By Titilayo Obileye
Africa is the next big thing in the committee of continents to drive the socio-economic fortunes of the world. However, there is a need for a sustainable long-term plan in securing the sanity and safety of the African ecosystem. Development without sustainability is not achievable. Sustainability is the continuous improvement of a present state without compromising the future, and for the betterment of the future. Therefore, it is highly important in a place, organization, institution, government, or any form of habitat.
In present times, there is the need for not only growth and development but the sustainability of our environment and the world in general. There is a massive need for leaders, government agencies, and other stakeholders in the waste management sector to rise to the problem that is subtly endangering our very existence because the earth (our Environment) is our only home and if destroyed by poor/unsustainable waste management policies and practices, there will be no home for us to live. As a result of the need for environmental sustenance, there comes the emergence of Efficient Waste Management Policies/Practices, thereby protecting our communities for the benefit of the population. The generation, collection, and disposal of wastes are intrinsic part of any developing or industrial society. Waste, from both domestic and commercial sources, has grown significantly in Africa and other developing nations of the world over the past decades. Every time a householder shops at a store or an open market, they contribute to the accumulation of waste. It is possible to quote figures which show that the production of waste amounts to millions of tons, hence, the management of waste is a matter of national and international concern.
The ‘4R’ concept which refers to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Responsible disposal aids the achievement of the smart environmental management system. The concept emphasizes an increase in the ratio of recyclable materials, use of raw materials, and manufacturing waste as well as an overall reduction in resource and energy use.
Goal 13 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations is to “ensure environmental sustainability, through Climate Action”. A very important issue that is crucial in realizing this goal is the need to develop and adopt effective strategies for the optimization of the Waste Management system, Environmental systems, and more especially in densely populated urban areas and institutions which include regions of Africa.
Municipal waste management: The good, the bad
Effective municipal waste management is a major problem in Africa, especially the disposal, collection, and processing of the generated wastes. The constant consumption growth has resulted in a significant rise in waste generation. This has urged local authorities within the continent to develop an improved waste management system to tackle the waste conundrum. Amongst these solutions, the most likely one remains the optimization of the waste collection process. Every region has its unique profile regarding municipal waste generation and emerging environmental issues. The lack of awareness in communities in connection to waste generation and handling can be considered a reason for poor environmental and waste management.
Waste collection is a major element of any waste management system. It has a high economic impact together with eminent environmental and social consequences. Authorities and research bodies have worked on various ways to optimize the collection process. This has led to significant improvements in waste collection. Nevertheless, the best means for optimizing the process is yet to be achieved.
In most African cities, municipal waste collections are done in an ad-hoc manner, which contributes to high municipal waste collection costs. Municipal waste collection vehicles are assigned to zones without any serious demand analysis, route construction being left to the waste vehicle drivers. Every time the vehicle is filled up, it heads to the disposal site to unload and then returns to the zones. This method contributes to high municipal waste collection costs and environmental issues.
Research has it that about 66 -95 percent of the municipal waste management budget in African countries is spent on waste collection and haulage. Minimizing the cost of municipal waste collection through Collection Route Optimization and Collection Point Locations will help in optimizing the general management of municipal waste systems within the continent. The volume of these wastes does not constitute the problem, but the inability of waste management administrators to keep up with the task of managing waste and the environment. The consequence is that improper disposal or storage of these wastes constitutes hazards to society through the pollution of air, land, and especially surface and groundwater.
Lagos State plastic usage and waste strategy: A commendable stride
A strategy known as the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, which aims to replace the PSP system in manner that would effectively tackle the management of waste in the state was adopted by the Lagos State Government in March 2017 to stamp out the practice of dumping refuse and other categories of thrash on major roads and street corners, which has negative impact on the environment especially during rainy seasons. See https://punchng.com/expectations-as-lagos-government-introduces-new-environmental-policy/?amp
Also, in March 2020, the Lagos State Government also published on its official website, a Policy that will regulate plastic utility and waste; “In view of the increasing prevalence of plastic waste and its negative effect on the environment in recent years, the Lagos State Government is set to put in place policy guidelines backed up with an enabling law, to regulate plastic utility and ensure sustainable management of plastic waste.”
