By Chinwendu Obienyi
Lagos state, home to over 20 million people, has had very unpleasant experiences with waste management infrastructure. It has continued to battle with congestion which continues to impact its environment.
But the Babajide Sanwo-Olu, administration in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources and the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA), appears determined to change the narrative having also initiated a number programmes to address waste managment.
In this interview with Daily Sun, the Managing Director, LAWMA, Ibrahim Odumboni, gives some insight on how the agency is helping to rid Lagos of filth,. He explains that waste disposal demands partnerships from all stakeholders to help improve waste collection across the state, in addition to efmeasures being taken towards achieving waste to energy/wealth initiatives.
Managing refuse in Lagos
The process of waste management (generation, collection and disposal) varies from city to city and it involves a significant financial and human capital investment coupled with demands for advocacy and awareness with residents. The current Lagos State administration under, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, with the support of the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources led by the Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Mr Tunji Bello, are in tune with this and are currently leading the way in Nigeria.
In relation to recycling, Lagos has started recycling officially since the inception of the current administration and over the last six months we have scaled up big with the revamp of Blue box initiative to Lagos Recycles, introduction of technology through PAKAM app, provision of incentive scheme, collaboration with corporate organisations for production and distribution of recycling bins at airports, schools, hospitals and other public places, inauguration of Lagos Recyclers Association, capacity building for our certified recyclers and engagement with Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), World Bank to mention a few.
The ultimate goal is to divert 20 per cent of our waste collected which are recyclables from our disposal site.
On disposal of waste and waste to energy initiative, it is well known that there are various approaches to it which includes open dumping, landfilling, sanitary landfill for gasification and incineration system for energy generation plus others. In Lagos at the moment, we have the landfills system, and in the last nine months, we have expedited efforts to ensure that we move away from that as quickly as possible due to its long-term environmental impact whilst we mitigate that. As we look at the Vision of Lagos up to 2030, we need to come up with effective ways of managing our waste disposal in Lagos because the city is surrounded by water and limited in landmass availability. It is important that we have the right choices made rather than doing something that is not sustainable. We have started partnering with various organisations that engage in sustainable ways to energy.
We are discussing with various environmentally centric organizations to give us various options to explore. We have also sent our team of experts in-house to different countries and seminars to examine the available waste management models in those countries. We can benchmark our city with countries such as Singapore, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Belgium, Netherlands and Venezuela in terms of topography, population and other environmental challenges. We want to achieve something that is more sustainable for Lagos State and Lagosians. It is our goal to ensure that any initiative we embark on is at an affordable cost for the state and residents as well.
Our mandate, progress
My responsibility and mandate given are as spelled out in the Lagos State Environmental Protection and Management Law 2017. It stipulates that I and my team are saddled with the responsibility to ensure a consistently cleaner Lagos is achieved in an environmentally sustainable way and ensure this is also done with greater consideration given to human health demand. This is also well emphasized under the current administration’s THEMES agenda with the first letter E standing for Environment and Health.
Moreover, solid waste management is a collective human responsibility not just the agency as the part we all play determines the benefits to us all and I am just leading from the front as the responsibility champion. In doing this, we collaborate with other agencies within the state, other key stakeholders in the private sector and align with the policies and agendas of our parent ministry. The commitment to effectively manage our solid waste is a daily effort in a proactive manner, therefore all hands have to be on deck to ensure that progress is made on the over 14,000 metric tonnes of waste generated daily.
When you compare solid waste management collection waste under Visionscape, and what we have now, you will begin to see the magnitude of the progress the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration has made over the last two years now. Visionscape had a target of 2000 metric tonnes daily averaging over 150 trips compared to the over 800 trips we have completed daily currently. We also have the state mandate to ensure that an effective and sustainable solid waste management plan is put in place for the future.
In terms of deliverables so far, we have made significant progress in the initiation of recycling/ separation of waste from source, launch of LAWMA Academy for promotion of waste education and awareness across all ages, reforming of our PSPs for service optimisation and sustainable capacity building. On disposal, we have had a fully rehabilitated landfill and have proactively commenced research for our future needs as we cannot continue with the current conventional approach. I am extremely confident that this administration is on the right course to deliver the first revolution way for waste management in Lagos
As part of our plan for effective solid waste disposal management, we created our own blueprint which led to the inauguration of our Waste Management Unit (WMU). This unit is saddled with the responsibility of carrying out research and development activities to ensure sustainability in relation to solid waste disposal. They research into what we have currently and what we will do in the future. They travel to various countries to understudy latest development efforts in waste management and examine what various global stakeholders are saying.
