Photo credit: Plogging Nigeria
The United Nations (UN) defines waste as being made up of materials that are not prime products for which the generator has no further use in terms of production, transformation, or consumption, and wants to dispose of them. Waste is a global issue, and its proper management is a basic human need. Improper disposal of waste poses a threat to public health and the environment. The increase in global population is expected to affect the waste generation capacity, which is projected to amount to about 3.4 billion metric tons of municipal solid waste by 2050. One holistic approach cannot successfully tackle the issue of waste management due to its complex composition of different materials, but rather, applying various upstream actions that address the problem at source, such as preventing its generation and collection, can help address the problem. Several factors are key drivers in the integrated sustainable waste management framework that determine the development and innovation in waste management. These factors include public health, the environment, the resource value of waste, and climate change. For sustainable development, the four entry points for waste management are:
Environment and Climate Change — Environmental domain
Good Governance — Social domain
Entreprise and Creating Sustainable Livelihoods — Economic domain
Sustainable Development Goals — Integration
To overcome the global waste challenges and achieve SDG 12 (responsible production and consumption), the concept of Circular Economy (CE) which addresses the root causes of waste and pollution, has now gained global traction. The circular economy offers opportunities for economic development, value creation, and skill development. CE also offers a promising alternative strategy for industrial development and job creation to the traditional manufacturing-led growth pathway. In 2020, research by Dalberg for the African Circular Economy Alliance (ACEA) highlighted five sectors in Africa with potential and opportunities for circularity, job creation, and environmental protection. These five sectors include waste conversion, recycling plastic waste, redesign of mass timber, e-waste recycling, and recycled garments. The circular idea encompasses optimising systems, stopping waste, keeping materials in circulation, and promoting business models that support cost effectiveness. The CE offers new forms of value creation that emerge from redesigning production and consumption systems. It is an innovation agenda that can lead to better economic growth.
Governments and industries across different sectors are now transitioning towards. CE by developing and implementing CE roadmaps and strategies. In Nigeria, CE concepts and models are quite novel with limitations on uptake, but the government’s political ambition to reduce oil dependence could create a driving force behind a CE transition. The government has now set up the Nigerian Circular Economy Working Group (NCEWG), which has the responsibility to design a CE roadmap, drive policy dialogue, and support the inclusive green growth of the Nigerian economy. Nigeria has several sectors that could benefit from the uptake of CE principles, with agri-food, plastic and packaging, and waste management showing great promise for development. On September 28, 2023, the Nigerian Government, with the support of the European Commission through the Federal Ministry of Environment, validated the Nigeria Circular Economy Roadmap, which focuses on three priority sectors: Agriculture and food systems, Waste, and Energy. These sectors were selected based on their economic importance, alignment with policies, circular economy potential, women and youth inclusivity, and environmental impact.
At Clean Technology Hub, Circular Economy is one of our core focus areas. As an organization, we have participated at the national level as stakeholders in circular economy dialogues with policymakers. To help beat plastic pollution, we embarked on a community-based project, — Nigerian Plastic Action Project, with the. support of the UNDP-GEF-SGP grant. The project is being executed across four communities in the Federal Capital Territory: Lokogoma-Kabusa, Mpape, Nyanya, and Kubwa. The project equipped the community members with knowledge by promoting the CE concept through entrepreneurship training in waste-to-wealth plastic and tyre upscaling. Clean Technology Hub was able to train 160 community youths (64% women and 36% men). Informal waste workers (120 people), also known as “babanbola”, were not left out, as they were also trained and empowered on how to protect themselves using safety kits and trash pickers that were provided to them. The training focused on vital aspects of water, sanitation, hygiene, and innovative ways to create lucrative businesses such as recycling and cash for trash initiatives with plastic waste and tyres. The project recorded a positive impact on the behavioral change in the communities towards plastic use and pollution. It. has helped reduce plastic waste pollution in communities and empowered them by improving their socio-economic well being.
An environmental policy approach for waste management is the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) as defined by Thomas Lindhqvist “is an environmental protection strategy to reach an environmental objective of a decreased total environmental impact from a product, by making the manufacturer of the product responsible for the entire life-cycle of the product, and especially for the take-back, recycling and final disposal of the product”. EPR can be implemented through administrative, economic and informative instruments. EPR helps to promote innovative and sustainable business models around waste management, product design and material alternatives.
The overexploitation of the earth’s resources, which later turns out to be waste, has now posed a difficult challenge to overcome. The global waste management market is growing at an increasing rate, as it was valued at 1.3 trillion US dollars in 2022. To fully address waste, it is imperative that there is a paradigm shift and a changed. perception of waste. There must be collaboration, transparency, efficiency, and accountability between the government, private sector, and communities in waste management practices. Waste management, when properly structured, can be a source of income and generate revenue. Organisations and individuals must all explore the opportunities in the waste management sector and begin to value, repurpose, and recycle waste appropriately. This will provide environmental benefits, promote competitiveness and create jobs.
Rinret Best is Circular Economy Lead at Clean Technology Hub