Last update:
2020-04-24

Waste pickers face insecurity and toxic conditions at Guate's Zona 3 dumpsite, Guatemala

While waste is increasingly recognized as profitable, the situation for waste pickers of Zona 3 - Central America's largest open-air dump in the middle of Guatemala City - has become an ongoing humanitarian crisis.


Description:

The dump of Zona 3, located in the same-named district of Guatemala City, in a ravine next to the central cemetery, is the country’s largest dumpsite. Used as a dumping ground since 1950, the area receives about 3,200 tons of waste per day (about 70 percent of that organic waste) from the capital and 13 other municipalities [1][2][3].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Waste pickers face insecurity and toxic conditions at Guate's Zona 3 dumpsite, Guatemala
Country:Guatemala
Location of conflict:Ciudad de Guatemala
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Urban development conflicts
Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Recycled Metals
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The dump of Zona 3, located in the same-named district of Guatemala City, in a ravine next to the central cemetery, is the country’s largest dumpsite. It has been used as a dumping ground since 1966 and receives waste from the capital and 13 other municipalities of the departments Guatemala and Sacatepéquez [3][8]. It receives about 3,200 tons of waste per day, of which about 70 percent are organic waste, and the remaining part solid waste, including recyclables materials such as plastic, carton, glass, aluminum and other metals [2][16]. Waste from the capital and 13 other municipalities of the departments Guatemala and Sacatepéquez. Guatemala City’s second dumpsite is located 22 km southwest of the center and receives about 900 tons. Like in Zona 3, there is a notable number of people living from informal recycling [2][8].

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Project area:44 ha
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:~10,000; more affected in the surroundings
Start of the conflict:1966
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Wastepickers, recyclers
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Fires, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Soil erosion
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Repression
Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:While the planned closure of the most dangerous areas of the dumpsite seems more than overdue, there seems to be a lack of systematic solutions to tackle the intersecting problems of human rights and poverty, on the one hand, and recycling and waste management, on the other hand. A way forward could be increased protection of the community, the provision of access to basic services such as sanitation and education, and capacity-building for waste-picker families, who currently depend on work in the dumpsite, in order to break with the vicious cycle of poverty, insecurity and exploitation. A socially inclusive model of waste collection and recycling, as proposed by organizations such as WIEGO and Globalrec, could not only reduce environmental damage, but also make use of the skills and tacit knowledge that many of these waste pickers have developed over the years.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The community lives and works under hazardous conditions and permanent insecurity – a situation that resembles a humanitarian crisis. Recycling work of waste pickers has become more and more dangerous and less and less profitable, so that the community remains highly vulnerable and marginalized.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[8] Espinosa, T., Parra, F. (2018): El vertedero de Zona 3 de la ciudad de Guatemala. Todas las situaciones de amenaza para la población recicladora juntas. WIEGO. (find document below)

[5] Barinyn, Mijail. 2017. Ciudad de Guatemala: La zona 3 y su gente. Video documental.

Available Online.
[click to view]

[5] Barinyn, Mijail. 2017. Ciudad de Guatemala: La zona 3 y su gente. Video documental. Available Online.
[click to view]

[1] Barillas, J. (2015). Auditoría del relleno sanitario de la zona 3. Tesis para optar por el título de maestro en ciencias con la especialización en diseño, planificación y manejo ambiental de la Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, Facultad de Arquitectura, Escuela de posgrados.

[1] Barillas, J. (2015). Auditoría del relleno sanitario de la zona 3. Tesis para optar

por el título de maestro en ciencias con la especialización en diseño, planificación y manejo

ambiental de la Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, Facultad de Arquitectura, Escuela

de posgrados.

[12] Lopez, E. (2018): Muere persona en el basurero de la zona 3. Publinews, 02.10.2018.
[click to view]

[13] Creamos (2020): Our story.
[click to view]

[3] Méndez, C. (2017): En suspenso cierre técnico del vertedero de la zona 3. El

Periódico, 06.01.2017. (Online, 20.03.2020)
[click to view]

[9] Cabria, E. (2015): Cómo las mafias del basurero provocaron el asesinato de un actor guatemalteco. Nómada, 20.08.2015. (Online, 20.03.2020)
[click to view]

[4] Reeves, B. (2014): The Humanitarian Crisis in Guatemala City's Immense Garbage Dump. Vice, 25.05.2014. (Online, 20.03.2020)
[click to view]

[15] Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos (2019): Dan seguimiento a proceso de cierre técnico del vertedero de la zona 3. PDH, 05.08.2019. (Online, 20.03.2020)
[click to view]

[16] Alay, A. (2019): Ricardo Quiñónez: El basurero puede funcionar otros 15 años. Publinews, 27.02.2019. (Online, 20.03.2020)
[click to view]

[12b] Lopez, E. (2018): Muere persona en el basurero de la zona 3. Publinews, 02.10.2018.
[click to view]

[12a] Hemeroteca PL (2017): 2008: el drama de los buscadores de oro. Prensa Libre, 24.07.2017.
[click to view]

[3] Méndez, C. (2017): En suspenso cierre técnico del vertedero de la zona 3. El Periódico, 06.01.2017. (Online, 20.03.2020)
[click to view]

Other documents

Espinosa, T., Parra, F. (2018): El vertedero de Zona 3 de la ciudad de Guatemala. Todas las situaciones de amenaza para la población recicladora juntas. WIEGO.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:EnvJustice Project (MS)
Last update24/04/2020
Comments
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