LAWMA MD, Dr. Muyiwa Gbadegesin

By Folashade Kadiri

Recently, the Lagos Waste Management Authority, LAWMA, launched the Blue Box programme, aimed at promoting the culture of waste sorting at the point of generation. The launch of the innovative scheme represents a milestone in waste management in Lagos.

 It has been discovered that the existing practice of dropping all wastes in one container had become old-fashioned, necessitating the need to replace it with a modern method, which involves keeping two containers at home: one for recyclable waste and the other for general waste.

The old system was expensive and cumbersome, and also denied the government a huge chunk of accruable revenue and the youth, a large share of prospect for employment.

 At the launch of the fresh initiative, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu noted that the staggering volume of waste generated daily by the huge Lagos population dictated the need to explore a modern and profitable waste management method such as the Lagos Blue Box initiative.

The governor observed that the approximate 14,000MT of waste generated daily by more than 20 million Lagosians, needed to be creatively managed to turn it into a money spinner.

He said: “Rather than being a burden, across the world, waste has become a major fortune earner for governments; generating jobs and income for teeming youths, in what has become known as the circular economy in the modern world. The circular economy is the ‘cradle to cradle’ system, which encourages the use of another person’s trash as feed stock for another’s process, minimizing waste in society and generating income for the citizenry.”

The good news is that 50 per cent of waste generated in the state contained re-usable resources that could be harnessed and channeled to strengthen the economy of the state. LAWMA is, thus poised to drive the circular economy through active community engagement, to encourage effective use of recyclable materials, for creating a viable value chain, and ultimately opening new markets and business opportunities, for government and the people. Surulere and Iru, Victoria Island would be used as pilot schemes for the project.

Undoubtedly, the constant huge inflow of people from all nooks and crannies of the country had increased the volume of waste generated across the state and compounded the challenge of managing it. The small size of the state also implies insufficient space for landfill sites.

One of the major challenges being faced in Lagos State is, no doubt, its small land size in relation to its increasing population. This has impacted negatively on the availability of space for more infrastructural activities.

 The dearth of sufficient land space has also adversely affected the state’s waste management strategy since it is unable to get adequate land space for landfill activities to accommodate the huge waste being generated on a daily basis, estimated to have grown from 10,000MT to 14,000 MT within a period of five years.

While doing a technical brief on the Blue Box programme, Managing Director/CEO of LAWMA, Dr. Olumuyiwa Gbadegesin, observed that the cumbersome nature of the old system of waste management, had robbed the state of handsome revenue and avalanche of jobs for the youth, in a properly structured waste management system.

 He noted that the initiative took root in the electioneering campaign promise of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, where he envisioned a new era, when Lagosians would stop dumping all their waste and would rather sort at source, to extract maximum value and reduce pressure on the available landfills.

With the advent of the Blue Box, Lagosians are now to keep two waste bags at home, instead of one. Two colour-coded bags would be distributed to households by franchised recyclers and environmental volunteer corps. The blue bag will be for recyclable waste items like plastic, water sachets, cans, etc, while the black bag will be for general non-recyclable waste.

 The franchised recyclers would pick up the bags from various homes at designated days of the week; take them to their sorting hub in the area, and to the Community Recycling Centres (CRCs), for further sorting and sale to off-takers.

 To qualify as franchised recycler, the individual must exhibit capacity to collect waste at Local Governments and LCDAs, by having at least one 5-ton or 10-ton truck, for collection of recyclables from door steps, in addition to owning a sorting centre, measuring a minimum of 1,000 square kilometers, in the area of operation.

The State and Local Governments would partner to provide space for CRCs, which would be a platform to harness the expertise of scavengers, where they would be re-orientated and re-integrated as resource managers, for continuity of their means of livelihood. Many jobs are to be generated at the CRCs for the teeming youths in the state.

The several advantages in the Blue Box initiative included capturing 50 per cent of recyclables upstream by June 2021, with zero tolerance for scavenging. It would also attract major investors to strengthen the state’s economy; create more jobs; reduce carbon foot print and encourage zero waste generation for a healthier, cleaner and sustainable environment.

Efforts have since begun to ensure the successful take off of the initiative. Recently, LAWMA held a road show along Orile – Okokomaiko – Badagry Expressway, to distribute the colour-coded bags, as well as sensitize the public on the new waste management initiative and on environmental hygiene.

 LAWMA has also commenced the massive clean-up exercises along Orile – Badagry Expressway to ensure that the axis was rid of black spots and other forms of environmental nuisance.

A waste-to-wealth project such as the Blue Box initiative will, no doubt, transform waste management into a wealth creation venture that will help tackle the twain issue of poverty and unemployment. The initiative is being projected to generate over 46,000 direct and indirect jobs for Lagosians.

However, it is important that Lagos residents support the state government in its bid to rid the state of waste. Most cities of the world experience environmental abuse as a result of the ignorance of the people. As a people, we need to really come to terms with the significance of an improved environmental habit. When we deliberately choose to act in manners that could endanger the environment, we are the ones that would certainly bear the consequences of such actions.

-Kadiri is Assistant Director, Public Affairs, Lagos State Waste Management Authority