The informal environmental agents can be used to curb indiscriminate disposal of waste on streets and promote efficient revenue collection of waste management fees from households, a report by the Financial Derivatives Company Limited (FDC) has stated.
The FDC which stated this in its latest Economic Bulletin, noted that waste management remains a general challenge for all densely populated cities, adding that Nigerian cities were not an exception.
It pointed out that with a population of nearly 190 million people, Nigeria was still struggling to keep waste away from the streets and reduce the number of dumpsites.
According to the report, environmental agencies in Nigeria have not been able to keep up with the pace of waste generation in the country.
“Although the government has initiated several efforts to enhance effective waste management, it has had limited success. Inefficient collection mediums, low collection coverage, inadequate funding for facilities to manage the high rate of waste generation and improper waste disposal practices are just some of the limitations.
“Waste management in Nigeria has also been largely concentrated in the public sector, as it is seen as a duty of the government,” it added.
The federal government had instituted the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) in 1988 to address environmental issues in the country. This was backed by a national environmental policy to encourage public awareness and participation in environmental protection.
The policy advocated proper collection and disposal of waste, in environmentally sound manners, with laws to enforce compliance.
Despite the efforts of the government to encourage effective waste management in the country, the common practice in Nigeria is the relocation of waste rather than proper disposal, it noted.
The UNDP reported that the accumulation of uncollected solid waste in the north-eastern part of the country was attributable to the ongoing hostilities in that area.
“Such a waste build-up, however, is not peculiar to that region of the country. Across the country it is estimated that waste collection is only 30 per cent effective, meaning 70 per cent of Nigeria’s waste is not properly handled.
“The southern areas have also reported uncontrolled dumping of waste on the streets and highways particularly in urbanised cities like Lagos. This has led to significant public health concerns, as well as life threatening flooding from waste dumped in canals and drains
“In response, some states, like Lagos, have introduced partnerships with private sector participants in order to promote effective waste management,” it explained.
The Lagos Waste Management Agency partners with the private sector partners (PSPs) for waste collection, disposal, and enforcement of waste management fees. However, waste collection by the PSPs has not effectively kept waste away from the streets and highways.
“Informal waste pickers are individuals who make their living by collecting recyclables from waste in the streets and dumpsites. Generally, informal waste collectors are faced with societal backlash and discrimination.
“It is believed that they are only interested in collecting waste for money and are not interested in the proper disposal of the waste collected. Informal waste pickers allegedly collect waste from households to dispose them indiscriminately on dumpsites without adequate knowledge of proper waste management, and there is no legal backing for the activities of informal waste collectors in Nigeria.
“Despite the claims against informal waste pickers, it is important to note that they have reach across the country that PSPs do not. If integrated effectively, informal waste collectors could be a game changer for waste management in Nigeria, as they have been in Brazil, Argentina and Colombia. In these countries, they have been so deeply integrated that they even have cooperatives or unions,” it added.
Citing lessons from Brazil, it pointed out that in the South American country, the government partners informal waste pickers and scavengers as environmental agents for proper waste disposal, especially in densely populated urban cities.
The National Basic Sanitation Policy, initiated in the country in 2007 (and complemented by the National Policy on Solid Waste in 2010), introduced an integrated waste management framework, the report revealed.
The framework encourages the formation of unions for regional waste management as a means of strengthening municipal waste management capacities through economies of scale and cost reduction.
This, it noted, had helped to facilitate a shared sense of responsibility towards waste collection, disposal and recycling, in addition to boosting job creation.