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  • Writer's pictureEnyenaweh Research

Tackling The Rising Problem of Solid Waste Management in Nigeria

Piles of waste found on roadsides, rivers, and many other open places in rural and urban settlements have become a regular occurrence in Nigeria, causing significant health and environmental problems. Nigeria generates a considerable amount of solid waste, but only a meagre percentage is collected in a formal system. Unfortunately, our waste is being thrown away due to economic, institutional, regulatory, technical, and operational limits in the current solid waste management system. Nigeria, with a population of over 200 million people, is the most populous black nation, and with an annual population growth rate of 2.5%, the population of Nigeria has been projected to rise to over 300 million by 2036. In Nigeria, 25 million tonnes of municipal solid waste are generated annually. The waste generation rates range from 0.66 kg/cap/day in urban areas to 0.44kg/cap/day in rural areas. As of 2018, the majority of garbage in Nigeria was disposed of informally. In particular, almost 59 percent of garbage was handled informally. Instead, disposal within the complex accounted for 29% of total waste management. Only approximately 4% of the garbage was collected by the authorities. The large population has given rise to increased economic and developmental activity driven by production and consumption patterns. Therefore, solid waste has become a growing challenge. According to UN-Habitat, municipal solid waste (MSW) is waste generated by households and similar waste generated by commercial and industrial premises, institutions, schools, hospitals, care homes, prisons, and public places. Except for wastes from industrial processes and other hazardous wastes, this working definition encompasses most commercial and company wastes (UN-Habitat 2010:6). With 89 million poor Nigerians and 95.1 million projected to enter into poverty by 2022, the waste management problem is not a surprise as sanitation habit has a connection with poverty.

Wastes are defined under the Basel Convention as "substances or objects that are disposed of, intended to be disposed of, or are required to be disposed of by national legislation" (Basel Convention 2011). According to (UNEP, 2015), solid waste comprises "substances or objects susceptible to disposal processes that lead to or do not lead to resource recovery, recycling, reclamation, direct re-use, or alternative." Solid waste includes a variety of biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials in a solid or semi-solid form, such as household waste, medical waste, refuse, waste from construction and demolition, garbage, electronic waste (batteries, phones, computers and accessories, cables, electronic gadgets, wristwatches, etc.), sludge from waste treatment plants, and other discarded materials, such as solids, semi-solids, and other discarded materials resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, and agricultural operations, as well as community activities. Paper, biological matter, plastics, metals, textiles, rubber, and glass constitute the majority of these materials. Plastics, glass, and most metals, which make up a significant portion of these wastes, are non-biodegradable and pose a long-term environmental hazard.

In some situations, the trash generated at the end of these manufacturing and consuming processes are recycled and repurposed; but in the vast majority of cases, this garbage is discarded or disposed of. If left unchecked, solid waste can have serious environmental and health repercussions; however, if properly managed, solid waste can facilitate job creation and gross domestic product growth through wealth creation procedures and a slew of other environmental, social, and aesthetic benefits. Local governments in Nigeria are responsible for solid waste collection and disposal. The supply and maintenance of public convenience, sewage, and garbage disposal are delegated to local governments under paragraph (h) of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution's fourth schedule. The state government has issued additional edicts or laws that contradict the constitution in certain states. These laws either aim to delegate this function entirely to the state governments or create specific areas of jurisdiction that limit local government authority. The discovery of toxic waste dumped by a foreign firm in Delta State, Nigeria, in 1987 led to the formation of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) in 1988. The government of Nigeria established the Ministry of Environment in June 1999, and FEPA's functions were transferred into the new ministry.

On May 10, 2021, the Federal Ministry of Environment presented the National Waste Management Policy, while the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) established the National Environmental Regulations 2021. These regulatory documents stipulate specific requirements and guidelines for using, collecting, and recycling solid waste. The National Environmental (Electrical and Electronics Sector) Regulation 2013 is also in place and has recently been updated to include an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Requirement for e-waste management. The policy's primary goals are to ensure that waste collection, storage, transportation, recycling, transboundary movements, and disposal are correctly done and with little or no negative impact on the environment or public health. The policy mandates global environmental best practices in waste management and coordination for successful and long-term waste management. The policy also establishes channels for all players in a value chain, including makers, distributors, dealers, recyclers, collectors, and consumers, to implement the EPR Program. It establishes waste management criteria and recommendations and mobilizes resources to ensure successful and long-term policy implementation. The strategy also specifies how institutional stakeholders and regulatory authorities would be involved in its implementation. The Federal Ministry of the Environment, State Environmental Agencies, and Local Government environmental authorities all have a role in this.

Haphazard housing system, limited budgetary availability, limited private sector engagement, poor implementation of policies, and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations are issues that are linked with the current waste management procedures in Nigeria. High waste management costs, lack of knowledge about many aspects affecting waste management at various stages, insufficient waste management infrastructure, technology, and skills, poor economic development, and lack of environmental impact assessment are some of the issues militating against waste management in Nigeria. In Nigeria, solid waste management is plagued with inefficient collection methods, insufficient coverage of the collection system, improper disposal, lack of institutional arrangement, insufficient financial resources, and the absence of recycling and resource recovery technology. While the policies and laws are fragmented and are formulated not on nationally generated baseline data, participation of the people in the policy formulation and implementation is lacking, and enforcement and monitoring of laws and policies are inadequate. It is, therefore, necessary that the policies and laws, institutional, political, socio-cultural, financial, economic, and technical aspects of solid waste management be given optimum attention with all seriousness.


For improved waste management in Nigeria, there has to be proper implementation and enforcement of waste management laws and policies. The current waste management legislation across the nation has to be reviewed, private-public participation should be encouraged, adequate budgetary provision must be made, periodic comprehensive appraisal of the environmental effect of the waste management practices, improved knowledge sharing on global issues affecting ecological conditions, and sustainable development. Investment is required to enhance solid waste statistics, particularly in recognizing solid waste generation and accumulation. The government and the commercial sector should work together to create an environment that supports solid waste recycling and material recovery.

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