Six years ago, 7News visited the Belize City dump and exposed an incredible underside to city life human scavengers living off the garbage of city residents. Fast-forward six years, and the place has been transformed, and fortunately so have the people. They're no longer scavengers, they're re-cyclers. And today we visited when they got Occupational Safety and Health and Basic First Aid Training. Courtney Weatherburne went into the archives to compare the old and the new at the dump:
We are quite familiar with the mainstream commercial world in Belize City; the concrete jungle as it is called - the highly traversed and trafficked streets, the buzz and scramble for parking spaces school kids go home and the rush to simply to get home. Well there is another world that occupies the periphery of society, another type of jungle, where there is also a scramble but of a different natureâ€¦ and that's the dump site.
You wouldn't find shelves neatly stacked with items but to the people who lived at the original dump site at mile 3 on the Western Highway, it's a gold mine or a massive treasure chest. Keith Swift spoke to them in 2008.
"You find all kind of stuff, stuff you can sell and make money. So guys don't have to rob and steal, they come up here and find things to survive."
"It's hard, but you work for it."
But with the transformation of the dump site into a proper waste disposal transfer station last year, these one-time garbage pickers are now fully trained and skilled recyclers. Equipped with the necessary safety gear. This shift has had a significant impact in the productivity of the workers as well as their status.
Philip Waight, Health and Safety Engineer
"What has happened it has given them some sort of respect. They have elevated themselves, it allowed them to feel better and they actually making money compared to when they were just fudging around in the garbage. So you find that it has really elevated their status and their whole morale, so I think they have improved considerably."
Tyrone Chimilio, Communications Officer, SWMA
"The final part of the project component if for the institutional strengthening of the project and that have in terms to do with the policies we are developing, other strategies we are implementing. Of course within the 4th component we have what we call a social communication strategy and that comes underneath what you are seeing here today, it is called a social inclusion plan, which has been developed to assist the recyclers in terms of their status. Since the project, we have moved from the open dump site and now their here, so we have facilities, we have bathrooms for them, they have an area they can have their lunch and working within the transfer station."
So the days of rummaging through heaps of waste is not over but with these training sessions, the workers can do their 'dirty' work in a safe and managed manner.
The training sessions began in August.