Our Burning Planet


Tarkastad residents complain of poorly managed landfill site that hasn’t been fenced for years

Tarkastad residents complain of poorly managed landfill site that hasn’t been fenced for years
Tarkastad landfill site has for years not been properly managed by the local municipality. (Photo: Tembile Sgqolana)

Tarkastad residents say their landfill site is in a poor state – unfenced, with constant fires, illegal dumping and crime – as it is not properly managed.

Residents call the state of the Tarkastad landfill site appalling – there’s constant burning of waste, it is not fenced, and residents have started dumping their refuse at illegal dumping sites to avoid being victims of crime at the landfill site.

According to Tarkastad residents,  the landfill site has not been managed properly for years and as a result people have decided not to use it. For some residents, the landfill site is a haven for food and making easy money.

Unemployed residents come to the landfill site early every day to look for cars coming to dump their refuse – they assist them and get money in return. After offloading the refuse they open it and look for anything to eat or sell to make money.

When Daily Maverick visited the site, people were rummaging through plastic bags recently dumped by a Tarkastad resident. They found expired yoghurts, cabbages, expired soft drinks, electrical appliances and bread.

One of the people collecting the food at the dumpsite, Zanele Walters, said he made a living in the landfill site digging through people’s refuse, looking for anything he can get to eat or sell to get homemade ginger beer (a cheap locally made alcohol).

tarkastad landfill walters

Zanele Walters picks up food at the Tarkastad landfill site on 7 March 2023. (Photo: Tembile Sgqolana)

“I help those who are offloading their refuse and they thank me with money. I also dig into their refuse to collect what I can eat,” he said.

Walters said he managed to get yoghurt, bread and Coke for lunch from the plastic bags that were dumped at the site.

“I also take the electrical appliances and sell them in order to buy alcohol. I am not working and I need the expired food to survive,” said Walters.

He said it is better for him to come to the landfill site to look for food than to rob people in the location.

“I don’t do anything wrong here, I look for food and anything that I can sell to buy alcohol. I don’t smoke drugs,” he said. He said he eats the expired food and it has never made him sick.

In 2021 Tarkastad residents cleaned the landfill site, but lack of management and security has left the site neglected and unsafe – people would rather use an illegal dumping site, for fear of being robbed.

Daily Maverick observed that the site was badly managed: dumping of waste was not taking place per cell or trench, but was dumped all over. Waste was not covered or compacted and there were no officials on site to direct the people coming to dump to a specific trench or cell. 

Also, no record is kept of waste entering the site. There is no weighbridge to weigh all waste entering the site. There were no officials on hand to record the type or amount of waste entering the site.

The landfill site is not fenced and dumping starts from the tar road as you enter the site, with people digging through the refuse bags, looking for food and anything they can get to sell.

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Tarkastad businesswoman Liesa King said she used to hire someone to clean the landfill site and pay him.

“For years the town has been dirty and I had to hire someone and give him food, money and also buy black bags to put the refuse in. There is no refuse removal in the location and people just throw their refuse on the streets.”

King said in 2021 she and other local people cleaned the landfill site but the dumping has since happened again.

“The landfill site is not fenced and it is not supposed to be operating as a dumpsite as I don’t think it has an operating license … the municipality [is] doing nothing to help clean the site while the fence around the dumpsite was stolen a long time ago… There is no one to manage the site and this affects the tourism of the town,” she said.

King said the municipality needs to find a new location for the site where it will be able to manage it and stop illegal dumping at the site entrance.

Tarkastad resident Ondela Oliphant said people throw refuse everywhere in Tarkastad as the landfill site is far away and their refuse is not collected.

“Our refuse has not been collected for years and that leads to more illegal dumpsites in the location. In each and every corner in the location in Tarkastad there is an illegal dumpsite which is not cleaned,” he said.

tarkastad landfill

Illegal dumping sites in Tarkastad. (Photo: Tembile Sgqolana)

Oliphant said parts of the town are still using the bucket system and they are also not collected for more than three months.

Another resident, Carol Boast agreed that the landfill site has been neglected for years.

“There is constant burning…  we still don’t know who is burning at the site. The fumes coming from the site are not right for the people living near the  landfill site and town,” she said. Boast added that the best solution is to relocate the site to a better place where it will be properly managed and have a security guard.

“Because the municipality does not pick up the refuse in the location, there are lots of illegal dumping sites… If the landfill site was properly managed people would be able to go there and dump their refuse but it is a safe haven for scavengers,” she said.

Enoch Mgijima municipality spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa said the landfill site in Tarkastad is licensed and is managed by the municipality.

“Burning is not allowed at the site but the fence was unfortunately stolen and vandalised. This allowed access to criminals and people who go to the site to collect discarded items,” he said, adding that there is a plan to fence the site.

“The municipality needs cooperation from community members to help stop illegal entry and vandalism of infrastructure,” he said.

Kowa said the municipality collects refuse in Tarkastad but due to limited resources, cannot stick to the schedule. DM/OBP

Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Sad affair when the security fence around a landfill site is stolen :/

    Next up? Steal the concrete in a sewerage plant pipe network?

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