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How Lagos can tackle waste disposal

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By Abraham Adekunle

Proper waste management would solve refuse dumping issues across the state.

Lagos is seen as the standard for many things in the country. It was first the capital of Nigeria and the seat of government until the 1990s. It is the commercial center of Nigeria, known as the center of excellence. It harbors a seaport where all goods coming into Nigeria dock. So, it is expected that many people will speak highly of the city-cum-state. However, to those who have developed an inner X-ray vision and who could subsequently see the flaws in the metropolis, the state has issues with waste management (disposal and recycling).

On social media, many users have claimed that the streets of Lagos stinks more than its residents can perceive because the drainages are filled with clogged plastics and wastes. Recently, a video of an elite neighborhood on the Island as well as another in the Surulere area of Lagos showed streets with fine upper-class houses with dirt packed full in front of them. These houses are gated and fenced high, and the home owners are classist who like their privacy and peace of mind. However, that is where this ends because as soon as they leave their abode, the realities of waste mismanagement stare them in the face.

Nigeria lacks accurate data on waste generated by its citizens.

This issue is concerning because it causes problems such as flooding, which is a big deal in the state. According to the Nigerian National Municipal Waste Management Policy (2020), there is no estimate for solid waste produced, but the country produces a large volume, only 20 percent of which are collected through a formal system. Sadly, it is even lower than the World Bank’s estimate of average waste collected for sub-Saharan countries, which is estimated at 44 percent.

When compared with the European and North American average, each country in these regions collects 90 percent of the waste generated. The problem is not only how much waste is collected but the lack of accurate data about how much waste is being generated in the first place. For instance, in Lagos, 10,000 tons of waste was generated per day in 2005. And the Lagos State said in 2018 that the amount of waste generated so far “outweighs the official figure of 13,000 tons per day.” Managing this waste, from collection and transportation to disposal, is a major challenge for Lagos due to the population of the state, urbanization, consumption patterns and the scale of economic activity work together to increase waste generation.

Strong policy framework to tackle waste management problem in the state.

The Nigerian National Municipal Waste Management Policy (2020) can transform waste management across the country. The policy proposes a system to separate, recycle and treat waste, conserve natural resources and create opportunities to earn a living from waste. However, it has not been implemented yet. What the Lagos State Government needs to enact is a strong policy framework that incorporates waste hierarchy guidelines. The waste hierarchy proposes the idea that the things we do to waste are not equally desirable. First, we should prevent disposal; then reuse, recycle, recover and in the end dispose of materials.

In the state, this hierarchy was not being followed. Residents generate mixed waste without separation or sorting. Households store their waste primarily in plastic bags, sacks and buckets. Contracted waste collectors collect mixed waste and transport it directly to dumpsites. Waste pickers at dumpsites recover valuable materials and waste is burnt at these sites. Therefore, waste is not being collected, transported, recovered and disposed of in a way that help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The process endangers the environment, human health and future generations.

Methods of waste collection in Lagos and solutions.

Waste Management Authority in Lagos State was set up in 1991 to collect, transport and dispose of municipal and industrial waste. The authority has deployed street sweepers and improved open dumpsites. It introduced 102 waste collection trucks and the Adopt-A-Bin program, under which households and businesses can buy their waste bins. It also started the Lagos Recycle initiative using a smart waste collection and reporting software application, and has invested in equipment to manage dumpsites. However, the majority of Lagos residents are not aware of the environmental importance of waste separation and sorting. This should be the first step in a sustainable management system.

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