Degradable waste has been fingered as one of the factors leading to Nigeria’s poor health indices, but stakeholders at a recent CEO roundtable on sustainability are charting a way forward to change the narrative. Martins Ifijeh writes
While modernisation has improved the quality of lives globally, especially for persons living in cities and sub-urban areas, it has had its share of disadvantages, with one being the pollution it is causing to the earth, climate, and particularly humans.
This pollution, majorly degradable waste, is heightened by the increase in global population and the rising demand for food and other essentials, which in no small measure causes several hazards to humans, especially health hazards.
One of the countries unfortunately most affected by the effects of degradable waste is Nigeria, with over 32 million tons of solid waste being generated annually by households, industries, as well as traders, out of which only 20-30 per cent are collected.
Reports show Lagos State, the commercial hub of Nigeria generates more than 10,000 tons of waste per day with a high population of about 22 million, according to recent statistics.
Medical experts believe this has a direct effect on the poor health indices the country is currently grappling with. For instance, at least two million Nigerians are presently fighting one form of cancer or the other, an illness the World Health Organisation (WHO) said can be linked to chemicals generated from waste pollution.
Yearly, Nigeria records hundreds of thousands of deaths linked to infection, communicable and noncommunicable diseases linked to environmental factors. Chief among such diseases are cholera and diarrhea.
It is in tackling issues around degradable waste and improving the health of Nigerians that the Lagos Business School recently organised the Chief Executive Roundtable on Sustainability, tagged, “Action to Mitigate Plastic Pollution.”
They hinted that Nigeria stands a good chance of bending the curve in good time, only if the private and public sector can collaborate strategically, make implementable policies, as well as making strategic timelines for executing each step of the national plan on circular economy.
Sharing his thoughts at the roundtable, the Managing Director, Guinness Nigeria PLC, Mr. Baker Magunda stated that the focus should be on achieving zero-waste as well as cleaner growth targets.
He said: “As a business, we are very conscious of the global initiative towards waste reduction and possibly, eradication. The idea of a circular economy combines three key goals in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which are good health and wellbeing, clean water and sanitation and affordable and clean energy. When we reduce plastic waste pollution, we would be addressing the issue of non-degradable waste, for which plastic wastes contribute immensely.
“Presently, the tons of plastic wastes that flows into Nigerian waters also raise concerns over the country’s hydrological cycle, including the safety of its aquatic life and what eventually comes down as rain to fertilise farm produce. Consequently, to enjoy good health and wellbeing, we can no longer wait, but to act against the potential hazards of increased plastic waste.”
He said presently, the global trend was driving a waste to wealth initiative, adding that for circular economy to thrive and as part of efforts to mitigate the health results from degradable waste in the country, the government must be deliberate in creating awareness about the opportunities that are available in proper waste management, such as the huge potentials of job creation.
Magunda said: “In terms of energy generation, geocycle is the way to go- turning waste into energy and recycled materials. By this, we contribute to a reformative circular economy to achieve a zero-waste society.
“We support the effort of the government through our ‘4R’ waste management strategy, which are Reduction, Reuse, Recovery and Recycle. To this end, we will continue to advocate improved waste management practices, contribute to increased collection and recycling rates countrywide, and provide employment opportunities through scalable recycling solutions.”
Sharing his thoughts, a healthcare stakeholder, Dr. Alfred Olawale described effects from waste as one of the major causes of ill health, adding that if the country is able to manage waste properly, poor healthcare indices in the country will reduce.
He said some of these degradable waste releases into the ocean and if untreated could cause certain chemicals like cyanides, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls, and that these are highly toxic substances that may lead to several illnesses or even death. “Many studies have been carried out in various parts of the world to establish a connection between health and hazardous waste”, he added