• Tuesday, November 28, 2023
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The untapped goldmine


Sitting on about 3,345 square kilometre of Nigeria’s 910,770 square kilometre land size, but with its population growing at an alarming rate (estimated by the UN-Habitat and international agencies to hit 35 million people by 2020), managing waste in Lagos, like is the case in every densely populated city, comes with a challenge. But when viewed against the backdrop of Nigeria being a developing country, literacy level and poor attitude of the citizenry to waste disposal (such as dumping in gutters and drainage), the challenge can indeed be enormous.

To keep the Lagos environment clean and healthily safe for the residents, visitors and investors will require a shift from the rudimentary method of waste collection and disposal, which some years back left the city prostate to waste and its roads littered with all kinds of refuse – some dropping off articulated trucks in use then as waste “dispersal” trucks.

In most of the big cities around the world, which Lagos compares, particularly those that have attained the status of mega cities (with population above 10 million people), the old conventional method of waste collection had since given way to modern/scientific method, with the use of compactors, technology and other state-of-the-art equipment. This to some extent has been made possible through partnership between the governments and private investors in the business of waste management. Waste the world over has become a huge business, creating wealth and employment for millions of people.

Lagos has however made some effort in this direction. In trying to attune itself to this global trend, the state in the last couple of years has adopted measures to ensure the city is not left far behind. Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), an agency of government that shoulders much of the responsibility of waste collection and disposal in partnership with Private Sector Participants (PSP), is taking up the gauntlet.

Established as Lagos State Refuse Disposal Board under Edict 9 of 1977, with Powell Duffon Pollution Control Consultants of Canada as manager, the agency has evolved over the years in the quest to better position for effectively discharge of its responsibilities. In 1981, the name was changed to Lagos State Waste Disposal Board, and in 1991 transformed to Lagos State Waste Management Authority under Edict No. 55, which saddled it with the task of collecting and disposing municipal and industrial waste as well as provision of waste management services to the state and local governments. The agency eventually assumed its current name: Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) in 2007, vide law No. 5 passed by the House of Assembly that empowers it to collect and dispose both municipal and industrial waste in the state.

Ola Oresanya, its managing director, who led the firm’s management team to BusinessDay corporate office, says since his coming into office about seven years ago, the firm has been unrelenting towards the realisation of not only the core responsibility of waste collection and disposal, but attainment of the agency’s set target of transforming Lagos into West Africa’s cleanest city by year 2015.

In pursuance of this target, the agency, he says is involved in domestic waste collection, industrial-commercial waste collection, market and medical waste collection, hazardous waste management, destruction of classified and expired waste products and materials, licensing of PSP operators for industrial, commercial and domestic waste collection services, sale of waste receptacles, issuance of waste dump permits and industrial cleaning, while not losing sight of the global trend: creating wealth from waste through recycling.


Unknown to many investors, a huge investment opportunity lies in the waste management sector of Lagos economy, which has been identified to have the capacity to produce up to 5,000 megawatts of electricity if properly harnessed, using the right kind of technology.

Waste-to-energy entails creating energy in the form of electricity or heat from the incineration of waste source. Most of the processes produce electricity directly through combustion, or combustible fuel commodity, such as methane, methanol, ethanol or synthetic fuels.

The about 10,000 cubic metre of waste currently generated in Lagos per day leaves the state with a huge waste deposit base that can be tapped into for wealth creation and employment generation, using the right kind of technology.

Over the years, the dumpsites at Olusoshun, Solous and Abule-Egba, have accumulated millions of tons of waste. A recent study reveals that the Olusoshun sits on a 15 metre deep waste, making it, like others, a ‘gold-mine’ for gas or electricity exploitation.

Already, LAWMA in conjunction with relevant partners is tapping into the opportunity at the Olusosun dumpsite near Ojota, where it hopes to convert the long decomposed waste underneath the dumpsite into energy. But while the Olusosun dumpsite is work in progress, the waste to energy initiative has taken off at Ikosi Market, near Ikeja, where waste generated within the market is already supplying 5 megawatts of electricity to the market. “What this means is that waste generated within the market do not leave the market, it is being utilised right there for energy,” says Oresanya.

Similar project, according to him, is being undertaken in other markets within the state, while pursuing the full realisation of the waste-to-wealth/recycling programme.


The waste-to-wealth initiative aims basically to manage resources, reduce cost and impact of waste materials on the environment in addition to generating income and employment for the teeming population of the state.

Some of the components of the waste-to-wealth initiative being executed by the agency include the earth-care Compost Plant in Ikorodu, Plastic Buy-Back programme and Household waste recycling. Under the programme, the agency has introduced waste sorting mechanism within the neighbourhoods of Lagos whereby waste such as paper, metal cans, glass and others are sorted and treated differently.

