterday

From Sina Weibo:

@央视新闻: Please Look At These Photos [泪] Forward! — There is a fountain on Nanjing’s Shizhiqiao pedestrian street, where a thin and weak auntie sits on the ground, using bamboo sticks to pick out the cigarette butts trapped in the metal grating of a drain. The auntie is surnamed Wang, is 62 years this year, and all three members of her family are sanitation workers, who work nearly all year without rest… Seeing this, do you feel guilty/ashamed? Don’t litter, so sanitation workers do not have to toil so hard! Those who support this, forward it on!






Comments from Sina Weibo:


Strongly demand that they be giving raises, better benefits, and membership in a union.


Those who do the most have the lowest wages, and those who do the least have the highest wages. [呵呵]


This kind of microblog post always has people cursing the government. I [呵呵]. You guys never got to first year of high school, right? The first year of high school politics textbook clearly writes that the government providing the basics doesn’t mean it is responsible for providing everything. The auntie has food to eat and a job to do; isn’t that something provided by the government? Or are her wages being paid by you? Or does the government have to give every poor person a million before you people will think the government is doing its fucking job? [拜拜]


Every single one of us owes them the most basic of respect. [泪][泪][泪]


MmmM Restaurant promises: sanitation workers can enter our restaurant to take a break, and we will provide one free cold beverage.


I am a second year student in high school, and I’ve seen the sanitation workers near our school eating things from the garbage cans, drinking drinks that we’ve thrown away because we didn’t like them, so sad~ [伤心][话筒]


Since we can’t change other people’s behavior, then we might as well increase…wages…for…sanitation workers!


Give them a raise! What use is saying this nonsense?


According to the development of Chinese people’s characters [civic consciousness], this kind of news will still need to be disseminated 10 years later.


Chinese people lack for nothing except character.


Everyone improve your characters [civic consciousness, habits] a bit and sanitation workers will no longer have it so hard. What’s more important is that our living spaces will also be cleaner and more beautiful. Some bastards simply do not understand this truth, even saying stupid things like “if I don’t litter, then wouldn’t you sanitation workers would be unemployed?” These kind of people were probably raised by pigs.


There are a number of people who are the most disgusting/obnoxious. They too know they shouldn’t litter, afraid of getting dirty looks from others if they do it too obviously, so they litter secretly, littering where other people can’t see them, in flowerbeds, in corners… either way making it even harder for sanitation workers to clean up after them! I really want to lift these people up and throw them into the middle of the road!!!


Over 60 years old, so why is she still forced to come out to work as a sanitation worker by life? Why does she have to work all year without rest? What happened to social security and national pensions?


62, working all year without rest? Does this conform to our labor laws? Why aren’t [CCTV, people] questioning the administrative organs [employer, government]?


Those who should feel guilty/ashamed isn’t us but the government and relevant government departments.

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Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.

  • Rick in China

    Make work project. Nobody told her she can lift the grates out and sweep them clean in 2 minutes – instead, gotta keep ‘ol aunties employed, give her some chopsticks and tell her every butt she picks nets her 1 mao. Bam. Work.

    • Kian Mehrabi

      Lol! read this straight after I clicked submit on my post. Exactly. The focus is horribly misplaced in this story.

    • Harold Janson

      If she lifted up the grates, then she’d have nothing to do all day long, and would be tasked with other cleaning duties. Doing it this way means she can sit down all day long and look busy.

    • MeiDaxia

      I wouldn’t get too rambunctious in looking down on her… there’s a fair chance the crack construction team who built that area welded the grates to the ground. I’ve seen such nonsense.

      • Rick in China

        I’m not looking down on *her*, at all. China has a problem which I dub the “make work” problem. You’ll see people cleaning tian’an’men square with toothbrushes in hordes. You’ll see people carrying rocks up mountains, then back down, and doing this for decades. Why? Because, when you give people work to do, they feel more satisfied, and are them less chance to ponder truths, ponder protests, and ponder anything that CPC may consider “social unrest” related. That’s why MaJiang was once upon a time so heavily *encouraged* as well, even though gambling was officially illegal..keep people busy, keep people blind.

        She’s just doing her job, and getting paid. I’ve no qualms with her doing her work… just, it’s a make work project.

        • MeiDaxia

          Sorry about that. It didn’t come out the way I intended. The original post sounded a bit like you were mocking her for not thinking to lift up the grates, rather than facepalming at her boss for not telling her to do so.

          • Rick in China

            Oh, I can see that – when I read the post again the snideness may imply I’m mocking her, but that wasn’t the intention – I was mocking the whole concept of ‘make work projects’ rather than those who are unfortunate enough to be stuck doing the crappy work..

      • SonofSpermcube

        It’s okay, the welds on the grate itself will break. I’ve seen that nonsense.

  • Insomnicide

    Can’t all this be done by machines by now?

    • Dannisi

      In China labour is cheaper than machines.

