Waste: A goldmine waiting to be tapped

Head of Special Investigations, Tayo Adelaja, in this report, looks closely at increasing waste materials generated across major cities in the country. His findings reveal that rather than constitute nuisance, Waste is an untapped goldmine that can indeed create wealth and employment. This is a very interesting take and should trigger an intriguing debate. What is not up for debate is that we should all be contributing to the effort to increase our recycling capabilities. Businesses have already made the first move by embracing it on a wide scale. To overcome the issue of having so much space taken up, they have started to use a baler machine. This could be a really helpful tool, that also helps to promote a recycling conscious society.

Chinedu Okafor was dirty and with the stench oozing from the dump site where all sorts of debris are packed, he cared less as he takes his bag with a long iron prodding the debris and picking one material after the other. He smiled and told Sunday Mirror that, “My brother, I don’t want to steal. My friend introduced me to this business about 10 years ago. At first, I felt insulted when he told me about this business you may call scavenging. To me and others, this is cool business that I don’t need any capital to start. I make enough to feed, clothe myself, pay my rent and finished my HND in Electronics.

“It may be a dirty job but I work for myself. I have learned how to turn around the scrap ready for those that will recycle it. Soon, I will be recycling it myself because I am learning that too while I am not abandoning my education at the same time”, he said with a wide grin. “Next time you ask yourself, How can I recycle scrap metal for cash near me, you will know where to go”!

Speaking further, he said: “What you see here is waste to so many people, but to me and my other friends, it is wealth. It has been our mainstay and it has sustained us. It is the source of raw materials for many local companies.”

Mr. Lanre Owoturo, a Senior Officer at Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) stated that Waste Management and recycling has taken a new dimension in Nigeria. He said that, “Today, owing to the rising rate of unemployment, job insecurity, poverty and hunger, there has been an insurgence of ideas and initiatives in job creation and wealth generation through the management of waste. If you are looking for an example of waste disposal done right, check out Magic skip bins, visit them here!

He pointed out that when domestic wastes are sorted, food remnants have found its usage in the production of manure (fertilizer) for food and cash crops, a process Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) has effectively perfected.

According to him, “LAWMA is also encouraging collection of pure water sachets for token. Beverage containers have been used by small scale business owners to produce parkers, local lamps (atupa). All these are turned to something useful that also generate wealth.

“Precious metals are recovered from our obsolete electronics and those that have reached end of life, example, television, computers, mobile phones, etc, these generate lots of foreign exchange. Plastic pieces sorted from garbage are turned to road pavestones. Plastic bags and other plastics pieces when burnt and mixed with sand yield pavestones which are also used to control erosion. Plastics are also recycled to produce chairs and other useful household items.

“Waste oils from generating set and car servicing are recycled to obtain black oil which generates wealth. Spent and obsolete lead acid batteries are dismantled to its various components, lead cells, casings, lead terminals and the electrolyte, etc. Lead cells and terminals are smelted (secondary smelting) to produce ingots which attract lots of foreign exchange. The plastics casings are made into pellets sold to plastic products manufacturers.”

In a keynote address at the waste to wealth workshop, organised by Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) in conjunction with First Dammy Ventures Limited in Lagos recently, Mr. Kayode Bello, director, e-waste unit, LASEPA, further highlighted the benefits of recycling.

In his presentation, ‘Benefits of e-waste’, Bello said: “Electronics are made from valuable resources such as metals, plastics and glass. These highly engineered materials require energy to mine and manufacture-all of which could be conserved if electronics were reused and recycled by the consumer. For example, almost all the materials used to make a cell phone can be recycled, including copper, silver, gold and palladium. If we recover these metals from used phones, it will reduce extraction of raw metals from the earth,” he said.

“Recycling of e-waste helps to eliminate such environmental hazards, can lead to conservation of resources as well as help in conserving energy. Environmental protectionists estimate that recycling 1 million tonnes of steel saves mining of 1.3 million tonnes of iron ore; 718, 000 tonnes of coal, and 62, 000 tonnes of limestone that would otherwise go to produce the 1 million tonnes of steel afresh,” he added.

Maintaining that recycling contributes to economy, the Waste expert lamented that there are lots of untapped business opportunities in e-waste business in Nigeria. “The financial benefits of recycling to generate income make it one of the fastest growing business opportunities. Recycling 10, 000 tonnes of solid waste creates 36, 000 jobs in collecting, processing and manufacturing of waste. Recycling of plastics can save up to 70 per cent energy; recycling of glass up to 50 per cent energy while recycling of steel can save up to 60 per cent energy.