This so far has emerged successful, particularly with regards to the compost plant factory at Odogunyan in Ikorodu where over 260 bags of 25kg ‘compost plus’ fertiliser is being produced daily and sold to some states of the federation and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.

“The compost plus is the fertiliser product from the state recycling effort. The product comes out like the fertile black soil, and has no odour and without any chemical mixture. The quality control process ensures that it is free from harmful materials and contains the proper amount of plant nutrients before the product is delivered to the market.

“We have collaborated with the private sector in making sure that whatever is being collected is converted to resources. Every waste is being converted to something that will bring money for an average individual. We are also empowering people and promoting cleaner Lagos initiatives,” Oresanya says.

“Despite huge potential in waste, some individuals have not given much thought to it. We have dared to venture into a new technology of converting it to wealth. Lagos State is spearheading this programme through LAWMA. The initiative is to recycle waste and turn it into wealth and the state is making progress in that direction,” the MD explains further.


The recycling component of the waste-to-wealth programme involves the recovery of discarded materials from the waste stream for other uses. The recycled material is degraded somewhat by use or processing.

According to Oresanya, the objective of the recycling project is to reduce operational and production costs for waste management, generate income and employment within the labour-intensive urban sector through economic linkages with PSPs, scavengers and processing facilities, promote alternative ways to dispose waste, such as papers, metal cans, glass and other containers and save huge amounts of energy and resources. Others include increasing the life-span of landfill, facilitating and increasing public awareness among the populace, strengthening the waste collection activities and expanding the waste management scope to facilitate additional value for waste recycler markets.

The nylon buyback initiative which currently provides employment for hundreds of hitherto unemployed youths (including scavengers and those formerly engaged in truck pushing) is one way LAWMA is implementing the recycling programme.

Oresanya says this programme has contributed in no small measure to rid Lagos of “pure water” sachets, which are discarded indiscriminately by consumers. He says the agency encourages people to gather the sachets and other recyclable materials such plastic bottles, papers and used tyres and turn them in to LAWMA for a fee. “So, those “pure water” sachets you see littering the streets are money.”

Recycling paper

Specifically on recycling of papers, Oresanya says “the bulk of the paper collected from LAWMA landfills or recycling banks are stored and graded at the agency’s Paper Bailing Section at Olusosun, Ojota, and thereafter delivered to Jebba Paper Mill. About N3 million worth of waste papers, he says has been supplied for conversion.

At the mill, the paper, he says is added to water and then turned into pulp. After which it is then screened, cleaned and de-linked through a number of processes until it is suitable for the manufacturing of new paper products such as egg cartons, paper towels, toilet paper, phonebooks, paper bags, notebooks, stamps, business cards, calendars, and others.

Recycling rubber

There is no doubt that thousands of fairly used and expired tyres are imported into Nigeria every month. In Lagos where a larger percentage of the tyres end up, it was common to see them littering the roads and readily available to protesters to make bonfires on the streets. In recent times, this trend has drastically reduced, such that you could drive a long stretched road without sighting a tyre.

Explaining what has happened, Oresanya says one of the key areas of rubber recycling is concerned with used tyres. LAWMA, according to him, is presently involved in collecting tyres from the streets for recycling purposes. “You no longer see those tyres littering the streets because our men are going about collecting them for recycling.”

He says the agency is interested in partnering with private investors via PPP to recycle used tyres into other re-usable products such as carpet padding or underlay, dock bumpers, patio desks, railroad crossing blocks, movable speed bumps, brake pads and shoes, exhaust hangers, livestock mats, rubber tiles and bricks, rubber bands among other products which needed in various sectors of the national economy.

Oresanya lists the benefits of recycling rubber to include employment generation especially for a developing like Nigeria.

Private sector partnership

Since opening the space in the waste management to private participation, LAWMA has licensed several PSP operators, some of whom have been assisted by the government to secure bank loans to acquire waste compactors and other modern waste management facilities for their effective operations. This partnership has ensured that areas where LAWMA trucks had been unable to reach is now ceded to PSP operators, who have on their payrolls hundreds of hitherto unemployed youths.

According to Oresanya, this partnership captures the policy thrust of Governor Babatunde Fashola’s administration which is geared towards creating sustainable and enabling environment for private sector partnership with the government in building and strengthening the economy of Lagos.

A huge opportunity, Oresanya says, still exists for investors via public-private partnership, especially in the area of infrastructure building and maintenance as the solid waste management project in Lagos is said to be in investment need of between N30 billion and N40 billion in capital and recurrent expenditures, respectively, over a period of three years.