• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Lagos sets pace in turning trash to treasure

Lagos set to unveil new policy on waste management

From creating local equipment to aid waste disposal to forming partnerships with the private sector, Lagos State is setting up a winning model on how to formalise waste management in Nigeria.

The Lagos State government under Babajide Sanwo-Olu seeks to turn Nigeria’s commercial capital, home to over 24 million people, into a smart city and has identified proper management of over 13,000 metric tonnes of solid waste generated daily in the state as critical to achieving this ambition.

The overarching strategy behind Lagos State’s waste disposal management system is enacting strong fiscal and regulatory frameworks that will stir private operators into the process.

This is implemented along with comprehensive advocacy campaigns that reach mass audiences while employing technology and local content strategy through the value chains.

The Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), a parastatal under the Ministry of Environment, serves as regulator and is headed by an investment banker, Ibrahim Odumboni, who used to head the agency’s business development drive.

LAWMA has divided Lagos into a waste collection grid system to cover every nook and cranny of the city and enable quick processing of wastes where they occur rather than trucking them to landfills many miles away. They are eastern, central, western, south-east and northwest districts.

Inside these grids are solid waste processing centres including loading stations and material processing sites, which are managed by private operators. The peculiar type of waste generated around each district informs the recycling method and collection strategy.

LAWMA has constructed new facilities to aid waste disposal across the districts. This includes new landfills, transfer loading stations, material recovery facilities, waste mechanical workshops, composite plants, medical waste incineration plants, recyclable waste collection hubs and recycling facilities.

The agency has created ‘Adopt a Bin’, a plan that encourages private organisations and individuals to support the acquisition of bins for those who are unable to afford it. There is also the Lagos Recycling initiative, which is aimed at encouraging the separation of waste from the point of generation for recycling purposes and encouraging waste to wealth.

The agency has set up the LAWMA Academy, which takes the advocacy of proper waste management to primary and secondary schools from age 3 to 18.

“All the public primary schools in Lagos are now teaching proper waste management as part of their curriculum and private schools are joining as well,” Odumboni told BusinessDay by phone.

Last year, LAWMA launched the PAKAM App to residents to order a pickup of their recyclables including bottles, metal, tin and can. Residents have to bag it, request collection on the app, and a recycler will come to pick it up, mostly on Saturday morning. It is processed and reused to make pillows, plastics and other household materials. Residents are awarded N10,000 monthly for doing this.

Read also: NGO urges concerted efforts to check dumping of plastic wastes in rivers

These reforms have led to the decentralisation of LAWMA’s operation and contributed to the creation of 30,000 jobs from street sweepers to medical incinerator plant fabricators, according to Odumboni.

The state government recently acquired for LAWMA new 102 compactors, which were locally assembled, in addition to the over 900 trucks currently in operation by the various PSP contractors.

“We have set minimum standards for our PSP and the number of operators has now gone from 327 to 450 operators; this means that all of the local governments or wards that were not covered previously are now covered,” he said.

In public parks and marketplaces, LAWMA has added an additional 100 double Dino bins where waste can be stored for onward movement to landfills.

Lagos is encouraging investors to develop solutions that will harness methane gas from waste at landfills to generate electricity. It is driving waste to wealth initiatives, creating 728 new companies to take advantage of the reform initiatives.

LAWMA is forging local solutions assembling trucks and equipment that are adapted for Lagos conditions and where replacement parts are locally sourced. The incinerators for medical waste used in the state were fabricated locally.

Advocacy activities towards proper waste management have been ramped up. But in a state that welcomes, on average, 77 new occupants every hour, it sometimes seems nothing is being done. In secondary schools, there are now recycling clubs and public information notices directing residents to recycle bins.

Odumboni’s private sector experience has been invaluable in raising financing to fund the agency’s programme. The agency raised N3 billion from First City Monument Bank, with the support of the International Finance Corporation to improve the operations of waste managers in the state.

Tunji Bello, commissioner for environment, launched a recycle and reward programme last year to encourage participation in the state, saying the state had devised new modalities to encourage seamless movement of waste.

“We started partnering with the Ogun State government on the use of our transfer loading stations. We are creating as many transfer loading stations as possible that can retain all the waste generated in Lagos and at night, transfer them to landfills in Ogun State,” he said.

Days when landfills are perpetually burning are gradually going away. At landfills, there is controlled burning, and heavy machines used for sorting wastes have become a feature of material recovery sites.

Odumboni said from April this year, it would be mandatory for estates and businesses to separate waste from the source.

To sustain these reforms, he said the government had approved that all the decision managers attend courses on the circular economy. Each project also has a sustainable manager that charts the course for the sustainability of the project.

The state’s ministry of environment has created the Lagos monitor app for residents to report those whose actions threaten the environment such as indiscriminate waste dumping, burning refuse and flooding drainage.

For Lagos, poor management of waste presents an existential crisis. The total economic loss due to flooding in Lagos is estimated at over $4 billion a year by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Rising sea levels and ocean surges present grave dangers.

By 2100, the UNDP expects that the population of the state would balloon to 88 million, becoming the largest city in the world, making it imperative for the government to make waste management systems sustainable.