Edo State World Bank- assisted project has developed a novel waste-to- wealth initiative aimed at remediating degraded land from flood and erosion, writes Tom Obaseki
Amidst the remarkable advancements and industrialization that have propelled human civilization, a silent, yet alarming crisis burgeons, threatening the delicate balance of our planet and the very fabric of our existence. Plastic pollution, the unintended consequence of our modern lifestyle, has become a menace that transcends borders, continents, and generations.
With each passing year, the planet grapples with an overwhelming deluge of discarded plastics that poison our environment, imperil wildlife, aquatic life and cast a dark shadow over our future. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, more than 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year worldwide, half of which is designed for single-use purposes. Of that, less than 10 percent is recycled.
The repercussions are dire, with a staggering 19-23 million tonnes of plastic suffocating our pristine lakes, rivers, and seas annually, mercilessly wreaking havoc on fragile ecosystems and imperiling biodiversity. It is estimated that each person on the planet consumes more than 50,000 plastic particles per year–and many more if inhalation is considered. The consequences for human health and environmental equilibrium are nothing short of alarming.
However, in the face of this dire situation, a ray of hope shines from Edo State in Nigeria, where an innovative plastic waste redemption and management system, e-TRASH is transforming the way communities tackle plastic waste and pollution. The scheme is the first of its kind in Nigeria. The eTRASH which stands for Electronic Transaction in Waste Resources for All uSers and Households utilizes innovative technology in protecting the Environment. The scheme seeks to reduce littering and indiscriminate disposal of plastic waste by individuals and communities in the State. It involves working with all Stakeholders in the entire waste-to-wealth value chain to eliminate plastic and aluminum can waste from the environment in order to protect the State’s critical stormwater infrastructure, the environment, and natural resources as well as guarantee the health and well-being of the people. eTRASH is anchored on an App called PikAmSel.
The novel waste-to-wealth initiative is developed by the Edo State Project Management Unit of Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), a World Bank-Assisted project aimed at remediating degraded land from flood and gully erosion.
It is however currently being deployed across various communities of intervention by the Edo State Flood, Erosion, and Watershed Management Agency (EdoFEWMA), which was created by the State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki in July 2021, following the successes recorded through the World Bank-assisted NEWMAP, which came to a close in June-2022 after a ten-year impactful period in the State.
The eTRASH scheme, an end-to-end digital system, has an automatic management of associated reward system, offering instant reward via direct bank transfer, Telephone Airtime crediting and gifting of accumulated points to a third party via a mass participatory Redemption scheme.
The reward system by eTRASH is helping to promote a culture of proper waste segregation by individuals as well as proper disposal and management of plastic waste in Nigeria and Sub-Sahara Africa while providing livelihood opportunities for several families, particularly women and girls who comprise 80% of the plastic waste aggregators for the programme.
The primary objective of e-TRASH is to reduce littering and the indiscriminate disposal of plastic waste by individuals and communities in Edo State, which was becoming a threat to the functionality of the Stormwater infrastructure built under NEWMAP.
The scheme is designed to be flexible and adaptable and is helping, in no small measures, at managing plastic pollution across Edo State. It is flexible and adaptable and expandable to other subnationals in Nigeria, across Africa and internationally.
The intuitive app, PikAmSelis available on Apple and Google Play Store and can be downloaded via https://pikamsel.com/
Since its launch in January 2023 and deployment only within the pilot five catchments/sites of intervention of NEWMAP, a total of 23.2 square kilometers, the PikAmSel App has 30 registered redemption agents and 42 users. It has demonstrated remarkable effectiveness in significantly reducing plastic and aluminum waste in Edo State by over 3,298kg. The projection is to register 1000 users redeeming a minimum of 100,000kg monthly translating to a total livelihood enhancement/value of not less than US$50,000.00
The process follows a seamless pattern whereby waste collected by users or scavengers is taken to redemption centres which are usually within walking distance within the neighborhood where it is weighed, and points are allocated to the user/sellers, which can be converted into cash or other gift items. The waste is then either recycled by a crusher or sold to third-party recyclers. Several redemption centres for the collection of plastic and aluminum waste have been established in communities such as Urora, Ogiso, Iguosa, Gapiona, and Queen Ede in Benin City. These centres have had a positive impact on the environment and the livelihoods of the state’s residents.
Apart from the opportunity of exchanging plastic waste for cash or other valuable items, the waste is transformed into new products that can be reused, thereby reducing littering, conserving energy, and effectively managing waste in the environment. Not only has this positively impacted the environment, but it has also created jobs for young people who have found a niche in the recycling business, leading to economic benefits for the state’s population. This has also enhanced the quality of food, air, and water, as well as helped in conserving landfill space for other useful purposes.
The eTRASH redemption scheme is also contributing to the conservation of natural resources in the state. Since recycled materials have already undergone processing, less time and fewer resources are required for production. Well-managed natural resources, such as renewable resources, watersheds, and productive landscapes, play a crucial role in sustainable growth, food security, poverty reduction, and overall human well-being.
By exchanging waste for value and recycling, the e-TRASH scheme is also efficiently contributing to protecting and preserving flood and erosion control infrastructure across communities in the state as these structures can now function optimally without the risk of being clogged.
As we mark the 2023 World Environment Day, we must highlight the importance of collaboration and investment in innovations to tackle plastic pollution and ensure environmental sustainability, such as the e-TRASH project which serves as a shining example of how innovative solutions, supported by international organizations like the World Bank, can effectively address pressing environmental challenges.
As the initiative expands and gains momentum, there is a great potential for its positive impact to extend beyond Edo State and benefit other subnationals in Nigeria and across Africa. By combining community involvement, technological advancements, and a focus on sustainability, the e-TRASH initiative presents a promising model for managing plastic waste, protecting the environment, and fostering socio-economic development in the face of the global plastic pollution crisis.
* Dr. Obaseki is the immediate past Project Coordinator, Edo State Project Management Unit, Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project, NEWMAP and Pioneer Chief Executive Officer of Edo State Flood Erosion and Watershed Management Agency, Edo FEWMA.