The dumpsite of Akouédo was established in 1965 in the same-named village and has since then received most of Abidjan’s waste, including industrial waste and toxic waste. The uncontrolled dumping site provided a means of survival for hundreds of people from marginalized backgrounds who, at every time of the day, came to collect recyclable waste – even though access to the site was officially prohibited. After the collection, they would typically sort the materials and sell them to traders.  In 2006, the illegal dumping of toxic waste by the company Trafigura caused wide public outrage as an environmental catastrophe and violation of human rights and the Basel Convention.
The ‘Probo Koala’ case – corporate rights abuse and mass intoxication
In August 2006, a large amount of toxic waste was exported from Amsterdam by the multinational oil and commodity trading company Trafigura and dumped in Akouédo as well as in 18 other sites of Abidjan. The waste was transported in the Probo Koala tanker, which was registered in Panama, run by a Russian crew, owned by a Greek company and chartered by Trafigura, which had been using the ship for offshore “washing” of a hazardous petroleum product called coker naptha. In a process called caustic washing (which is banned in most countries), coker naptha is refined with caustic soda and sold as petroleum in low-income countries (e.g. West Africa), while it would otherwise require an expensive and complicated treatment process. Trafigura’s caustic washing created more than 500 cubic metes of toxic waste on the tanker, which was evidently hazardous, but the company struggled to dispose of it. Before shipping the waste to Côte d'Ivoire, it had already attempted to dispose of it in Malta, Italy, Gibraltar, the Netherlands, and Nigeria, disguising it as less hazardous waste. In Amsterdam, a part of the waste was already unloaded until residents complained about overwhelming smell and different health problems. The Netherlands then increased the price for disposing of the waste, so that Trafigura decided to find a cheaper location, ultimately paying only US$ 17,000 to the Ivorian ‘Compagnie Tommy’, which was just established a few weeks earlier (instead of US$ 620,000 demanded in Amsterdam). It was estimated that with each shipload of washed coker naptha, Trafigura made about US$ 7 million of profit. In 2006, the company’s profits were US$ 511 million. When Dutch police began investigations, Trafigura attempted to create a false invoice at a higher price. 
The Probo Koala catastrophe caused the death of 17 people and intoxicated tens of thousands. It required decontamination and extensive clean-up. Trafigura tried to play down the impacts and concealed the composition of its waste, which hampered the medical response and clean-up efforts. Critique and documentation of the impacts came from organizations such as Amnesty International and Greenpeace, which in 2012 published a 229-page report entitled ‘The Toxic Truth’. The Guardian moreover fought a legal battle to publish a 2006 confidential report that was commissioned by the company itself and provided evidence about the toxic nature of the waste. Emails leaked by the BBC revealed that Trafigura officials knew about the toxicity and had been actively purchasing coker naptha from Mexican refineries as a way to make quick money. According to figures of the Institut d’Hygiène Publique de Côte d’Ivoire, 43,492 cases of intoxication were confirmed and 24,825 more were assumed. In addition, as Amnesty notes, the impacts of toxic waste also provoked further illnesses such as strong migraines, throat cancer, and miscarriages. In total, over 100,000 people needed medical assistance. 
The largest part of the toxic waste was diverted to the Akouédo dumpsite and its surroundings, where people lived from planting corn and okra. A farmer of Akouédo recaps the events of August 20, 2006: “A bad smell invaded the village. First, we didn’t know it was dangerous but very quickly we suffered from severe stomachache, headache, and rash“ . He further reports to have lost his means of income as his small piece of land became polluted by toxic waste and, two months after the catastrophe, his pregnant wife had given birth to a daughter who has now disabilities. 
In the aftermath, Trafigura paid the Ivorian government $US 198 million in settlement and became immune from prosecution in Côte d'Ivoire. This led to a number of protests and demonstrations in the city of Abidjan.  In 2009, after a long legal procedure, a British court convicted Trafigura to pay £30 million to compensate total of 30,000 victims of the catastrophe, granting a compensation of CFA 750,000 (about 1,140 euros) to each of them. However, some of the payment was misappropriated by a fraudulent association that claimed to represent the victims, so that 6,000 people who suffered from intoxication ended up without compensation.  A Dutch court later found Trafigura guilty of illegal waste export. After Trafigura appealed the initial fine of € 1 million, while the Prosecutor demanded a higher fine, the company agreed to an out-of-court agreement to pay a fine of €1.3 million. The Dutch justice could not prosecute the company for the dumping, as various attempts to conduct an investigation in Côte d'Ivoire had failed. 