      • Rick in China

        Not any more, not according to Foxconn. :D

        • Dannisi

          Which is really interesting. Why would Apple (always the same example…) still make all their stuff in China? If machines can do it, you might as well take everything back to the US. Or multiple places around the world so they don’t have to ship it around the whole world from 1 factory.

          • Kai

            Foxconn uses machines too. Human labor is used for assembly that is still considered too difficult or not as cost-effective to automate.

            Specific to Apple, Apple relies on Foxconn a lot because Foxconn and China is really good at mass production. Foxconn is setting up more factories elsewhere outside of China (like Indonesia), but there’s still something to be said about the sheer capacity it has at its China factories.

          • Rick in China

            Specifically was of note on the recent news that iPhone 6’s were going to be manufactured with a Foxconn deployment of 10,000 or more “foxbots” to replace many human roles. Foxconn is China’s largest private employer, and they plan to roll out a million f’n robots.. there are many implications of that sort of industry direction to go into. I shouldn’t have mentioned it. :D

          • Rick in China

            Well – the USA isn’t the centre of the universe. Previously, humans have been the method – and humans can’t be replaced by robots for everything (such as judgement calls, like in quality check scenarios).. but all of the human/robot comparisons aside, China/India/eastern markets are HUGE. When Apple launched in China it quickly grew to sell almost the same number of phones in both markets even with the pricing at a premium in Asian markets. And, growing. And, can grow further than North American markets… so why not stay over here?

          • hess

            “When Apple launched in China it quickly grew to sell almost the same number of phones in both markets even with the pricing at a premium in Asian markets.” Premium compared to the American market maybe, Iphones are about 1000 RMB cheaper in China than in Sweden (And im guessing the rest of North Europe)….

          • Rick in China

            Most of that price difference is tax…

          • lacompacida

            Having factories and markets in same location is so quaint.

          • Kian Mehrabi

            Tight pollution laws probably have a lot to do with it. And they still need SOME human employees anyway.

          • lacompacida

            1. It is not 1 factory. Foxconn has many factories in the world, including robotics ones in US. 2. Robotics is capital intensive. 3. Cheap labor is still a little cheaper even now. 4. Pollution control legislation in China not enforced makes cheaper option. 5. Workplace safety not enforced in china. Shipping cost is cheap compared with labor. 6. If China continues to raise labor cost, through labor unrests and minimum wages, robotics will out competes China.

  • Plot

    Most of them are kind of missing the OP’s point : litter less…

    • Rick in China

      I think litter is generally a city to city problem – for example, I was just in Dali in Yunnan – all the tourist islands and old town and even outskirts, we stayed in a guest house over the lake.. total bumpkin land that far out, and _it was super clean_.

      I mean I looked around in the middle of busy areas, looked for a solitary cig butt or whatever (also noticed VERY few people smoking relative to Chengdu), and couldn’t find any. I was baffled at the lack of garbage there.. it was a very delightful mix with the awesome weather and AQI: 20 lack of air pollution.

      Some cities, however, are fucking shitholes when it comes to trash and cigs everywhere.

      • Honibaz

        I’ve heard that places with a higher minority concentration are cleaner, on average. It could have to do with those places being major tourist attractions, as well as giving the government an excuse to say how well they’re preserving the land of minorities.

        • lacompacida

          places with a higher minority concentration are cleaner, on average. That proves it. Hans are cleaner.

      • Don’t Believe the Hype

        Now take Lijiang, a tourist trap one hour away. The first (Dali) is popular for foreigners and totally clean, the other is popular with Chinese and has turned into a shit hole. Harsh but true.

        • Rick in China

          Dali is more popular with foreigners than Lijiang? I always thought Lijiang was more popular.. and Dali was more for people who ‘knew’ it was better. :D

          • Don’t Believe the Hype

            yeah that too

    • Kian Mehrabi

      This is pretty true, but it’s hard to focus on the OP’s point when the presentation of the issue is so poor at communicating their message.

      Recently someone posted one of those New Zealand drive slowly adverts on weixin which I watched and dismissed as nonsense as soon as the narrator said the rider skidded for 20 meters. TWENTY METERS! From a speed of 68kph! That’s just poor ass riding skill that they are using to dramatize an accident in order to instigate a bit of fear. It’s hard to respect an often valid message when there is such flaws with the story.

  • Kian Mehrabi

    Why doesn’t she just remove the grate? A lot of these things are made much worse because people don’t value anothers time, or spend the time thinking about how to make the job easier.

    • Kai

      I have a horrible feeling no one ever thought to tell her that’d be easier and more efficient. Of course, it’s also possible they’re too heavy for her to lift. Or they may for some reason be locked down (to prevent them from being stolen to be sold as scrap metal?) or otherwise difficult to easily remove. Hard to say without taking a closer look.

      • chandlerpatrick

        If the grates were easy to remove, they would not be there. They’d be stolen so fast.

