A person might hold a plastic bottle containing a soda for a minute, after which the bottle could spend two centuries in the ground disintegrating. It’s the reality of a developing world, where plastics are abundant and cheap but recycling programs are nonexistent or inefficient.
On the banks of two gullies coming out of the Sandy Bay Colonia lies the site of one of the more complex work-art-and-recycling efforts not only in the Bay Islands but in Honduras. Rusty Fish is a business that, employing the hands of local workers, combines the creative and the practical, takes materials that are a liability–rusted metals and plastics-and turns them into objects of significance and worth.
The mastermind of the project is Adam Hunt. Lanky and tall with a broad smile, Adam talks on an iphone in an English accent while surrounded by pulled out pop-tabs. The product of a first world educational system, Adam is occupied with creatively and actively solving the dilemmas of the third world. “You need to have a purpose in life,” says Adam, whose workshop gives a purpose to many people in the Sandy Bay Colonia.
Adam has decided to work with Spanish speaking people whom he feels are often unfairly blamed for the island’s social ailments. “They’d rather not hunt for fish; they’d rather eat chicken, but they can’t afford [buying] it,” says Adam. Coming from a family of craftswomen and artists, Adam first came to the island in 2002 and eventually moved to Roatan in 2007. Adam owns two internet-based businesses in England which he still manages from Roatan.
17 people work directly at Rusty Fish, which, according to Adam, enables 30-35 to support themselves thanks to the workshop. They work in twos and threes for hours on end, cutting out the bottoms of plastic bottles to make decorative buttons or cutting out metal drums, which are hammered and painted into curvaceous fish-souvenirs for tourists. They seem one hundred percent focused on task of creating crafts. “It’s karma yoga. It’s therapy through work,” says Adam.
One of the Rusty Fish workers is Ramon “Mocho” Hernandez, 21, who has been working at Rusty Fish since May 2010. “I love painting. The colors are super,” says Hernandez who has spent the last 13 years on the island. At Rusty Fish he works from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.
Looking at a pile of 3,000 pop-tabs, Adam displays an elastic bracelet on his wrist. 28 tabs tied together with elastic band make for a snazzy, funky jewelry piece. “These ideas just come to me. If I can’t stop laughing about them, then they are clearly good,” says Adam. Adam believes they are so good in fact that he has had the phases trademarked. “Rusty Fish” and “Plastic Fantastic” are his trademarked phrases, stamped, printed, glued or hammered onto the dozens of different products the workshop produces.
Adam shows off a metal statue of a seahorse. The base is made from the metal hull of a shrimp boat. The base and the oil drum shape of the sea creature are connected by a welded concrete nail. The letters attached by small magnets were created from salvaged roof from Las Palmas.
Adam is always on the lookout for recyclable, usable materials. The workshop site is dotted with strategically placed piles of materials: discarded construction lumber with bent nails, corrugated, bent metal roofing tiles, banged-up oil barrels.
In fact Rusty Fish gets its materials from just about anywhere–garbage dumps, metal collectors, construction sites, etc. “I drove by a burned out building and bought their roof. $50,” says Adam, standing next to two illegally placed metal lobster traps donated to the Roatan Marine Park. [/private]