The fundamental principle of Waste Management is to reduce the volume of wastes that we have. Conventionally, we seek to reduce the volume of wastes in our homes, offices, or other space by bagging, disposing, and sending the already generated wastes off to open dumps either through the municipal waste collectors or other informal routes.
Our conventional waste management practice in Nigeria hinges on the mindset of ‘throwaway’. Whereas, over 50% of the wastes that we ‘throwaway’ simply do not disappear from the surface of the earth. At the dumps, 90% of the wastes are burnt, in a process that leaves more toxic substances in the atmosphere and still leaves some of the waste materials behind ‘unhandled’.
Although one can easily argue that the conventional method of ‘generate, trash and burn’ does the work of ‘reducing wastes’, it is clear that it does so in an unsustainable manner. In Nigeria, waste management contributes about 17% of the country’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a 5% increase from the 12% it used to be five years ago. According to the World Bank What a Waste Report 2.0, these conventional practices also cost the country about 1.2% of its GDP.
In a country that its food system, economy, and livelihood is extremely vulnerable to climate change, a sustainable way to manage waste as a resource rather than a liability has become paramount.
Why is waste recycling a viable tool for sustainable waste management?
In essence, if we embrace recycling as an alternative to trashing, open dumping, and burning of wastes, we can effectively reduce our wastes by 30% without harming the environment with toxic substances and greenhouse gases. By so doing, we also reduce the demand for land use as dumpsites, improve local manufacturing industries and create more jobs for recycling collectors, processors, and equipment manufacturers.
With recycling requiring households to sort their wastes at their source, other waste streams will also be easily collected and managed in a sustainable way.
Some Recycling facts;
Beverage (aluminum) cans- Can be recycled throughout their lifetime and losses no value. Recycling used aluminum can into new cans uses 95% less energy than when manufacturing from virgin materials. It also takes a shorter production time.
Plastic (PET) bottles- Recycling PET plastics into new products uses 60% less energy than when working with virgin materials.
Glass bottles and jars- are also 100% recyclable all through their lifetime.
Paper (non-laminated)- Papers are made from wood pulp and they are biodegradable when not mixed with other material types. However, paper can also be recycled up to 5 times before the paper fiber becomes really weak. Recycling paper reduces the need for cutting down trees.
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