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Residents say they experience poor quality air as Coastal Park landfill conflict continues

Some residents living around the Coastal Park landfill in Muizenberg are complaining about the deteriorating air quality caused by daily fires, allegedly caused by waste pickers. File picture: David Henning/Archives

Some residents living around the Coastal Park landfill in Muizenberg are complaining about the deteriorating air quality caused by daily fires, allegedly caused by waste pickers. File picture: David Henning/Archives

Published Jan 26, 2022

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Cape Town - Some residents living around the Coastal Park landfill in Muizenberg are complaining about the deteriorating air quality caused by daily fires, allegedly caused by waste pickers.

The fires, which have been ongoing for two weeks, are allegedly set in retaliation by certain waste pickers following the City’s restriction of access to the site.

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Zeekoevlei resident Kim Winder said her family and other neighbours had been waking with sore throats and headaches and were experiencing breathing difficulties and sleeplessness.

“The authorities have said that it’s difficult to put out the fire, which I find dreadful – that we are being exposed to toxins like this and nothing has been done for weeks, all this during a pandemic,” she said.

Mike Khumalo, who operates a recycling project in the Vrygrond area, said people were struggling and crime in the area had increased since the City has stopped people from accessing the landfill.

“For a government to bury jobs is insane. The Coastal Park landfill is one of the many that we have in the metro, but is the only one that does not have recycling operations on site.

“Everything recyclable that comes to the site gets buried underground, while the people making a living out of it are dying of hunger. This amounts to government that does not think of its people,” he said.

Another resident, Vanessa Farr, said that if the City had an idea how to run a permaculture city, there would be no waste problem. She said instead, it keeps looking for more ways to profit while punishing the poor.

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“The challenge is the City’s attitude to the poor, once again. Waste pickers could be protected, they could do dignified work. Their waste-separation work is crucial to the City's health,” said Farr.

In response to the residents’ complaints, head of Solid Waste Management: Disposal in the south, Ebrahim Mohamed, said there had been major issues with salvagers on site, ranging from stabbings and deaths to children entering the site, so entry to the site had been prevented.

Mohammed said they received death threats and experienced vandalism, which had escalated to the petrol-bombing of the green waste piles in front of the site on January 14.

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Mayco Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Patricia van der Ross said: “From an ambient air quality perspective, fires of this nature do contribute negatively to ambient air quality, but once the fires have been extinguished and the pollution has had an opportunity to disperse, the air quality impact would improve.

“Fortunately there is a good buffer zone between the landfill site and the nearest residence, which does mitigate the impacts of fires of this nature.”

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