Pattaya’s hidden army of scavengers survive by keeping city streets clean


Each sunrise, as the last of the denizens of the night stagger out of Walking Street’s discos, heading for bed, Pattaya’s scavengers go to work.

Collecting bottles and cleaning the street, they also buy depleted bottles from bars and sell them for a profit. Few people see them at this hour, and those that do usually are too bleary eyed to pay them much mind. But it is a living for these poor residents of a city overflowing in foreign tourist money.

One 40-year-old woman said she’s been scavenging the streets for years, collecting and sorting glass and plastic from the streets and small restaurants before selling them to bigger outlets once a week. She said she can get up to 3,000 baht a week, which sustains her family.

Morning on Walking Street - buyers arrive to buy bottles and papers from Pattaya’s hidden army of scavengers.Morning on Walking Street – buyers arrive to buy bottles and papers from Pattaya’s hidden army of scavengers.

She said she is uneducated while her husband dropped out of school after fourth grade. She said her job inconveniences no one and she gets to be her own boss. She wants her children, however, to get an education and job where they don’t have to struggle.

Prices for what she sells vary widely. Liquor bottles in boxes sell for more than those without the box and clean bottles net more than dirty ones, she said. A clean Chang beer bottle might get 7 baht while Singha gets only 5 or 6 baht.

She said her work is not appreciated, but it’s easy to get into, even as a part-time way to make 300-500 baht a day. But there are health risks from picking through garbage.

The scavenger also said what she does helps reduce litter and global warming, as the items she collects are reused and recycled. There are numerous places in the Pattaya area that buy recyclables, the most-popular of which is probably on Soi Nhong Krabok.

About 20 people at the recycling plant sort the trash and send it out on big trucks.