Nigeria needs collaboration, attitudinal change to protect environment
Stakeholders in the private and public sectors have agreed that in building sustainable environmental protection and proper waste disposal practices, it is necessary to create awareness about the need for a cleaner and well-protected environment. They also advocate for a reform in the mind-set and attitude of people toward waste disposal practices.
This was discussed during BusinessDay’s 2021 Diswaste Conference themed, ‘Corporate Citizens for Clean Cities’ held in commemoration of the 2021 World Earth Day.
“There is no planet B, there is an urgent need to make Nigerian cities cleaner, greener and more sustainable,” Edward Kallon, United Nations resident coordinator and humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, said.
This would require a mass awareness on the negative impact of poor waste management on the environment.
Obas Ebohon, a professor of sustainability and environmental law, London South-Bank University, explained that the lack of awareness and responsibility contributes to pollution in Nigeria.
According to Ebohon, although recycling has been seen as a solution to pollution, it is just one on the list of the many ways to manage pollution.
To him, awareness must be created about the 5Rs, which are; refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, and then recycle.
“Nigerians can start to refuse the use of wasteful and polluting products, such as single use plastics. Citizens can also reduce the waste by not consuming more than they need and reducing what they eat.
“Implementing the 5Rs coupled with government activities to incentivise good waste management and disincentives pollution will ensure cleaner cities,” he said.
Pollution is also a result of infrastructure deficit in the country.
George Nwangwu, managing consultant, Ration Consulting and expert on sustainable cities, pointed out that most problems associated with waste can be solved by providing good infrastructure.
“It is because we do not have good potable water that is why people buy bottled and sachet water. The root cause is the absence of water,” Nwangwu said.
If Federal Government does not provide clean water in communities, people will keep purchasing plastic water, which will continue to litter the environment, he further explained.
It has been estimated that Nigeria will be the nation producing the largest amount of mismanaged plastic waste in Africa by 2025 if drastic measures are not taken.
Speaking during the plenary session that focused on how Lagos can be clean again, Amaka Onyemelukwe, director, public affairs, communications and sustainability, The Coca-Cola Company, said waste management was a collective action between the public sector, private sector and the citizens.
In building a clean society, she noted that there was need to adopt practices such as waste separation, recycling and proper waste disposal, adding that it was necessary to improve the price and rewards for waste management to increase people’s participation in proper waste disposal.
“There is a gap that needs to be address around advocacy and mind-set transformation, we also need to incorporate the use of technology to improve waste disposal,” she said.
During a fireside discussion, Oshiokamele Aruna, managing director, Tetra Pak, mentioned that the practise of corporate organisations influenced largely the possibility of having a sustainably protected environment.
Taking a cue from Sterling Bank, he said there was need for more organisations to participate actively in environmental protection and proper waste disposal activities, as their action or inaction wields significant impact.
Similarly, Abubakar Suleiman, CEO, Sterling Bank, said most corporate organisations refrain from association with waste management, which was a wrong practise, adding that people also need to change their mind-set towards environmental issues as well. He added that overtime people and process come together to support each other in sustainably protecting the environment.
According to Ibrahim Adejuwon Odumboni, managing director/CEO, LAWMA, Lagos generates 14,000 metric ton (MT) of solid waste daily, however efforts are being made to properly manage waste and protect the environment.
Currently, Lagos has 437 PSP managers, 47 recyclers and 30,000 members in its workforce who help to properly dispose and manage waste, and that LAWMA makes 850 trips daily to dumpsites, disposing 11,000MT of waste taken from the streets of Lagos, Odumboni said.
While Lagos is working on becoming cleaner, however, there is need for more collaborative efforts from citizens and the private sector, he noted.
“We still face challenges like indiscriminate dumping of waste, poor awareness about sustainable environmental protection practises, lack of proper waste separation practise, among others,” he said.
Belinda Odeneye, permanent secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Environment, urged financial institutions to partner with companies who recycle and manage waste, and provide funding, noting that Lagos was making efforts through the provision of lands and enabling policies.