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Residents of Beetham Gardens are suggesting that the Government replace the Beetham landfill with a recycling plant, which they can place in the hands of the residents to operate. They say this will help reduce crime and unemployment, as well as prevent smog and other toxic fumes from polluting Port-of-Spain. The suggestion was made yesterday by a group of residents working at a scrapyard off the eastbound lane of the Beetham Highway, opposite the entrance to the landfill.
“Let them build a recycling plant. We will sort the plastic, glass and paper. We could do with the work,” a one-legged male resident, who only identified himself as “Goodness,” said. His comment came even as smoke from the last of the 12 fires, said to be maliciously set at the landfill, spread east to Barataria due to a change of wind pattern.
While he agreed that the landfill should be replaced with a modern environmentally-friendly alternative, Goodness firmly stated that the country’s main waste management facility should remain close to their community and should be staffed by residents. “Where else would they put it? We know garbage, that is we business,” he said. Another man, who did not want to be identified, said if the facility were to be relocated it would negatively affect the community, as many of its residents, who survive off it, would be without an income.
“That would be chaos and madness. They can’t close it down or move it, just do the recycling here,” Goodness added. Goodness and his friends, who all work in the scrap iron salvaging business, said they took up the profession because they found it difficult to find conventional jobs. “What they have to understand is that when we go for a job and people hear you from Laventille or Beetham is automatically they have no vacancies,” a young man said.
The residents also dismissed suggestions that they were responsible for setting the fires. They all said that although many people have a negative image of their community, there are many upstanding citizens who live and work at the landfill. “People think we does just rob people who shut down on the highway. They have us down as the worst, like if we is garbage. It have good people here too,” the man said.
The residents all said they believed that if more jobs and opportunities were provided for the young people in the community, fewer of them would be attracted to joining gangs there. “We have some youths down here that does give trouble and we does try to keep them in line. We need some sporting programmes and facilities to occupy them,” an elderly resident said.
Asked if they were affected by smoke caused by last week’s fires in the landfill, many residents said no, adding that such fumes were part of daily life in their community. “That didn’t really affect we. We accustomed to that. They have people in here that could go acrosss in the dump and eat out of a bag of garbage and nothing will happen to them,” a female resident said.