Zero Waste Day 2023: Why Nigeria Must Prioritise Recycling
Waste management is a significant challenge facing Nigeria — a country that generates over 32 million tonnes of solid waste every year. Sadly, only a tiny fraction of this waste is recycled, leading to a severe environmental pollution problem.
On December 14, 2022, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution proclaiming March 30 as International Day of Zero Waste, to be observed annually starting in 2023.
Observance of the day is jointly facilitated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) to raise awareness on national, subnational, regional, and local zero-waste initiatives and their contribution to achieving sustainable development.
As the world marks the first-ever International Day of Zero Waste today, it is imperative that Nigeria joins other countries in stepping up its waste management efforts through proper waste collection, processing, and recycling or deposal.
With a population of over 200 million people and despite having several waste management policies and regulations in place, Nigeria has a poor rating in terms of waste management.
The country ranked 162 among 180 countries in the 2022 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which compares environmental performance for those countries.
The EPI, which is produced by researchers at Yale and Columbia Universities in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, indicates which countries are best addressing the environmental challenges such as climate change, environmental health, and ecosystem vitality, among others.
Meanwhile, it is common knowledge that poor waste management has detrimental impacts on the environment, including climate change and air pollution, and has a direct impact on various ecosystems and species.
According to global risks advisory firm, Maplecroft, Abuja and Lagos — two of the country’s most populous cities — rank third and fourth positions on the Climate Change Vulnerability Index among 79 cities at ‘extreme risk’ of Climate Change in Africa and Asia.
While the Lagos State Government has introduced initiatives which encourage community members to drop off used plastic bottles and containers at designated recycling points, both the federal and state governments as well as manufacturers and consumers must show more commitment toward sustainable management of post-consumer recyclable wastes in the country.
One of the key objectives of recycling programmes is to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. These materials, which are widely used in households and commercial establishments, have the potential to cause environmental pollution if not disposed of properly.
In January 2023, the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency of Nigeria (NESREA) announced revised environmental regulations to reduce pollution from Nigeria’s electronics sector through strengthening of the country’s Extended Producer Responsibility programme that requires producers or importers of e-waste to be accountable for the end-of-life of such products.
But to improve waste collection and recycling in the country, concerted efforts must be made at the state and federal levels to ensure strict compliance with the EPR.
For instance, while Section 31 (2) of the National Environmental (Electrical and Electronic Sector) Regulations, 2022 require operators of e-waste collection centers to “register with the Agency and the PRO (NESREA or Producer Responsibility Organization), and comply with the guidelines provided in the Fourteenth Schedule to these Regulations,” scavengers popularly known as “Baban Bola” have continued to collect e-waste across the country without registering with NESREA.
The agency must prioritise the implementation of its policies to ensure that standard practices are adhered to in waste generation and recycling and ensure proper disposal of non-recyclable waste.
With a recycling industry estimated to be worth $2 billion, proper implementation of policies will attract more investments from the private sector toward the development of recycling plants for the collection, sorting, and processing of waste in Nigeria.
Apart from creating jobs for thousands of people who are engaged in that sector, proper waste management can reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, thus mitigating the negative impact of waste on the environment. Recycling can also help to conserve natural resources by reducing the need to extract new raw materials for the production of goods.
Furthermore, the federal and state governments must encourage public-private partnerships to help drive sustainable waste management practices through recycling and waste reduction programs.
On the part of consumers, education and awareness campaigns to promote sustainable waste management practices must be increased to discourage irresponsible disposal of waste.
In conclusion, sustainable waste management is critical for the future of Nigeria. The International Day of Zero Waste serves as a reminder for increased advocacy toward promotion of sustainable waste management practices.
– Tayo is a Nigerian journalist. His work on the impact of human activities on the Climate has been published in the British Journal of Applied Science and Technology — now Current Journal of Applied Science and Technology.
Disclaimer: This article is entirely the opinion of the writer and does not represent the views of The Whistler.