A clean environment is not only a healthy environment, but also an attractive and desirable one. However, the indiscriminate disposal of waste has become commonplace in Nigeria, a habit that negates all that is good regarding efforts to imbibe the tenets of healthy living. Sadly, the practice is so rampant that it has become the norm.
It seems like both the people and the government, especially, have abandoned their responsibility manage waste efficiently. Plastic bottles, nylon bags and paper bags are strewn everywhere one turns to, and they are accumulated to become heaps of refuse dotting the landscape even in residential areas with all the attendant dangers to public health.
The reason for this is not far-fetched. A coordinated system for waste collection by government at all levels is lacking. Where it exists at all, it functions for a while and soon peter out creating room for the services of local waste collectors who have no formal training in waste management. The result is that they make matters worse, as they dispose the wastes where they constitute an eyesore and danger to the residents.
As a newspaper, we believe there is an urgent need for Nigeria to begin to take the issue of indiscriminate disposal of waste as an emergency situation that needs to be curbed. Wastes are principally categorised into solid, liquid and gaseous, and under these three are domestic or municipal waste, industrial and hazardous waste. Since wastes are harmful if not properly handled, we therefore advise that they should be carefully collected and disposed of in the right way. They should not just be burnt without control. Uncontrolled burning of waste, such as plastics and volatile organic compounds (contained in petrol, cleaning agents, paint, building material), release toxic gases that are potent carcinogens and GHGs.
It goes without saying that indiscriminate disposal of waste is harmful to health and the environment. It is responsible for most of the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These cause the planet to get warmer than it should, producing what is referred to as the greenhouse effect. The principal greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere are water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2) methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N20) and ozone. Microbial action at refuse dumps leads to a breakdown of organic waste to let out a combination of gases, mainly methane and carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.
There are several methods of getting rid of waste. It is advisable that people adhere to the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse or Recycle. The first is to buy produce with less packaging. Second, it is held that recycling half of household waste can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. Other waste cutting practices include: making use of less heat and air conditioning; using compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs in the place of regular light bulbs; driving less and keeping the vehicle in good working condition to avoid emissions. Also, home appliances should be energy efficient models, like compact fluorescent bulbs produced in a way that it could provide more natural light using much less energy.
Clothes should be washed with cold water to reduce use of hot water and the energy required to produce it. That change alone can save at least 500 pounds of carbon dioxide annually in most households. It is also a good practice to conserve electricity and reduce global warming by switching off lights when not in use. One good practice in preserving the environment is tree planting which boost the overall environment. Trees beautify the environment and absorb carbon dioxide, giving off oxygen. It is said that a single tree will absorb estimated one tonne of carbon dioxide during its lifetime.
Federal and state environmental agencies ought to come together to stop this menace of indiscriminate waste disposal as it is toxic to the environment. Maybe it is time to revive the environmental sanitation days set aside for cleaning public and private places that add value to living. Also, every household and office must have waste collection bins which should be emptied by the approved government authorities at regular intervals. Such bins should be placed in the streets as well so that passers-by can drop their wastes while on the go.
Nigerians should be educated on waste management and the government should put in place efficient waste disposal practices that everyone must adhere to. Strict penalties should also be meted out to offenders caught violating waste management regulations.
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