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After over 30 years of picking up trash, the old man in Ho Chi Minh City has a fortune of tens of thousands of dollars

After 34 years of collecting trash, Mr. Thom’s house now stores more than 5,000 items, valued at over 2 billion VND (1$=25,000 VND) by antique collectors. “Many overseas Vietnamese and foreigners who know the rarity have come to my house to buy antiques with a high amount of money” – Mr. Thom added.

Picking up trash because he likes to keep city memories

Visit Vo Thi Must Street (District 12, Ho Chi Minh City) on a November morning, and ask about the house of old garbage picker Tong Van Thom (74 years old), everyone knows and points to it. Because for decades now, every time the alleyway fails with a light bulb, the neighbor loses the power socket, lacks music speakers, a clock, etc., Mr. Thom sends gifts. All items are very beautiful, and durable to use. But few people know, before that, they used to be items thrown away in the trash, picked up by Mr. Thom for repair.

Mr. Thom’s hometown is in Bac Lieu. In 1978, going to Saigon to set up a business, Mr. Thom worked as an environmental sanitation worker. At first, because the family was too poor, he often picked up and brought usable items to repair for his family to use.

Only studied until 3rd grade, but with curiosity, Mr. Thom revived countless scrap items. Most notably in the 80s of the twentieth century, televisions were considered extremely valuable items. However, each time he picked it up, Mr. Thom repaired it and then took it to poor households to send it as a gift.

Thom tinkers every day to turn trash into useful items (Photo: Quang Ninh).

“In 1988, the city launched the program “For the green-clean-beautiful environment”, due to the nature of his work in dealing with garbage, he actively responded, calling on people by collecting scraps and restoring them. back them up” – Mr. Thom recalls.

From that point on, every time he worked, Mr. Thom enlisted to collect “garbage”. Over time, it became a hobby, helping him stick with the profession. “At first there wasn’t much, but year after year, the number of things I collected gradually increased. Now my house is full of furniture, leaving only a small space for living. However, I don’t see any convenient, even feeling them make life more fun…” – Mr. Thom smiled.

The special thing is that in the items “revived” by Mr. Thom, there are many memorabilia, keeping the memories of the Saigon people. These are old family pictures, broken statue molds, precious logs, medals, etc. All are “turned” into eye-catching products under Mr. Thom’s hand.

“Each item has its own value and story. Sometimes they are new, only a little damaged, but the owner has abandoned them. For example, a gilded photograph without its glass frame, a bullet robot, a French chandelier, a statue. toads holding gold coins are more than 50 years old… All are antiques now”.

A fortune of more than 2 billion, many items are auctioned for more than 50 million

After 34 years of collecting trash, Mr. Thom’s house now stores more than 5,000 items, valued at over 2 billion VND by antique collectors. “Many overseas Vietnamese and foreigners know the rarity of things, so they came to my house and bought them with high amounts of money” – Mr. Thom added.

While chatting, Mr. Thom introduced me to each “reluctant” inheritance. It was a lamp made from an electric pole; robots made from spark plugs, canopies, and motorcycle chains; music speakers emanating from plastic bins; clocks from trees, forks, spoons, etc. Particularly, the fan combined with a homemade chandelier hanging in the middle of Mr. Thom’s house was paid by the giants 50 million VND.

It is known that the fan combined with the lamp was made by Mr. Thom on the occasion of the Lunar New Year in 2006. It used to be a challenge for mechanical engineers to recycle, because the materials used were recovered by Mr. Thom from glass. old car meca, bent into the shape of 8 transparent petals so that when the switch is turned on, the petals will open themselves into an eye-catching cotton fan.

“Initially, the lamp I picked up was damaged a lot, I restored it for a long time, completely handmade, so it has a high value. Recently, during an exhibition, the fan was broken, but it was broken. still good to use”.

In addition, in Mr. Thom’s collection, there is a hand-carved wooden statue worth 60 million VND, a lamp from a high voltage pylon of more than 10 million VND…

His fan combined with a chandelier was paid for by the giants for more than VND 50 million (Photo: Quang Ninh).

“Don’t throw garbage for fear of polluting the city”

For Mr. Thom, “the basket of billions of silver bottles” is a small joy every day, helping his love life and love cleaning more. In it, many times his children suggested that he throw away some things, but Mr. Thom still refused to agree.

“Solid waste is difficult to decompose, inside there are many micro-components containing radioactive substances, I practice environmental protection, so doing so is like aiding in environmental pollution. I just hope there will be a mold soon. members to exhibit them, give them a new life…” – Mr. Thom said.

Although there were more than 5000 items, Mr. Thom decided not to throw them away because he did not want to pollute the environment (Photo: Quang Ninh).
Many watches and jewelry were repaired to him and are still usable as new (Photo: Quang Ninh).

Besides recycling, Mr. Thom also regularly brings recycled items to exhibitions and universities to help students explore more models of environmental protection. His dream for the rest of his life is for the city’s people to enjoy learning and raising awareness about littering.

“At that time, I pursued this career because I wanted foreigners to come to Vietnam to have a good view of our country, right from the way we clean up garbage and make the streets clean and beautiful. Up to now, many people have believed that I can do it. that. 

My children also told me to take a break, their money is enough for me to live a prosperous life in old age. But when I am old and weak, I will stop reviving garbage and send my memorabilia to universities as a model for environmental protection in the future,” said Mr. Thom.

Photo: Quang Ninh.

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