You hear him before you see him! Over the loudspeaker, his cries of ' Paper lama, Paper lama. Old Newspaper! Old newspaper!' ring out loud to signal his presence in the neighbourhood. He's our itinerant collector of recycled paper ( others may ask for all types of paper). Some come on tricycles, while those who can afford a van/lorry, come calling on households in the different townships to eke out an eco - friendly living .
I've forgotten when these familiar figures first appeared on the scene. Initially, there was a kind of curiosity and very soon they became a welcome sight as they go about their small businesses . Demand for recycled paper has taken a leap and a viable business is born!
Mr Lim and others, like him is a recognised figure in residential neighbourhoods. The modus operandi is simple - make regular rounds to buy old newspaper from households and sell them to the recycling plant. Some 'paper lama' vendors also trade in used car batteries .
The rain had just ceased and it dampened his spirit a bit. With his trolley, he helped me get 2 loads of old newspaper from my store in the porch into his van. It was half stacked with papers already and Mr Lim was making his rounds in Damansara and Petaling Jaya.
Mr Lim was camera -shy and was not comfortable with full- front pictures. However, he was relaxed when we spoke about the business at hand.
A typical day for him starts at 9 am till 5pm, rain or shine. He drives around the residential areas at a slow speed. Sometimes he has to make an abrupt stop as he has bypassed a resident and he pulls back to the gateway of the house. There, he faithfully pushes his trolley to cart the load of papers to his van. Payment for the papers is mutual - the vendor assesses the quantity and pays the 'current' rate. I have never quibbled about the payment as it is a win-win situation! He sends all the paper collected to a recycling centre in Petaling Jaya where the newspaper is used to make newsprint and paperboard. Previously there was a main recycling centre in Kepong.
He laments that people used to buy 3 dailies but these days, it's only one. Moreover, with internet access and information at their fingertips, people do not find the need to source news from the papers. His business has also decreased as schools give their recycled newspapers to the main dealer. That cuts off his source of income.
Business is usually a brisk affair but that morning, with the chat , it lingered a bit. Mr Lim was eager to resume his rounds 'coz the day had barely started for him. Till the next collection round, here's to our convenient collection agent- our very own 'paper lama man'!