All human activities generate waste and waste will continue to be as long as man lives on earth. Waste has been described as any material that we no longer have need of and are ready to discard. The generation of waste seem not to be the problem but the improper and nonchalant attitude towards proper waste disposal has constituted serious problem all over the world for a long time. Today it has virtually become normal to see waste lying at every corner of our environment, gutter, road median and highway. Major urban cities around the world, Nigeria inclusive, are today fighting to clear mounting heaps of solid waste from the environment. Improper disposal of municipal solid waste creates insanitary conditions, these conditions in turn can lead to pollution of the environment and outbreak of disease.
Recently the world celebrated World Environment Day with the aim to bring to bear the imminent danger in the uncontrolled and indiscriminate use and disposal of plastics in our environment. Plastic constitutes a fraction of our daily municipal solid waste generated. The day was celebrated with the pledge to get rid of plastics in our environment (sea and land) with an awareness for individual and collective contribution to “Beat Plastic Pollution” (World Environment Day 2018).
It has come to a point where all tiers of government must come together to find a lasting solution to the menace of solid waste in our environment with effective and efficient waste management strategies. It is evident that improper waste management has negative effects on our health because of it multiplier effects through all forms of pollution: soil, water and air pollution.
The management of solid waste in both rural and urban centres should be community based. Individuals, homes and offices should imbibe the culture of waste management. Waste sorting should be encouraged in homes, this will invariably reduce the quantity of waste disposed and can serve as a means of providing little income for the people. All strata of the society should be educated on the effect of improper waste disposal and fines should be imposed on any individual that is caught disposing off their refuse inappropriately.
Poor urban planning has contributed to inefficient waste management strategies and programmes, for example, more cluster houses makes it difficult for heavy duty waste evacuation trucks to navigate the residential areas. Burning of waste should be discourage if not prohibited. However, the current practice of charging waste generated by weight will only result in waste burning at home in order to reduce the quantity of waste for proper disposal. Hence, the government should provide waste bins, subsidize the waste, design and implement an effective waste collection plan. Findings have also revealed that communities with high economic activities generate more waste as compared to communities with low economic activities.
Community participation being an integral part of municipal waste management can be achieved through the practices of the following:
- Households should buy things that last, keep them as long as possible and have them repaired if possible.
- Buy reusable or recyclable items e.g. batteries.
- Buy beverages with refillable containers.
- Take your own shopping bags to the mall and avoid/reduce number of plastic bag packaging.
- Compost your yard and food waste for improved soil for gardening.
- Collect recyclable items.
- Enquire about buy-back/item auction instead of throwing things away.
Closely related to source recovery is waste composting. Waste composting is a good way of source reduction that has proven positive impact. This reduces the quantity of waste going to landfill and help in increasing soil fertility for gardening and landscaping.
Waste recycling should not be left in the hands of scavengers. It has been discovered that recycling is most efficient when households take time to separate recyclable items from the rest of the waste. The recycling market has gained prominence in Nigeria as there is now an established pricing for recyclables. Recycling helps to save resources as there would be less request for extraction of new raw materials and therefore reduce environmental impact associated with mining and processing. Our landfill will serve a longer lifespan as the quantity of waste will be reduced.
The concern over solid waste is generated from an aesthetic desire to live in a clean environment and also from the realization that a dirty and cluttered environment is unhealthy and unsafe for the population.
Achieving sustainable cities through environmental management involves making cities safe, ensuring access to affordable housing and upgrading slum settlements. It also involves investment in public transport, creating green public spaces, and improving urban planning and management which are attributes of sustainable cities and communities.