“In Nigeria, if e-waste recycling is properly harnessed, the financial benefits will be in stark contrast to dumping e-waste in landfills or incinerator,” he stated.

Recycling has been a common practice for most of human history, with recorded advocates as far back as Plato in 400 BC. During periods when resources were scarce, archaeological studies of ancient waste dumps show less household waste (such as ash, broken tools and pottery) implying more waste was recycled in the absence of new material.

In pre-industrial times, there is evidence of scrap bronze and other metals being collected in Europe and melted down for perpetual reuse. In Britain, dust and ash from wood and coal fires was collected by ‘dustmen’ and down cycled as a base material used in brick making. The main driver for these types of recycling was the economic advantage of obtaining recycled feedstock in stead of acquiring virgin material, as well as a lack of public waste removal in ever more densely populated areas.

In 1813, Benjamin Law developed the process of turning rags into ‘shoddy’ and ‘mungo’ wool in Batley, Yorkshire. This material combined recycled fibers with virgin wool. The West Yorkshire shoddy industry in towns such as Batley and Dewsbury lasted from the early 19th century to at least 1914.

Industrialisation spurred demand for affordable materials; aside from rags, ferrous scrap metals were coveted as they were cheaper to acquire than was virgin ore. Railroads both purchased and sold scrap metal in the 19th century, and the growing steel and automobile industries purchased scrap in the early 20th century.

Many secondary goods were collected, processed, and sold by peddlers who combed dumps, city streets, and went door to door looking for discarded machinery, pots, pans, and other sources of metal.

By World War I, thousands of such peddlers roamed the streets of American cities, taking advantage of market forces to recycle post-consumer materials back into industrial production.

Beverage bottles were recycled with a refundable deposit at some drink manufacturers in Great Britain and Ireland around 1800, notably Schweppes. An official recycling system with refundable deposits was established in Sweden for bottles in 1884 and aluminium beverage cans in 1982, by law, leading to a recycling rate for beverage containers of 84–99 per cent depending on type, and average use of a glass bottle is over 20 refills.

Resource shortages caused by the World wars, and other such world-changing occurrences greatly encouraged recycling. Massive government promotion campaigns were carried out in World War II in every country involved in the war, urging citizens to donate metals and conserve fibre, as a matter of significant patriotic importance. For example in 1939, Britain launched its Paper Salvage campaign to encourage the recycling of materials to aid the war effort. Resource conservation programmes established during the war were continued in some countries without an abundance of natural resources, such as Japan, after the war ended.

With increasing human population and industrialisation, leading to large tonnes of wastes produced, recycling has become big business. For instance, the United States recycling industries have more than 56, 000 public and private sector facilities that create 1.1 million jobs yearly and generate $236 billion in gross annual sales and $37 billion in annual payrolls.

Similarly, the British Metal Recycling Association (BMRA), a trade association representing UK metal recycling sector-a globally competitive industry supplying environmentally-friendly raw material to metal manufacturers, is worth £5.6 billion. BMRA’s 340 members trade and process steel, aluminum, copper and most other ferrous metals, and recycle a wide range of related products such as end of life vehicles, packaging, batteries, domestic appliances, building materials and electronic goods. Together, they process over 15 million tonnes-over 95 per cent of the metallic scrap in the UK every year and export some 60 per cent of their output to companies throughout the world.

The most common consumer products recycled include aluminum such as beverage cans; copper such as wire; steel food and aerosol cans; old steel furnishings or equipment; polyethylene and PET bottles; glass bottles and jars; paperboard cartons; newspapers; magazines and light paper; and corrugated fiberboard boxes.

Management of solid waste did not become a phenomenon in Nigeria until the early 1970’s, when due to the oil boom, which compounded the emerging industrialization and urbanization, the resultant high volume of waste was becoming increasingly difficult for the Local Government Councils in Lagos State to manage. Such that by 1977, when Nigeria hosted the Festival of Arts and Culture, otherwise called FESTAC ‘77, the world press classified Lagos as the ‘dirtiest’ city capital. Consequently, in April 1977, the first waste management outfit in West Africa was instituted as Lagos State Refuse Disposal Board (LSRDB) in Nigeria under Edict 9 of 1977 with Powell Duffen Pollution Control Consultants of Canada as manager.

In 1981, its name was changed to Lagos State Waste Disposal Board (LSWDB) because of the added responsibilities for industrial-commercial waste collection and disposal, drain clearing and disposal of derelict / scrapped vehicles.

