Faced with the seemingly intractable challenge of waste management, many state governments in the South West Zone are now adopting innovative waste-to-wealth initiatives to create a clean environment.
A survey by the News Agency of Nigeria across some South West states and Kwara indicated that some state governments are literarily “ walking the talk’’ in managing wastes.
In Ogun, the state government is partnering with Agence Francaise De Development (AFD), a foreign institution based in France to adopt global standards to manage waste.
NAN reports that a presentation of the final feasibility study report on the state’s Waste Management Project sponsored by the AFD recently held in Abeokuta.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ogun Ministry of Environment, Mrs Yetunde Dina, said the partnership with AFD had become necessary because of the huge amount of wastes being generated in the state and the enormous challenges of management.
While assuring that the Ogun government would study the report developed by AFD with a view to taking necessary actions, Dina said the dump sites located within built-up settlements in the state would be relocated to prevent epidemic.
According to her, new trends in waste management goes beyond carting and dumping of wastes, “wastes can no longer be regarded as unwanted materials, rather raw materials and sources of wealth.’’
The Project Manager, Miss Karine Escande, said the initiative would increase waste collection rate, improve the solid waste management to international standard and ensure conversion of waste to energy in Ogun.
“Benefits accruable from this project include improved environmental and social standard of existing recycling industries and development and implementation of state policy for the use of organic fertiliser.
“It will also help in setting up tools for implementation and enforcement of state environment bye-laws.
Dr Adeniyi Afolabi, an Industrial Chemist in Ogun, however, stressed the need for sensitisation and continued education of residents to ensure better waste management in the state.
Afolabi, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Chemistry of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, had become an industrial destination of choice partly because of its nearness to Lagos State.
He rated waste management system in the state as low, saying government must make conscious efforts at partnering residents in reducing waste generation through massive education.
The don also called for a steady campaign of re-use of plastic materials rather than one-off use of them.
“Let us start re-using these materials and through that we would have reduced the quantity of waste that go to the dump sites.
“There is nothing bad in encouraging workers to use one plastic bottle to take water to the office rather than buy new ones in the office every day and thereby continue to generate more wastes.
“We cannot stop people from generating wastes but we can put in measures to reduce the level of wastes generated,” he said.
The chemist also called for the use of polymeric materials in the production of plastics to enhance easy biodegradation of plastic wastes.
Dr Koyejo Jolaoso, a lecturer at the Department of Environmental Science at the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, joined Afolabi to call for sensitisation residents on waste management.
“Residents should be taught on the values of wastes to realise that they are not essentially negative.
“Once the people realise this, it will enhance their voluntary compliance on laws aimed at maintaining a good environment and they will start collecting waste in exchange for money.
Similarly, the Osun government said it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with recycling investors who would be converting plastic and polythene bag wastes to reusable materials.
Mr Femi Ogunbamiwo, the Acting General Manager of Osun Waste Management Agency (OWMA) said the investors would start operation at the central dumping site in Egbedi in Osogbo before the end of the year.
The OWMA boss, who noted that plastic and polythene bags degrade the environment, said they could be used in wealth creation given the political will.
Ogunbamiwo said that disused plastic and polythene bags could remain in the soil for more than 30 years without decomposition and have serious effects on land, water and air.
“Dumping of plastic or cellophane wastes indiscriminately causes flooding because they block water ways when not properly disposed of.
“We ensure, as an agent of government, that these wastes are properly disposed of; besides, these wastes are no wastes because they can be recycled as they are resource for other uses,’’ he said.
Ogunbamiwo, who commended the National Assembly for passing a bill banning the use of plastics in the country, said Osun was ready to key into the law to enforce the government policy that would ensure a sustainable environmental devoid of health hazards.
Prof. Abel Afon, a lecturer at the Faculty of Environmental Design Management, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, on his part, urged government to embark on turning wastes to wealth by generating electricity from disused plastics and polythene bags.
Afon said this was necessary due to the health implications of disused plastics and polythene bags in the environment.
According to him, it usually takes a minimum of 30 years for disused plastics and polythene bags to decompose, with the attendant adverse effect on soil fertility.
Afon, who said that government was not managing its waste properly, said there was a need for relevant authorities develop a waste management policy.
While appealing to government to provide adequate potable water to discourage production and purchase of sachet and bottled water, he said disused plastic and polythene remained dangerous to the environment.
“Disused plastics and polythene bags allow breeding of mosquitoes which affects human health.
“It also poses hazard to maritime activities including fishing and tourism,’’ Afon said.
An NGO, Shepherd For Health, Environment, Advocacy and Development Centre, also called for proper management of disused plastics and polythene bags by government.
Mr Tunde Abioye, the Programme Manager of the NGO, said there was also need for an all-inclusive orientation and sensitisation on the dangers of disused plastic and polythene bags.
He said the government must also take steps in removing disused plastics and polythene bags from the environment and replacing them with more environmentally friendly alternatives.
In Ondo State, the state government is also deploying Public Private Partnership (PPP) to convert waste to wealth.
Mrs Bola Akinyanmi, the General Manager of Ondo State Waste Management Authority, told NAN in Akure that converting waste to wealth could not be handled by government alone if it was to be sustainable.
She also disclosed that the state already had a functioning waste recycling plant to recycle plastic and convert same to biodegradable waste for fertiliser.
He said registered waste managers in the state embark on door-to-door collection of waste already containerised in the various households, shops and commercial areas.
