Zero waste for zero emission
Once upon a time, waste generation in Nigeria was minimal as most households ate fresh produce from the farm. The advent of civilization, industrialization and the influx of people into urban areas has increased the amount of waste generated over the years.
Is Zero waste even possible in Nigeria?
The odds seem high. In a country that churns out 32 million tons of waste per year, with a ranking as the ninth highest country producing unmanaged plastics in the world, drastic measures are needed. Waste management methods are still archaic. Dumpsites are frequently seen, coupled with open burning, unregulated land-fills, dumping into drain channels, streams and rivers.
Research shows that households and markets are major contributors of solid waste generated. This consists putrescible waste 68.16%, while others – paper, nylon, plastic, glass, metal, and garden waste/grit – accounted for 31.84%. These are all lumped up and burned to reduce the mass and odour of the waste. Due to the regular practice of open burning, a UN report shows emissions from solid waste driven by open dumps and landfills account for about 5-12% of total global GHG emissions .
…but Zero emission has to be achieved
The implication of open refuse burning is the increase in the amount of CO and CO2 in the atmosphere. This is highly detrimental to the health of residents living around such places. According to research, whether the dumpsites were burning or not the oxygen levels within the vicinity were below the comfortable level of 19.5%. Carbon levels rise to 700ppm, higher than standard acceptable levels of 350ppm. Children who live close to these garbage sites are consuming and breathing harmful toxins. Lung and heart disease, cancer, infertility, low birthweight, premature birth, issues with cognitive development, and early mortality are all brought on by airborne particulate matter. Over 20% of the methane and 11% of the black carbon that dump sites emit globally must be reduced in order to lessen the effects of climate change.
Who then is responsible?
A look at waste generators – residential, industrial, commercial, institutional, construction and demolition, municipal services, and agricultural – reveal that no one is left out of working toward zero waste. The buck cannot be left to the government alone. Zeroing in on industries and commercial centres, strategies must be put in place to ensure more responsibility towards a cleaner and safer environment. The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy aimed at extending producers’ responsibility for
their products to the post-consumer stage of their products’ lifecycle. In Nigeria, this is established for e-wastes but should be taken more seriously among FMCG producers. These companies can take responsibility for mopping up wastes generated by the consumption of their products, implementing innovative solutions for behaviour change among consumers/customers in waste disposal.
While it may not be possible to completely eliminate waste, striving for zero waste can bring significant benefits, such as reducing pollution, conserving natural resources, and promoting environmental sustainability. By implementing sustainable practices and supporting initiatives that promote zero waste, we can work towards a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future.
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 African Journal of Environmental Science and Technology Vol. 3 (12), pp. 430-437, December 2008 Available online at http://www.academicjournals.org/AJEST ISSN 1991-637X © 2008 Academic Journals