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Lagos and the prospect of a waste-free future

Dr. Muyiwa Gbadegesin

By Dr. Muyiwa Gbadegesin

Just recently, we introduced the
Blue Box initiative – a waste collection programme designed to help residents
sort recyclable waste from the source, that is, at the point where an item or
material is considered waste. 

This eliminates the landfill process for
recyclables, and we see this as a long term step by step and collaborative
approach, to engage with the everyday Lagosian in our journey to a sustainable
waste free environment.

Waste management is generally an
inclusive practice which requires active participation and cooperation from
individuals and the government, both driving a 2-way agenda to ensure a cleaner
Lagos. It is important for people to understand the consequences of
uncontrolled waste, as it could be very costly to both the society and the
economy with significant health and environmental impacts linked to air, soil
and water contamination.

The global waste management
outlook report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) identifies
waste as a global issue which concerns everyone and also studies how society
consumes and produces waste especially in the urban areas.

Here, effective
waste management is seen as a basic human need, sitting alongside the provision
of potable water, shelter, food, energy, transport and other social amenities.

 This lays emphasis on how important the effective management of waste can
greatly impact productivity and economic prosperity both from global and local

According to research, Nigeria is
one of the largest waste producers in Africa, with an annual waste generation
of more than 32 million tons. For Lagos state, which is highly industrialized and
one of the fastest growing cities in Nigeria and Africa with about 22 million
people, we generate about 10,000 metric tons of waste daily, which makes an
average of 3.65 million tons per year. 

This means that more than any other state
in Nigeria, the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) has a
responsibility to ensure that waste is managed appropriately, especially
starting from the household and family levels. 

Till date, we have increased
private sector participation (PSP) by 32%, expanding access in the waste
collection and transportation systems across Lagos state.
Looking at the direct impact of
improper waste management, this can be linked to two major aspects – public
health and environmental pollution. 

Accumulated waste encourages organisms to
breed, causing infectious and bacterial diseases especially for children. It
also affects drinking water and can cause a widespread cholera outbreak,
popular in some of the rural areas within Lagos. For the environment, this
poses a serious threat to surface and groundwater, investors and tourist

Effective waste management
collection, transportation and disposal processes, with the help of LAWMA and
the PSPs, have become a very simplified procedure. First and most importantly,
residents are encouraged to reduce activities associated with waste production,
so that we can see a significant decrease in the amount of waste generated

Then, it is also necessary for accumulated waste to be properly sealed
and disposed in the waste storage materials provided by our agency across
Lagos. Once this is done, the collection and transportation by the PSPs to the
local landfills becomes a very straightforward and effective process and the
cycle continues.

While we continue to work to
ensure our environment is clean and healthy, we must emphasize the need for an
urgent shift in attitudes towards waste disposal by residents across Lagos
state.  Indiscriminate refuse disposal
practices have proven to cause severe problems in our efforts to sustaining a
waste free society.

 In managing this, we have involved in several educational
waste management programs like the Community Advocacy and CDA/CDC Interaction,
to create awareness on how we all have a role to play in keeping the
environment healthy. The state of our environment is an integral part of the
quality of life we receive as humans. A cleaner environment inherently
contributes to better livelihood for us, our children and many generations to

As an organization, our mandate
is to ensure a more secure, clean and prosperous state. Our vision is to build
a smart city which was a strong objective in the development of this initiative
with components such as Residential Waste Collection and Processing,
Commercial/ Industrial Waste Collection, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary
Drainage Maintenance, Provision of Engineered/ hazardous Sanitary Landfill and
Manual/ Mechanized Street Sweeping.

Through this initiative, LAWMA
have successfully introduced 62 compactors, more than 380 waste bins, with over
600 community sanitation workers. Some of our results so far have been

In our journey to building the
future of a sustainable waste free environment for all, we have prioritized
recycling, positioning it at the top of the agenda. We are challenged as a
government to invest in solid waste recycling, exporting biodegradable waste
which can be processed to high quality agricultural manure and other raw
materials for several industries. Plastic wastes have also proven to generate
wealth through recycling in the production of home and other domestic reusable

Recycling also creates jobs and
in a broader sense, it is a significant contributor to our economy through the
foreign exchange earnings associated with exporting waste. Small, medium to
large scale companies are gradually exploring new ways on how to generate
wealth from waste which buttresses our efforts at LAWMA in ensuring that waste
collection can be simplified with initiatives such as the Blue Box, to help
people sort waste for recycling. 

Socio economically, the state of
our health and well-being affects the level of productivity which can either be
positive or negative. A healthy nation is a wealthy nation, and we can only
come together to build a sustainable and healthy environment if we collaborate
to effectively manage the disposal, collection, transportation and recycling of
our waste.

We must ensure a cleaner Lagos
with how we manage waste and we must begin to see the future of a waste-free
Lagos, driving us to the future of a smart city. A cleaner Lagos is a better
Lagos, and we remain optimistic about sustaining our environment, driving
foreign direct investment and maintaining our position as one of the largest
commercial hubs in Africa and the world.

With natural disasters occurring
across the world, partly as a result of environmental abuse, it should be
considered a wise option for everyone to have a rethink about our attitude to
the environment. It is whatever we give to the environment that it gives back
to us. It is that simple!

Gbadegesin is Chief Executive
Officer, LAWMA

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