• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s waste management policy yields little gains

Developer deploys 3R model for waste management at Royal Palms Villa

Despite a host of policies and regulations by the Federal Government to curb the menace of poor waste management in Nigeria, very little progress has been made across the country, BusinessDay analysis shows.

According to the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nigeria generates some 32 million tonnes of waste per year, among the highest in Africa. Of the waste generated yearly, 2.5 million tonnes is plastic waste, most of which (70 percent) ends up in landfills, sewers, beaches and water bodies.

Nigeria’s most populated city, Lagos, has an estimated population of 24 million and generates in excess of 13,000 metric tonnes of waste daily, according to the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA). Other states in the country do not even have verifiable data on their solid waste generation.

Much of the solid waste generated across Nigeria litter the environment, block drainage, causing flooding and air pollution. The United Nations has projected that Nigeria’s 200 million population will double by 2050. This means things could get much worse for the country if this issue is not addressed.

In response to this challenge, the Federal Government approved a solid waste management policy in 2020 which was intended to tackle the issue of waste disposal and facilitate the conversion of these wastes to wealth but, according to experts, the impact has not been felt.

“The policy has had some impacts but not nearly enough,” said Desmond Majekodunmi, an environmentalist and chairman of Lekki State Urban Forest and Animal Shelter Initiative. “The reality is that the growing population and increased consumption is producing large amounts of waste, and this needs to be more effectively handled before it causes more impact on the environment.”

Majekodunmi also pointed out that in terms of the legislation, more enforcement is needed.

“There have to be specific regulations, especially in terms of single-use plastics. This must be put under very strict control and, in some cases, banned. It might seem inconvenient to do and it might mean certain businesses would lose profits but you can’t continue to put profit ahead of people and the planet,” he said.

Linda Akpami, an environmental, climate change, and sustainable development consultant, said it is time for Nigeria to begin to implement the polluter’s pay principle.

The ‘polluters pay’ principle is the commonly accepted practice that those who produce pollution should bear the costs of managing it to prevent damage to human health or the environment.

For instance, in the Netherlands, there is a law that any company that uses more than 50,000 kilogrammes of single-use packaging material must pay a fee.

Nigeria has been ranked the ninth highest country producing unmanaged plastics in the world, accounting for 2.7 percent of global mismanaged plastic waste, according to the World Bank.

The bank has also estimated that the country will be the producer of the largest volume of mismanaged plastic waste on the African continent by 2025.

Kenya, Rwanda, and 32 other countries have adopted nationwide taxes or bans on plastics but Nigeria is yet to make a move on this.

Despite the huge challenges, there are opportunities in waste management but this cannot be harnessed without strict sanctions on reckless waste disposal in Nigeria.

Ikenna Donald, programme coordinator at Heinrich Böll Stiftung Foundation, Nigeria, said the country could only create a business for solid waste when “we have by-laws that will empower communities to enforce arrest and sanctions.”

“We need to make dumping of waste a crime. If people know that when they dump waste irresponsibly, they will be fined, there will be a need for proper disposal channels, and this will create business opportunities,” he said.

Donald said there was a need to address the entry requirement for going into the waste management business in Nigeria.

“If the entry requirement is too high, it will discourage many people from coming into the business. The requirement must be simple and open for anyone to enter the business, and they should be given tax incentives.”