In recent years, there has been so much buzz around climate change in Nigeria and the imploding crisis. Flooding, fluctuating rainfall patterns, drought, extreme heat, rising sea level, low farm yield and even emergence of deadly diseases have been attributed to the changing climate. However, little is known about how we contribute to the changing climate in Nigeria.
According to experts, the changing climate is a result of the huge volume of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, warming up of atmosphere and causing unprecedented changes in our climate. These gases like carbondioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, artificial chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are called greenhouse gases (GHG). In Nigeria, Power generation, Agriculture and land use contribute the largest amounts of Greenhouse gases and Waste Management contributes the 3rd largest at 17%.
How waste management contributes to climate change in Nigeria
Before the materials we call wastes were trashed, they are products like plastics, paper, metals, rubber, leather or farm products which are made up of different chemical components both natural and artificial in various proportions. Even when these products are of no feasible use to us, the chemicals, elements or gasses that they are made of still remain.
Waste management in Nigeria is still largely informal. Less than 45% of households have access to municipal waste collection services even in the cities and 90% of total wastes generated are burnt on open dumps. This prominent practice of burning wastes in an uncontrolled way i.e open dumps releases harmful, toxic and heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere.
Long before the wastes on open dumps are set ablaze, they are allowed to sit there and accumulate in volume come rain, come sunshine. When the organic and inorganic waste materials made up of different chemical elements begin to mix, the process of rotting begins. Rotting, also referred to as decomposition releases thick foul-smelling fluids called leachate and also methane gas. While the leachate pollutes groundwater and threatens human lives within the area, methane gas is a greenhouse gas that is 28times more deadly than the notorious carbondioxide (CO2).
In reality, the climate is not designed to be static. However, many scientific reports have established that this rapid rate of climate change and related climate crises are human-induced.