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Toughest place to be a Binman returns

Published: 19 Apr 2013

Wilbur Ramirez, a refuse collector for Serco's Hammersmith & Fulham environmental services contract, is back on the small screen this weekend in a follow-up to the award winning BBC documentary - the 'Toughest Place to Be a Binman'.

The 44-year-old from North London first visited the Indonesian capital, Jakarta back in 2011, taking over the round of local dustman and street sweeper, Imam Syaffi.

Three million people tuned in to watch the original programme which showed the squalid working and living conditions of the Indonesian bin men scavenging rubbish for a living on the city's massive landfill site - many walking their rounds barefoot seven days a week and in the extreme heat of the day whilst using the most basic of equipment. 

Wilbur was so shocked by what he experienced and witnessed that he successfully negotiated with the local authority to remove waste from outside Imam's home and also held discussions with the head of a local housing association who, subsequently, confirmed the first pay rise for Imam and his colleagues in many years.

On his return to the UK, inspired to make a difference, Wilbur established the Wilbur Ramirez Charitable Trust so he could continue to help his new friend and the local community.

Eighteen months on, in the 'Toughest Place to Be a Binman - the return', Wilbur goes back to Jakarta to see the impact both he and the programme have made to improve the lives of Imam, the other rubbish collectors and their families.

Wilbur sees first hand that his efforts to challenge the authorities and fly tippers have made a real difference.  He also hands over new safety equipment including 30 pairs of waterproof safety boots; 30 pairs of trousers: 30 hi-vis t-shirts; brooms; shovels; and first-aid kits, which have been donated by Serco, as well as 30 pairs of trainers that Wilbur kindly arranged himself.

Wilbur Ramirez said: "I was thrilled when the BBC told me that they wanted to return to Jakarta as it meant could see Imam and his family again. During my first visit, I was shocked by the way in which he and the other bin men lived and worked. I wanted to help them and the local community and it has been humbling to see how my efforts, and those of others touched by the programme, have really helped to change things for the better."

Anthony Leonard, Serco's Contract Manager who works with Wilbur added: "Wilbur was deeply moved by the shocking conditions in which the refuse collectors worked. Serco has been delighted to support Wilbur's trips to Jakarta and these have enabled him to work with his employer to identify ways to improve the refuse collectors' working conditions.  As a result, we have flown out safer work wear such as boots, trousers and hi-visibility jackets, tools and first aid kits to ensure they are able to do their job as safely as possible."

Cllr Greg Smith, Hammersmith & Fulham Council Deputy Leader, commented: "It will be good to see what difference Wilbur's charity work has made out in Indonesia. Wilbur is a credit to the team who work tirelessly to keep the borough's streets clean."

'Toughest Place to be a Binman - the return' airs on BBC2 this Sunday 21 April from 9pm.