Key growth initiatives
One of the key growth initiatives we have implemented under my watch is the repositioning of LAWMA which was championed by the state governor Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu. The focus has been how to better position LAWMA while considering the future of the state. So, we have decentralised our operations to ensure that we are present in all Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in Lagos metropolis and to be more proactive rather than being reactive.
The second growth initiative is PSP reform. We have reformed our PSP, organized capacity building for them and given them minimum standards to ensure deliverables. LAWMA is more regulatory rather than participatory now, and by doing this we have been able to achieve more productivity in terms of trips to landfill and turnaround time for operations. More importantly, the Mr. Governor helped us to address our disposal challenges with extensive rehabilitation of all our landfills for long-term gain.
The third is the foundation of LAWMA Academy, the first citadel of learning for solid waste management in Sub-saharan Africa. The Academy is aimed at bridging the gap between practice, academic and theories and eradication of myths whilst creating a conducive learning environment for solid waste management. It’s also tasked with carrying out research, awareness creation, advocacy and education. We recently partnered with Lagos State State Universal Basic Education Board, (LASUBEB) to train primary school teachers across the state on solid waste management. The aim is for them to include waste management in their curriculum. The training will help primary school pupils to understand what it takes to manage waste and implement effective waste management strategies as a culture. So we are trying to catch these primary school pupils young basically, and encourage them to imbibe good waste disposal culture in them. The hope is that when they are grown, they will become change agents with their teachers, and correct the wrong narratives of ineffective solid waste management and other environmental challenges.
Another fantastic initiative we have recorded as success is the Lagos Recycle programme which supports separation from source and recycling plans. We have really gone big on recycling with the support of Mr. Governor and have the key aim to ensure that 20 per cent of what we take to landfill is duly intercepted. The progress made on recycling will help ensure consistent supply of raw materials for up-cycling manufacturing companies, creation of over 6,000 informal jobs and reduction of environmental impact. For instance, it takes a long time for single used plastic to decay, so we cannot continue with the conventional approach as these plastics will outlive all of us. So the best thing to do is to take a position around it and you can see a lot of private organisations have joined to support our efforts. We have partners like Heritage Bank, Tangerine life, Rotary clubs, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and others. Stakeholders are getting involved to help move the circular economy supported by recycling and waste to wealth forward. Those are some of the things we have done apart from welfare packages for LAWMA staff, sweepers, capacity building for our staff and engagement with local communities for effective solid waste management. We are also very proud of our Engineering team of today as they are one of the strongest engineering teams any agency could desire in Nigeria. In terms of productivity, our engineering team has the best Hydraulic engineers and we manufacture our own bins from scratch. Overall with all the above to mention a few it has been a fantastic year for us with the support of Mr. Governor.
Retention of previous workforce
Before the end of the previous administration, the major stakeholders (PSPs and Co) were asked to return back to work immediately as the state needs them. Initially, there were capacity challenges but one of the first things Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu did on assumption of office was to do a capacity review for them to be able to know the extent of their capability deficit and how the government can help them to bring Lagos back to the clean site it was before. Subsequently with the provision of a conducive environment and capacity building support we have been able to grow the number beyond what it was before. About 87 new PSP operators have joined the sector since the aftermath of Visionscape with a minimum of two active trucks despite #EndSARs, COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession. The sector continues to prosper under the administration of Mr. Governor.
Waste management in the old and new dispensations
Lagos is a very progressive state in terms of development and with this it can be said that progress is achieved geometrically. In essence, there has been significant improvements under the current administration compared to the previous one with room for improvements. Under Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagos is cleaner and the presence of LAWMA is being felt everywhere and businesses are prospering. The sector currently has over 40,000 employees (Inclusive of 437 PSPs with over 9000 employees) supporting it and this helps to reduce unemployment rate.
The key thing about this partnership is that it brings sustainability to solid waste management in Lagos State as waste management is the responsibility of all. The organisations we currently partner with already had their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plans drawn up for the year 2021 and our engagement with them last year around October – November 2021 gave us the benefits that we have now. In terms of what the organisations supports us with we have Heritage Bank, NIMASA, Tangerine Life and Rotary Club (Eko Atlantic branch) all supporting us with Recycling, Access Bank, Union and Rock supporting us with LAWMA Academy, whilst First Bank is with our Sweeping Sanitation. For example, in total we have over 150 recyclable bins donated by our recycling partners and over 15,000 sweepers uniforms rebranded.
Source: Nigerian Newspapers Online