Ten years after: impacts still felt, protests against dumpsite
Impacts have also been felt by the decades-long uncontrolled dumping of mixed waste. As a study by Yao-Kouassi and Gohourou (2017) finds, the area of Akouédo is saturated with heavy metals and that waste contamination has adverse effects on the local community and the environment, most notably the nearby Ébrié lagoon. Although there is a formal control system in place, the research notes that the recent operating methods have resulted in a situation that is far from the one of a controlled landfill; rather waste drains with water runoff and produces chemical reactions, leading to the emission of methane and a high risk of explosion as well as strong stench that affects residents within a radius of several kilometers. The air pollution problems were aggravated by the illegal burning of waste in parts of the dump area. The conditions also led to a proliferation of insects that led to a rise in infectious diseases among the population. The pollution caused by Trafigura has aggravated already existing problems of intoxication and, more than ten years after the catastrophe, impacts on local environment continue, albeit in more mediated forms. 
Thus, the environment around Akouédo dump – especially a lagoon area and the water table – has become severely polluted and affected the health of residents of Akouédo. For many years, locals opposed ongoing dumping and demanded a relocation of the site. In 2011, locals staged protests to demand its closure. In 2014, the Ministry of Environment and Sanitation announced the definitive closure of the site, but the plans were not effectuated. In 2015, dumping was stopped for several days but resumed after negotiations between the government and the community and the promise to close the dumpsite within the following two years. 
Ten years after the catastrophe, thousands of people, including many in Akouédo, still remained without compensation so that hundreds of them held a hunger strike in front of the US embassy. A new compensation claim against Trafigura was launched in the Netherlands, while the company continued to defend its position that it had trusted the hired local company – whose owner became imprisoned – in disposing of the waste responsibly. People in Akouédo still faced health problems such as most notably skin diseases and had only limited access to health care, which was mostly provided by NGOs, as the Ivorien government claims that there is no longer pollution in the area. A local doctor working for the Health Ministry spoke of the biggest health catastrophe that Côte d'Ivoire has known. 
Dumpsite closure and the struggle of Akouédo's waste pickers
For hundreds of waste pickers in Akouédo, the announced plans to close the dumpsite implied new worries. One of them in 2017 stated: “If the site closes, we will no longer be able to work. It will create a lot of problems” . At that point, about 100 people were employed by the waste operator, but many more – in 2014, the number was estimated to be 1,000 people  – informally picked waste at the site (and the total number of waste pickers in Abidjan district is about 3,000). Recycled materials are for example sold to local manufacturers of pots, shoes or beer bottles in the Yopougon industrial zone, who thus benefit from the informal supply. The waste pickers, however, feared that a formalization of their activities would reduce their income and a regularization or relocation of the dumping activities would even put them at risk of losing their livelihood.  In the lack of perspectives, one of them stated: “Waste picking is my vocation. If I’m prevented, I will become a thief” .
The community typically earned between CFA 1,000 – 2,000 per day from the selling of collected bottles, cans, and plastics . One waste picker reported to have been working at the site for over 25 years, to exclusively collect plastic waste and to earn even up to 5,000 CFA ($US 8) per day. An adolescent waste picker reported to have started to collect waste at the age of five to support his mother and that he never had the choice to attend school. A woman from Akouédo reported that her family collected fruits from the dumpsite and that she had been buying and trading collected bottles for the past 20 years.  Waste pickers included many children aged five to twelve and were often migrants who had no other means of income or support in Abidjan. They strongly depended on the goodwill of intermediaries, who would sometimes not pay fairly for the recycled waste. The generated income allowed them to survive, feed their families and pay rent. 
As local journalist Rita Dro reported, waste pickers at Akouédo were becoming more and more numerous, which also increased competition for more valuable materials. They were exposed to diseases, health problems, and extreme working conditions. In order to endure strong stench at the site, many of them would get drunk before going to work. Accidents with trucks, machinery, or collapsing uncompacted waste heaps were common. A waste picker reports that they lost an eye in one of the accidents. Another worker reports that two colleagues had died as they were buried under a waste slide. 
In 2019, after several previous promises and delays, the government of Côte d'Ivoire ratified the eventual closure of the Akouédo dump and announced to convert the area into a park. A company was contracted to install a flare system to capture biogas. At that point, Akouédo landfill encompassed an area of 83 hectares covered with waste, accumulated over more than five decades. The city's waste announced to be from now on diverted to the new ‘Technical Recovery and Landfill Centre’ (CVET), which was built in the suburb of Kossihouen and will receive over 3,000 tons of waste per day (90 percent of what the city generates per day). It encompasses a sorting and recycling center, cells to dump waste in layers in a compacted and protected way, as well as biogas recovery and leachate treatment systems. It is presented as a way forward to modernize the waste collection and management chain of Abidjan.  For the residents of Akouédo, this will imply the long-awaited relief from daily contamination, while the livelihoods of those depending on waste picking remains uncertain, as they are denied access at the new CVET landfill.