It is the responsibility of the government of an entity whether a federation or a sovereign State to ensure safe, quality and prosperous life for its citizen. At the least, a responsible State provides an enabling environment for its people to dream, thrive and build a comfortable life.
For obvious reasons, the definition of what makes life comfortable and prosperous may be highly subjective and being a subject myself, I am yet to fully comprehend, I will rather stick to the popular belief of the things that make a quality life or perhaps, the conspicuous indicators of a prosperous life. For instance, walking through the Crosby Street (Soho), New York gives you a feeling of wealth, empowerment, and absolute confidence that says “I believe I can fly” (even without an America dollar bill under your belt). If the same you, even with a Clark Kent’s Superman costume and the power therewith had the same walk in the Ijeshatedo Area of Lagos City, you couldn’t help but feel helpless, underused, misused and neglected. It is a damn feeling of enslavement. You can easily develop goose bumps for these defects; from the institutional, relational, to the environmental, a moribund atmosphere to say the least is energy-sapping.
The number one obvious indicator of a responsible Government is the ‘Cleanness of its City’, which is simply put, ‘Environmental Management’. A city or authority that cannot keep its space safe, clean and green by properly collecting and handling the waste generated is evidently a failed one. The environment plays a huge role in our overall performance as humans; it is like the genotype by environment interaction in plant breeding. A geneticist knows better, you may be very intelligent, skillful, passionate, strong, and available but if the environment is demoralizing and/or not resourceful, the human potentials will never be fully maximized.
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Beyond the emotions, environmental management is a serious business that requires strong-willed institutions to formulate and enforce environmental policies; efficient resources managers and well spent money. Specifically, the waste handling sector of this Industry is highly lucrative despite the huge demand in the input, the gains have been consistently found out to worth the investment. Nigeria has largely undervalued the waste management sector, thereby losing out on the potentials to improve the quality of life of its people through environmental sanitation; building of green and inspiring atmosphere, creation of green jobs and wealth; and fostering a sustainable environment that can positively impact industries.
For instance, the State of Texas, USA is an impressive reference point of a System that maximizes the waste management industry. According to the data (2017) published by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), there are one hundred and seven (107) active facilities handling municipal solid wastes (MSW) generated in Texas Counties by its 27.86 million population (2016). Bear in mind that the Texas’ population index is just slightly above that of the City of Lagos and the fact that the Nigerian major cities also shares similar metropolitan lifestyle as Texas, there are hardly up to 50 functional MSW facilities serving the about 185million people across the country.
Wheelabrator Technologies Inc, a wholly owned U.S. Waste Management’s subsidiary with its 16 waste-to-energy facilities spread across the States boasts of a capacity to burn more than 23,800 tons of waste per day, using trash as substrate to generate electricity. Together, these energy facilities power about 600,000 homes with clean energy from wastes amounting to 670 megawatts of electric energy per hour, extremely exceeding Nigeria’s national average electricity generated. (I bet we can see the solution to Nigeria’s electrical fluctuations already, can’t we?.) The company in its over 25 years existence has processed over 100 million tons of MSW to energy, helping households to avoid dependence on about 150 million barrels of oil while generating 50 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. The conversion of waste to energy represents a valuable use of trash that would otherwise have littered the street or ended up in dumpsites, like the case of the Olososun dumpsite in Lagos.
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Now let’s have a quick talk on the economics of waste management. As at today, the waste management industry on its three feet is worth more than 100 billion dollars, can’t you see it yet? The Burns & McDonnell reported in a study undertaken for TCEQ that “the Recyclers in Austin, Texas collected and diverted 9.2 million tons of MSW in 2015, a haul worth an estimated $702 million” and boast of a workforce well above 20,000 personnel. Note that the figure represents the
worth of the collected recyclables only, that is aside the agricultural/food and construction wastes that were converted to compost and granites respectively or potential clean energy source. Scott Pasternak, who led the study reports that there is a strong connection between recycling efforts and economic opportunities across the State of Texas.
Evaluating another Waste Management Company based in Houston, with a Market Capital pegged at $32.3 billion as of May 2017 with direct employees figure at 41,200 (www.wm.com) only emphasizes how much resources are being wasted in the streets, waterbodies, and dumpsites of Nigeria. Due to our low effort to maximize the potentials of this industry, we have continued to lose money. Waste is money. The government needs to see this industry as a serious business, huge potential employer of labour and invest purposefully into it. This is one industry that can comfortably generate hundreds of thousands of direct jobs and make millions of dollars for all the stakeholders involved. The wastes industry represents a huge opportunity for Investors to create a green wealth. There are lots of investment options in the Waste Industry from materials recovery (compost, recycling, upcycling & landfill milling), to biofuel production (clean energy), depending on
the magnitude of capital, waste characteristics, government regulations & policies.
Bottom line, it is evil to be serious in handling our waste resources which have become litters in the marine communities, heaps in dumpsites and eyesore everywhere in our cities. Every litter on our street is a neglected gold that must be mined and transformed. It’s just so agonizingly painful that the government and capitalists seem to be inattentive to the wealth lying waste on our streets.
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Proper waste management is not a nice thing to do but a must do. This is an industry too big for one company or an under-equipped agency to handle; it is to be done cooperatively, the private sector in conjunction with the relevant governmental agencies. The earlier we realize that ‘waste is not waste until we waste it’ the better. The mining of wealth in wastes should be considered a very serious business that is worth over $100 billion dollars in cash and benefits to the people and environment, can’t you see it!
- By: John Blessing BABADARA
(John is a member of wastesmart.org)
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