Sparks flew as Mackey Li, 46, welded the axle of a broken trolley in his workshop.
Li says his business — inherited from his father and running for 60 years — is the last on Hong Kong island where handcarts are built from scratch.
However, his son and daughter are both at university and will not be following in their father’s footsteps — meaning that when he retires in a few years most handcarts will come from the mainland.
“Most of the trolleys are made in mainland China nowadays — but they don’t last very long, he said.
“They can beat you by selling the handcarts at a very cheap price,” he said.
He added that without trolleys the territory would be clogged with even more traffic.
Hong Kong is already choked with pollution — much of it from roadside emissions — that kills more than 3,000 residents a year, according to a study by Hong Kong University.
However, Li shrugged off suggestions the handcart could symbolize the territory’s wealth gap, one of the world’s greatest.
“It’s just a tool,” he said. “And even rich people need to carry things.”
Nearby, a 90-year-old woman scavenger with a bent spine collected two garbage liners of cardboard from a coffee shop, where a cappuccino cost more than her daily earnings.
However, she said that pushing the cart was also a chance to do some exercise and fill her time.
“What would I do if I didn’t go out?” she asked, looking up through eyes clouded gray with cataracts.
“Do you just want me to stay at home and wait to die?” she said.