By Mrs 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 innovation represents a milestone in waste management in Lagos. That was why the state government rolled out the drums to celebrate the feat.
It has been discovered that existing practice of dropping all trash 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.
More so, the existing system was expensive and cumbersome, and also denied the government a huge chunk of accruable revenue and the youth, a large share of green employment.
At the launch of the event was Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who 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, hence the Lagos Blue Box Initiative.
He observed that the approximate 14,000MT of waste generated daily by more than 20 million Lagosians, needed to be managed in a manner that would turn the huge waste into money spinner for the state, and jobs for the youths.
According to him: “Rather than being a burden, waste, across the world, 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.”
He disclosed 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, adding that LAWMA had been mandated 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. He hinted that Surulere and Iru, Victoria Island, would be used as pilot schemes of the project.
Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Tunji Bello, observed that the constant huge inflow of people from all nooks and crannies of the country, had multiplied the volume of waste generated across the state, and compounded the challenge of managing it, adding that the small land size of the state, left insufficient space for landfill sites.
“One of the major challenges being faced in Lagos State is our small land size in relation to our alarmingly increasing population. This has impacted negatively on the availability of space for more infrastructural activities.
‘The dearth of sufficient land space has also affected adversely our waste management strategy since we are 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,” he observed.
He said further that the challenge necessitated strategic thinking for waste management, resulting in the Blue Box initiative.
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.
According to him, that was the tonic that LAWMA needed to evolve the Lagos Blue Box experiment.
Explaining how it works, he said Lagosians now needed 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.
He said 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 Centre, for further sorting and sale to off-takers.
To qualify as franchised recycler, according to him, 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.
He explained that the state and local governments would partner, to provide space for Community Recycling Centres, 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, he hinted, would be generated at the Community Recycling Centres, for the teeming jobless persons in the state.
The several advantages in the Blue Box initiative according to the Managing Director 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 green jobs; reduce carbon foot print and encourage zero waste generation for a healthier, cleaner and sustainable environment’, Gbadegesin submitted.
A few days later, LAWMA followed up with 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.
Dr. Gbadegesin, while addressing residents at Orile bus stop stressed the importance of the new initiative as being environment-friendly and economically rewarding for Lagosians.
According to him, “Today we have come to sensitize the community on how to maintain a clean environment because a clean environment is the beginning of good health for all Lagosians. If you don’t have a clean environment, you cannot enjoy good health.
“You were keeping one waste bag before but now, you will be keeping two bags; one bag for your recyclable materials and the other for general waste. That is why we are distributing the bags to you, as a follow-up to the Blue Box programme which the governor launched last week.”
The LAWMA boss also disclosed that his Agency had commenced massive clean-up exercises along Orile – Badagry Expressway, to ensure that the axis was cleared of black spots, and other forms of environmental nuisance.
Also speaking, a LAWMA ambassador and popular Nigerian actor, Mr. Funsho Adeolu, who was on the road show along with a child environment advocate, Ohekwuru Tony, urged Lagosians to embrace the blue box initiative to sort their waste at source, and to embrace the right environmental practices.
* Mrs Kadiri is Assistant Director, Public Affairs of LAWMA