In Ghana, there is a steady development of plan and policy for municipal waste management. According to a research paper by Patrick Aaniamenga Bowan, Sam M. Kayaga, Andrew P. Cotton, and Julie Fisher, “study examined MSWM performance in Ghana using the Wa “Municipality as a case study. The findings indicate that Ghana has a good institutional framework for MSWM, the laws and regulations governing waste management are adequate and the involvement of the private sector in waste collection has drastically improved waste collection in the country. However, strengthening the enabling environment for sustainable MSWM could scale up MSWM performance in Ghana for the attainment SWM goals such as protection of public health and the environment, conservation of resources, and creation of employment.”
Emergent pollutants and environmental impact
Emerging pollutants are chemicals and compounds that have recently been identified as dangerous to the environment, and consequently the health of human beings. Precisely, they have been labelled “emerging” because of the rising level of concern linked to them. In addition, many of these emerging pollutants have not been regulated under national or international legislation, hence posing a greater risk to our environment and livelihood. These pollutants include a variety of compounds such as antibiotics, drugs, steroids, endocrine disruptors, hormones, Industrial Additives, Chemicals, and also Microbeads, and microplastics. There is an inextricable link between these pollutants and wastewater.
Municipal, industrial, and domestic wastewaters are, in fact, a primary pathway for their wide diffusion in the aquatic environment. While more research is needed, it is widely acknowledged that these emerging pollutants are increasingly becoming a hazard. An environmental impact deals with any change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, resulting from a facility’s activities, products, or services. In other words, it is the effect that people’s actions have on the environment. For example, when volatile organic compounds are released into the environment, the effect or impact is pollution in the form of smog, in this case being negative. It can go the other way, as a person picking up litter can have a beneficial impact on the local environment. The primary impacts of concern in an energy-dependent society often come as a result of our energy use. Burning hydrocarbons like coal and oil to provide us with useful energy results in the emission of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Other activities causing harm include improper waste disposal to bodies of water and soil, accidental spills of chemicals, increased demand for resources as populations increase (especially due to consumerism as stated above), and much more. The impacts that these have on the environment have become clear and include: Climate change, including Global warming, Acid rain, Photochemical smog, and other forms of pollution, Ocean acidification, Displacement/extinction of wildlife; Resource depletion – Forests, Water, Food. Etc.
Many issues in the world are causing one or more of these effects. The Oil sands, for instance, is of great concern to many these days as they essentially contribute to each of the above impacts.
Conclusion and recommendation
Human ways of life have placed pressure on the environment and have caused an imbalance in the ecosystems through the producing, consuming, and wasting of natural resources. Most countries have major effects on the environment due to Municipal and Industrial waste generation with economic development since the natural resources are used, and waste and pollution are produced. Therefore, the concern toward the management of waste as an integral part of sustainable development has increased.
Findings revealed that there are significant issues with unauthorized waste disposal practices due to the lack of proper waste management processes on the continent. It is also clear that improper waste management practices have a significant impact on the natural environment and sustainable development of the continent. Thus, awareness about Waste Management & Environmental Impact on Sound Environmental Development or/and Sustainable Development is seemingly low. Therefore, Waste Management must be developed from the primary level. Furthermore, the Environmental Impact and Specific Action can be analyzed using a Life Cycle Assessment, which is the process of observing a product from its “cradle to grave” and determining the impacts associated with it at each step. These methods are somewhat subjective and resource intensive.
Emission Inventories for example may quantify the emission of pollutants, while Risk Assessment can analyze the effects these pollutants will have on the health of those within the environment.
Process Hazard Analysis involves identifying and assessing the potential impacts of unplanned hazardous materials. A team may rank the possible hazards and focus on preventing those that can cause the most harm. Waste storage and primary disposal are the dominant means of managing waste. Thus, it has caused significant challenges within the continent. Therefore, Waste Separation from the household level, Proper Storage, more Efficient Waste Collection Systems, and Sustainable Recovery and Disposal Practices are identified as needed processes within the administrative system and communities.
Considering the nature and components of waste generated by households and business places, the waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting processes would be more suitable for managing the challenge. These management options should be integrated into a sustainable framework. Adequate consideration should be given to monitoring processes. Public education and properly planned waste management programs also need to be introduced into the current waste management system.
Especially awareness programmes must be conducted to improve the knowledge about the importance of Municipal & Industrial waste management for sound environmental development in the continent. The Administrators and Authorities should also provide for the introduction of complementary programs and policy development.
•Titilayo Obileye, Climate Action Activist, writes via [email protected]