As rainy season would go, this years has been none the worse than others that I have experienced. What as been a new experience however was the picture presented to me of people of all types-civil servants, business people and “fine girls” in certain areas having to pull on their wellington boots in order to go from one street to the other or indeed jto literally swim through knee deep water to get to their front doors.

The situation was not much better in parts of even traditionally regarded better living areas of Lagos such as Victoria Island and Ikoyi. Research into causes of the perennial floods that engulf our neighborhoods and roads on a yearly basis ,point to the presence of either inadequate drainages or overflowing gutters and drains. These gutters and drains in their turn usually lost functionality after being clogged by dirt and waste material constituted mostly of plastic/polythene material.

A material too I have observed which has been a major pollutant of our water ways. A fine example of that being found of the waters of the Atlantic on either side as you cross going to or from Lekki, the little bridge between Bonny Camp and Round about bus stops on the island. Thus it would appear solving Lagos polythene waste problem might in more ways than one contribute to the environmental sanitation and sustainability drive of the government. How to do this.

Previously government had proposed a venture wherein manufacturers of sachet and bottled water can collect these waste items from designated locations from a public that had deposited them there and thus possibly recycle them for reuse while at the same time ensuring they don’t end up polluting the environment. I lose track of the specifics. Again there was the plastic waste buy back programme , a programme which I have since come to learn has many of the hallmarks I will present in this paper)Nevertheless what is obvious is that it never took off nor it appeared was there an economically viable incentive to make it worthwhile for individuals to participate therein.
In view of this what I propose is first and foremost a law that would mandate all makers of sachet and bottled water to include no less than 40% recycled polythene materials in their products packaging material. This will first of all create a demand for such recycled material. Nigerians are not lazy. We are extremely industrious. Next thing it would do is “ginger” individuals whether as free lance collectors, partnerships or companies to search for this type of waste material in lieu of either recycling them or selling them off to said water companies. At the same time there will be agents or government workers whose primary job amongst others would be to ensure that such materials are genuinely of waste origin.

Note that priority is to be given to collectors collecting from the most polluted or environmentally sensitive areas of the state such as Ajegunle, Amukoko, Badia, Bariga, Ijeshatedo/Itire, Iwaya, Makoko, Agege and Olasosun etc and our water ways. A reward system of note can equally be devised as a further incentive to do this. For example assuming a collector is entitled to N5/bottle on his waste bottles, those that collect from areas that fall into these categories will be entitled to say N6/bottle instead. Secondarily and most importantly regulating officials will issue a ticket to these independent collectors who in turn will show such to companies they are selling the materials to. These officials can be created as a division of LAWMA. LAWMA itself can take part in the exercise.

They can do this by insisting that people especially commercial establishments-shops, restaurants, hotels etc provide two dustbins-one specifically for polythene materials and one for “others”. These materials can then be recycled in like manner**. However note that selling price by LAWMA to companies should be higher so as not to work against the interest of independent collectors. As part of a wider government effort government can move further in the direction of recycling by extending this mandate to all Lagos households. In this case though there can be a further dustbin for just food and like materials, which materials are to eventually be utilized in fertilizer production (I recently learnt that LAWMA does actually recycle some of the waste they collect at several centers in Lagos, deriving fertilizer from such. However this is not done on the basis of the two/three waste bin per house format).

In fact in most slums of the developing world today recycling is a way of life. The Dharavi slum in Mumbai has 400 recycling units and 30,000 rag pickers. Six thousand tons of rubbish are sorted every day. In 2007, the Economist reported that in Vietnam and Mozambique, “Waves of gleaners sift the sweepings of Hanoi’s streets, just as Mozambiquan children pick over the rubbish of Maputo’s main tip. Every city in Asia and Latin America has an industry based on gathering up old cardboard boxes.” There’s even a book on the subject: The World’s Scavengers (2007) by Martin Medina . Again LAWMA or private organizations working with LAWMA can also look to generate bio-gas from waste for the purpose of power production , a thing sorely needed in Lagos due to its highly industrialized nature, and in Nigeria as a whole. As we look to decrease our dependence on oil and find more clean fuels, this should be taken as a viable complimentary energy source.

The good thing about these ideas for recycling and the enforcement of Lagos state sanitation laws is that not only does Lagos stand to eventually wear a cleaner and healthier look at all times of the day, help decrease the incidence of flooding, raise some self financing funds for the participating LAWMA, create employment opportunities for hundreds of currently jobless youth in our society today, is adoptable by other states of the federation but that it can actually work. It is actually doable and relative to these benefits, would probably not cost the Lagos state government much to set up. In view of this fact I urge that government and all other relevant stake holders concerned with the environmental management of Lagos and its general well being consider fully and effectuate the ideas contained in this paper.
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