Wilma has three children. Karin, 11, who suffers a form of leukaemia, Andreson, 7, who has never spoken a word and Antony, 4, a little fury. They all live without their father, a pitchman who’s never at home, in Villafranca, a slum in the outskirts of Tegucigalpa. Wilma has a beautiful smile and she looks way older than 28. She’s been working in the dumping ground of Guanabano for more than two decades, since she was eight. She goes to the dump every day early in the morning, change her clothes, puts a bandana on her face to cover mouth and nose and start digging with her hands in the garbage to collect recyclables objects made of metal, aluminium and plastic or anything that can be transformed, recycled or sold.
At Guanabano there are some 7 to 8 hundreds people living out their lives as recyclers in the garbage dump. Many of them are youngsters and there is a good number of kids as well. There are even whole families working and/or living in the dumping ground. Wilma doesn’t want her children to end up doing the same so she’s trying to work hard in order to pay their school and give them a chance for a better life.
She joined the COMISEGREHL as soon as it was founded in 2005 by Dionis Isabel Gomez Gutierrez, 37, and Roger Danilo Aleman, 28. The COMISEGREHL is the only honduran cooperative of recyclers. Its aim is putting together as many basureros (recyclers) as possible in order to tick off a better price with buyers and to enforce their rights as workers and, above all, as human beings. Like most of the people working in the dump, also Dionis and Roger had a very difficult life.
Dionis has been working in the dump since she was a baby, when her father closed her in a trash bag and left it at the dump. She has lived, eaten and worked there until a man raped her and tried to kill her with a machete. She managed to escape from him and after five years she took revenge and killed him. When she got out of jail after more than five years and met Roger, who had just come back in Tegucigalpa after illegally working for a couple of years in the US, they had a daughter, Maxime, 6, and decided to found the cooperative. Now that the crisis has struck the economy of Honduras, the cooperative is facing the risk of closing.
Since October 2008 the price of recycled raw materials has dropped of 50% and with it the number of the recyclers members of the COMISEGREHL, the only alternative concretely given to the “basureros”.