In December 1991, its current name, the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) was christened under Edict No. 55 which made the agency to be responsible for the collection and disposal of municipal and industrial waste as well as for the provision of commercial waste services to the State and Local Governments.

The Office Manager of Living Earth Foundation’s multi-country ‘Waste to Wealth’ project, Mr. Mark Weegmann, in an email exchange with Sunday Mirror, stated that they are creating a virtuous circle wherein slum dwellers in nine urban areas in the cities of Port Harcourt in Nigeria, Douala in Cameroon and Kampala in Uganda can be responsible for collecting and managing household solid waste, instead of sending this off to landfills.

“The project is fostering the emergence of a skilled and effective business sector wherein social enterprises, founded by and in poor urban communities, are deriving wealth from the provision of environmental services and derivative recycling and re-use activities. The waste is therefore becoming the catalyst for their income generation and creating employment opportunities”, he said.

He stated further that “for the first time in history, over half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. The trend of urbanisation is expected to increase markedly, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where the urban population is forecast to double between 2000 and 2030. Of this urban population, over 70 per cent live in slum conditions with the associated problems of underemployment, low household income and widespread poverty.

“The growth in population is placing increased demand on the urban environment. There is the same amount of land but more people. The same number of toilets but more human waste, more rubbish and even less space to dispose it. The onus for managing the physical environment in poor areas remains with the communities themselves. If they don’t address the problems of household waste, poor public sanitation, clogged and disease-spreading drainage, no one will do it for them,” he said.

The project, Weegmann stated is expected to bring about the emergence of skilled and effective business sector wherein social enterprises, founded by and in poor urban communities, derive wealth from the provision of environmental services and derivative recycling and reuse activities.

Olateju Victoria, a post graduate student of Environmental Management, Lagos State University, Ojo, is in agreement that waste can create wealth if well harnessed.

She said: “Waste recycling is one business that do not only create wealth, it also maintains a balance within the ecosystem by eliminating materials and substances that are hitherto damaging to the environment. Not many people in the country know that waste products are major raw materials for many companies.”

“Waste is made up of many valuable materials such as metals, plastics, papers and glasses, among others. The fundamental problem in our waste management procedures is that many homes and industries across the country do not know how to handle their trash. What they do is to simply dispose it anyhow and anywhere or burn it but the refuse is supposed to be collected, separated and segregated into recyclable and actual trash

“Waste from food is biodegradable, meaning that it can decompose and be used as manure or organic fertiliser. Waste is a gold mine if properly managed; everything we call waste can be recycled for re-use. We can actually turn waste to wealth.

“Waste picking provides a source of livelihood to extremely poor people with few other employment opportunities. It also benefits the broader economy by supplying raw materials to industry and creating many associated jobs for middlemen who purchase, sort, process, and resell materials collected by waste pickers. In fact, recycling, reuse and remanufacturing can create far more jobs than burying or burning our resources. Recycling can actually become one of the key sectors of growth if well harnessed.

“For instance, plastics waste recycling has improved business activities in the state according to research I conducted recently. I discovered that more businesses are realizing that waste is not nuisance, but an opportunity to create revenue during uncertain economic times. Thus, plastics waste recycling have the capability of increasing the income of industries/establishments that operates plastics recycling company or establishment. The multiplier effect of this is further employment of labour which is a resultant effect of business expansion”, she added.

Managing Director of LAWMA, Mr. Ola Oresanya, in a chat with Sunday Mirror, said that the waste management strategy adopted by the outfit is Public, Private Partnership and that is the involvement of people to manage waste and also create wealth for them. He stated that the strategy is reviewed annually.

He enumerated that market waste generated from day and night markets during the second quarter of 2013 alone was a total of 54,638.23m3 waste as against 1st quarter total of 64,184.06m3. Marine waste was a total of 61,079m3 collected from Lagos shorelines during same quarter.

In the area of recycling, he disclosed that 16 roll of 300kg, 18 roll of 350kg and 2rolls of 50kgNylon was produced at the Olusosun Recycling Plant. Other recyclable materials collected from the buy-back centre and recycling banks includes: Cartoon- 21,032.93kg; Can- 7,218.1kg, Pet bottle- 329,799.09kg, Bottle- 18,783.5kg, PE Sachets- 60,377.8kg and Paper- 8,888kg as against 1st quarter: Carton- 4,279kg; Can- 1,414.34; Pet bottles- 11,441.4kg; bottles- 3,057kg; PE Sachets- 3,784kg and Paper- 160kg.

He said further that “the company contracted to commence the production of rubber powder from used tyres (first in Nigeria) moved to site and the plant is about 90 per cent completed”.

