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Waste crisis: Blue Box Initiative to the rescue in Lagos

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.

Abia, waste

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

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The old system was expensive and cumbersome, and also denied the government a huge chunk of accruable revenue and the youth, prospects of 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.

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 feedstock for another’s process, minimizing waste in society and generating income for the citizenry.”

The good news is that 50 percent 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 daily, estimated to have grown from 10,000MT to 14,000 MT within 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  revenue and avalanche of jobs for the youths.

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, and the Community Recycling Centres (CRCs), for further sorting and sale to off-takers.

To qualify as franchised recycler, the individual must exhibit the 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 doorsteps, 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 percent of recyclables upstream by June 2021, with zero tolerance for scavenging. It would also attract major investors to strengthen the state’s economy.

Efforts have since begun to ensure the successful take-off of the initiative.

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.

 

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