“The state is working on fully privatising the waste recycling plant. In Akure alone, we have 13 waste collectors while the entire state has close to 20,” she said.
A waste management expert, Mr Fola Omowole also said the Ondo State Waste Management Law promulgated in 2002 had helped to maintain and sustain waste management disposal in the state.
Omowole noted that the implication of disused plastics and polythene bags to the environment were pollution, clogging of water ways and river courses, endangering of aquatic animals and air pollution.
She said the state was already running a waste-to-wealth programme, which only needed fine-tuning to achieve greater purpose.
The waste expert revealed that the state had registered waste management firms within zones and allocated operators under a franchise system.
Omowole said waste generators pay directly to the firms while government regulates their operations and rates.
“However, improvement is needed in terms of educating the generators on the need to generate less for them to be able to handle waste properly, especially on the use of storage facilities and to pay for services.
“Meanwhile, access to all generators is also crucial. Many neighborhoods are inaccessible, making management of wastes difficult,” he said.
The sorry state of waste management in Oyo State has also become source of concern to the new Seyi Makinde administration.
NAN reports that the state government had set up an ad hoc committee on environment to find an enduring solution to the poor sanitary and unhygienic condition across the state
The committee was mandated to evolve ways that would ensure that wastes were disposed of appropriately.
It was also mandated to make recommendations and give advice on how to convert waste to wealth at a stakeholders meeting chaired by Mrs Amidat Agboola, the Head of Service in the state.
Agboola, who admitted the poor state of environmental management, called for synergy between local government health officers and the consultant handing the collection of wastes in the state.
While successive administrations had not espoused a specific policy on conversion of waste to wealth, the new administration had given an indication of plans to formulate such policy.
Meanwhile, an Ibadan-based environmentalist, Mr Kehinde Shitta-Bey, described single-use plastic pollution as a global emergency affecting every aspect of life.
He said that the production of plastic bags had led to the depletion of the earth’s non-renewable resources.
“Plastic is not biodegradable, so when the plastic bags are carelessly thrown, the remains last for years. It does not break down into its elements and join nature.
“They release toxic fumes into air when burnt, and the residual ash pollutes the environment.
“When mixed with wet waste in landfills, they release gases including ammonia and methane which are toxic.
“Plastic wastes which are major causes of environment pollution becomes carcinogenic to humans, result in birth defects, impair immunity and cause endocrine disruption and development,” he said.
Shitta-Bey also advocated for alternative products to plastics.
“The Oyo state government has gone into Public Private Partnership to manage waste disposal in the state.
“I will say in Oyo State, waste management is on the average as there is still need for orientation and sensitisation, especially among the citizens.
“Also, we have private recycling plants for plastic recycling as well as waste managers who go from house to house to collect refuse,” he said.
Mr Adeleke Ajani, the South-West Zonal Director of the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) had also drawn attention to the continued use of polythene bags in Ibadan metropolis due to the cheap prices and ease of packaging.
“We notice that the use is quite enormous but we haven’t done the survey to quantify; but what we see on a daily basis on the streets and dumpsites is that a lot people are no longer using organic materials to package things,” he said.
According to him, the agency discourages the open burning of plastic bags because of its harmful effects on the environment and human health.
“We encourage the recycling of polythene and plastic in all its forms, we capture plastic wastes from source before they get into the environment.
“We also encourage a buy back kind of programme so that you can exchange your cellophanes for products.
“This serves as incentives to manage waste, make the environment sustainable and cleaner and we hope companies key into it as stakeholders in the preservation of the environment.
“Recyclers and scavengers also have their roles and responsibilities; scavengers are trained on sorting and segregation of wastes from the dumpsite to capture the wastes from source,” he said.
In Ekiti, the state government is embarking on “ Operation Waste to Wealth ‘’ through conversion of plastics and other wastes to generate wealth.
The Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources, Mr Gbenga Agbeyo, told NAN that the recycling initiative would help produce pellets and rubber for other uses.
He said government’s recycling plant had in the past been generating huge income, adding that the current administration would now widen its scope to enable it supply factories with pellets.
Dr Kolade Awodumila, an environmental expert, however, said there was the need to adopt sustainable waste management initiatives to mitigate the negative impact on the environment.
He called on government to evolve a policy framework that would compel manufacturers and corporate bodies to introduce plastic and polythene waste buy-back or recall process that would monetarily reward individuals.
“Government should also build more compositing and recycling plants to reduce the pressure of plastic and polythene wastes on the environment,’’ he said.
In Kwara, a former Chairman of the House of Assembly Committee on Environment, Alhaji Hammed Ibn-Mohammed, decried the attitude to waste management in the state.
The former lawmaker also condemned the indiscriminate dumping of refuse in Ilorin, the state capital.
He advised the state government to establish waste recycling plants in Ilorin to rid the city of refuse.
Ibn-Mohammed also called on the government to constitute a committee to evolve how to convert waste to wealth to boost employment in the state.
An Environmental Health Officer in Omu-Aran, Mrs Mary Abejide, expressed worry over the danger posed by indiscriminate dumping of refuse in the state.
She said that the act, which was now rampant was putting extra pressure on government in the bid to ensure a clean and healthy environment.
“The ugly trend is taking a serious toll and putting extra pressure on the council’s health workers,” she said.
Abejide also blamed operators of hospitals and clinics for lacking proper waste disposal strategies, thereby, putting the lives of residents in danger.
Edited by Grace Yussuf