It may seem obvious that ‘waste’ needs to be removed from our households because they are materials that are no longer needed and can constitute an obvious menace. However, we need to define what waste is.

What is Waste?

The United Nations Statistics Division describes waste as “materials that are not prime products (that is, products produced for the market) for which the generator has no further use in terms of his/her purposes of production, transformation or consumption, and of which he/she wants to dispose of. Going by this definition, a material only becomes a waste when there is no productive need for it.

Image: Categories of household waste

Why Sustainable Waste Management Matter- Implication on People, Planet and Economy

With a population estimated at 200 million, Nigerians generate over 35 million tons of household solid waste annually- enough to stretch from Lagos to Borno 1000times when packed in the regular trash bag.

Currently, local governments, who are constitutionally responsible for waste management are only able to serve about 40% of urban households, leaving 60% to practice various indiscriminate waste disposal methods from open dumping to burning. And with waste volume expected to triple by 2050, there is a need for more sustainable waste management practices.

Sustainable waste management practices create a system where you keep materials in use for as long as possible and minimize the amount of solid waste that is disposed of in a landfill or through incineration. Unlike the traditional system of waste generation- bagging- evacuation and disposal, sustainable waste management leverages a hierarchy of waste reduction, reuse/repair, recycle/compost, energy recovery, waste treatment, and disposal.

When a sustainable waste management system is not instituted, and the majority of residents are left to indiscriminately manage their wastes, open dumping, waste burning, and disposal along drainage ways become prominent – like in many cities in Nigeria.

On People: Indiscriminate waste disposal practices like open dumping within residential communities, and dumping inside gutters, create a breeding space for mosquitoes and other disease carriers. This threatens public health as it increases the prevalence of malaria, diarrhea, and cholera in communities where they are practiced

On Planet: Leachates (thick, stinky liquid) that seep from heaped wastes contaminate groundwater while practices like uncontrolled waste burning, releases harmful toxins into the atmosphere and contribute to the volume of the greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. In Nigeria, indiscriminate waste management contributes a significant 12% of national greenhouse gas emissions.

On Economy: According to the World Bank What a Waste Report, we currently lose about 1.2% of our GDP to indiscriminate waste disposal. From productive time lost due to sickness or congestion to infrastructure devaluation in communities where indiscriminate waste management practices are prevalent.

With about 30% of municipal solid waste being easily recyclable- a practice that would otherwise create 6times more employment and generate revenue for the economy, indiscriminate waste management practices rob us of these gains.


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What do you know about Sustainable Waste Management?

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