      • Irvin

        Those things are made of hollow aluminum and can be lifted with one hand, it’s very cheap and usually not worth the time to steal them so most of them are not “locked down”.

        In the last picture you can clearly see some grates in the background that’s out of place.

        I guess she wouldn’t be doing what she’s doing if she’s smart. Lifting the grates may seem simple and logical for us, but there are alot of stupid people in the world.

        • Kai

          I think I know what you’re referring to with “hollow aluminum” but I don’t think these are the same thing. I looked pretty closely at the pictures and those hollow aluminum gratings aren’t designed to be stepped on, whereas these appear to be.

          The last picture shows one of the gratings to be slightly raised on one end, but it isn’t clear that it is “out of place” in the sense that it was easily removeable. I can easily imagine it being poorly installed for one reason or another. It just isn’t dispositive about whether or not all of these gratings can be easily removed to allow access underneath them for cleaning.

          As for stupidity, yeah, like I said, “I have a horrible feeling no one ever thought to tell her that’d be easier and more efficient.” Again, presuming the grating is easily removed. I’m just not really certain they are so I won’t assume they are until I can be more certain.

      • Kian Mehrabi

        This occurred to me as well. It doesn’t change the fact that someone, backed up by a succession of more people, failed to use some brainpower and think this through.

        The likelyhood is that someone DID consider this, and then went on to dismiss it because the idea of making someones job easier or more efficient is completely unimportant. There’s no need to. Labor is pretty much free in China. And time/effort is very undervalued.

    • lacompacida

      Or, make the slots in the grates slightly wider.

      • Kian Mehrabi

        I fail to see how that would make any significant difference. Removing the covers would enable her to run a broom through the gutter cleaning it sufficiently within minutes. Making the slots slightly wider would allow her to continue the same woefully inefficient technique with her fingers, as apposed to using what looks like a chopstick.

        On a related topic my school recently invested in a lawn mower. Which the same cleaners (that I often used to see on their hands and needs tugging at the grass by hand) looked out right thrilled over.

        Maybe things are looking up.

  • NightKnight

    CCTV is trying to promote public morality by using a sad story, however the netizens are missing the point, because there was a related news recently that some sanitation workers in the state system who have higher salaries and better welfare are hiring others to do their jobs by paying a small fraction of the money they get. it’s a perfect example of what happened after the government interfering the market.

    The problem is that people complain about the government all the time, meanwhile try to authorize more power to the government and let it take care of more of their life.

    These sanitation workers have low wage and bad working conditions, it’s simply because there are more people waiting for these jobs. they can resign if they don’t like it, it’s not a labor camp.

  • I wonder how many millions of cigarette butts she’s picked up in her time. People should think before they litter.

    • sum ting wong

      Agreed. I’m beyond tired of seeing thoughtless smokers toss their burning cigarettes just anywhere they please. How many people have to die from second-hand smoke, hotel fires and mine or pipeline explosions before folks get some damn sense knocked into their tiny brains?

  • Don’t Believe the Hype

    Agreed. That is why property rights are so important, who is gonna take care of the environment if their own homes can be just taken away at any moment?

  • lonetrey / Dan

    So many people just can’t bother finding a trash bin…. I hate litter. Honestly, pockets, bags, hands, patience. So many easy factors that would make the world cleaner.

    Singapore has the right idea about littering…

    • vincent_t

      No Singapore does not have the right idea about littering. It is basically heavy fine and punishment to stop people from littering, instead of ingraining the value into the people that littering is a shameful act.

      The country that has the right idea about littering is Japan. Almost anywhere you go, it is clean even there is not many trash bin on the streets. People been educated to bring their own rubbish home, instead of thrashing it on the street.

    • sum ting wong

      How does Singapore enforce litter laws? Someone made a point yesterday that before 2000, there were no rubbish bins in Qingdao so people simply got into the habit of tossing their trash just anywhere but after 2001, the city finally started to place bins on the streets. 10 years on, it seems too many people still haven’t learned how to use those tricky, new-fangled contraptions.

  • sum ting wong

    Great article! Even greater, are the comments by Chinese netizens! How many other cities have been plundered and trashed by the hordes of tourists this year? Qingdao is so beautiful yet so many don’t give a damn. How can they say they love their country when they treat it like shit? I support giving sanitation workers a big raise and big fines for those who litter.

  • Chinese society is indeed avant-garde

  • Wick

    Strongly demand this comment be up voted!

  • BillBo

    I find it hard to believe that those grates can’t be lifted up for cleaning…… then again it is China so building mistake/oddities wouldnt really surprise me either. Even if you couldn’t remove them why not replace grates with ones you can remove and ones that have smaller slots?? Anything would be better then having someone sitting on the sidewalk collecting crap out of there for hours with little sticks. They do things a different way in China, I’ll say that. Kudos to this woman though, I would have quit the first hour if that was my task for the day.