He said that recycling involves a process that changes wastes into new products, adding the process also reduces air and water pollution that usually occur when conventional waste-disposal methods are used.

“We’ve been able to evolve new strategies to make people to recycle their wastes in Lagos. These are aimed at changing the perception of people not to see wastes as rubbish but as resources. We’ve been able to introduce recycling banks; we have the buying-back programme where people bring their trash and we pay them. “The waste includes assorted materials like water sachets and right now, if you bring it, we pay per kilogramme of paper, plastic bottles and other things like these,’’ he said.

Oresanya stressed that through its “Waste-to-Energy’’ programme, LAWMA is now generating electricity from refuse at Ikosi market, adding that the project will be extended to cover more markets this year. He disclosed that LAWMA is still work in progress as the agency continually trains staff so as to be able to meet the challenges of waste to wealth and perform better. He noted that 2 coordinators and 6 supervisors of Street Sweepers were sponsored to overseas training on Waste Management under the city partnership with County of Sheffield in United Kingdom recently. The story is not the same in all the states of the federation. In Delta State, there are serious challenges with its waste management.

Mr. Imobio Rotimi, a civil engineer pointed out that “from generation through storage, treatment to disposal; non availability of enough storage facilities, treatment technologies, and good methods of disposal for its waste are the major challenges of waste management in the state unlike Lagos that has LAWMA which is effective in waste management. The citizens of the state do not help matters too. The problem of solid wastes in the state has become an intractable nuisance through the indiscriminate dumping of refuse as citizens continue to exhibit apathetic and lackadaisical attitudes towards matters relating to personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness of which waste management in general is its focus and should not be over looked. I wonder how waste can actually be converted to wealth in this state. My take is that Delta needs to understudy LAWMA and tap into their wealth of experience. The Government can copy the Lagos model through the use of PSP (Private Sector Participation) to complement the government agency as done in Lagos.”

During the week, some residents of Kaduna lamented inadequate arrangements for refuse clearance by the state government, saying that the situation has led to indiscriminate dumping of refuse in the metropolis.

Mallam Ahmed Gimba, a resident of Tudun Wada lamented: “I pay local refuse collectors to clear my dustbins whenever it is due for collection. The Government refuse collectors do not come into our area to evacuate refuse anymore. We have to engage the services of private refuse collectors.”

Reacting to the claim, the state Director for Environment, Mallam Ahmed Salihu, said government was making efforts to distribute refuse collection containers to all households to enhance effectiveness of refuse collection. He confirmed plans by the state government to charge residents for refuse evacuation.

“Residents would soon have to start paying for refuse collection in the state in order to meet up with the challenges. Presently, we have only 16 registered refuse collectors in the state. The private refuse collectors were allowed to operate so as to compliment the work of the ministry in ensuring that the environment stays clean”.

Mr. Ismail Bala in his reaction said: “It is sad that the government cannot create wealth and employment from this waste in our state like other states. They have no excuses because it is done in other states and there is no magic about it. I travel to Lagos all the time. I see LAWMA all around Lagos with the PSP (Private Sector Participation). It is working even with their population and they are recycling their waste. Our governor should take a cue from this.”

However, Mr. Segun Sokoya, a Chartered Waste Manager and Corporate member of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management declared that the Energy from Waste (EfW) market is at its infancy stage in the country.

He believes that the major challenge in Nigeria is the general lack of enforcement and lame waste policy implementation principles driven by ignorance and a severe/ somewhat chronic skills deficit.

Despite Lagos State Waste Management Authority success, Sokoya stated that there is still lack of comprehensive Waste Management Framework, capable of being reviewed regularly and compelling enough for all states in the country to buy into.

He stressed that there is a significant national dearth in intellectual and professional capabilities to facilitate administrative and technical understanding and implementation of ‘half-baked’ waste policies.

“The ineffective, ill-conceived and inadequate local waste reduction campaigns is also a challenge as it is aimed at short term disposal options through land filling. “Bad landfill engineering and management across all states in the country can be attributed to poor funding and an obvious lack of support from the top,” Sokoya said.

He advised that universities offering Environmental Management/Engineering courses should be well equipped, while governments at both National and State levels should make waste to wealth a priority.

“Government should initiate a programme of waste handling and collection that includes waste separation at source. The programme should include provision of waste bins in the entire local government areas. The bins should be with wheels and should be 3 in every location for bio-degradable, recyclables and hazardous. Modern deep collection containers are recommended for cities and towns in the State,” Sokoya said.

Published in National Mirror on March 16, 2014