“I think the Lagos government has to develop a global model and take the lead in partnership with private entities. I like the initiative at a school in Ajegunle where parents are paying school fees with plastic bottles. What about poor households paying their refuse disposal fees with plastic bottles? What about the supermarkets running a reward scheme where customers receive a token or discount for plastic bottles returned? What about discounts for not collecting plastic bags at supermarkets?”
If you pay close attention to the bodies of water around Lagos, you are bound to be overtaken by emotions. It could be embarrassment, anger, wonder or whatever else. Without doubt, there is little to be proud of about our management of water bodies and treatment of waste, especially plastic in this city-state.
A check on the drains in different parts of Lagos Island, Ikoyi and Lekki would make one throw up. Often clogged and filthy, I always wonder how the residents, many of whom are high networth individuals, are able to live with these. I always wonder how they are able to breathe.
There are two photographs here: One (above) is of a drain on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, nestled between a major bank and a petrol retail major, as I saw it last week. It has been that way in the last one month that I have regularly walked past the place. It is an eyesore. How these corporates are able to carry on business with this unsightly neighbour, I will never know. The storm water drains are clogged, yet the rainy season is yet to come.
Then, the plastics. Three years ago, I had this to say about the opportunity we have in our waste :
“Waste as Opportunity
One of the opportunities we have on account of being at the bottom of the ladder in our quest for development, is that we can leapfrog over some of the stages, not having to go through the route some developed societies took, which advancement in technology have now rendered obsolete or anachronistic.
We can tap into new technologies, new thinking, new products, taking advantage of our endowments, avoiding mistakes made by others, turning our state and the challenges we face into opportunities.
Some of the possible areas to key into for opportunities include clean energy generation and the management of urban and industrial waste. As urbanisation began to swallow the world up, cities developed all sorts of initiatives to deal with the downside of urban living. What Lagos needs to do more is find a way to adopt some of these best practices in a sustainable manner.
On waste management, we missed the opportunity to leapfrog our way into a sustainable model when we launched the LAWMA-PSP initiative. At the point of introducing the scheme, which took a lot of effort to sell, we might, as well, have incorporated the waste separation model into it, with sorting done at the point of generation.
Well, it is not late in the day, as many still struggle with the LAWMA model till late, preferring to indiscriminately dispose their waste. Some of our educated folks still throw out waste from their cars onto the highway, even now.
But then, all is never lost. With every challenge there is an opportunity.
Nine years ago, I was in Berlin. One of the shocks for me was that at the Supermarket, one was expected to come with his carrier bag, as the Supermarket would not package stuff bought in plastic bags. If you do not come with a bag and are not able or willing to carry items bought in your hand, you have to pay for the plastic(nylon) bag to have one. The essence was simply to discourage the use of plastic bags.
Then this, the system also allows or encourages, I should say, the return of plastic bottles to the Supermarket for a token. So, while you pay a fine for wanting a plastic bag, you are rewarded for returning a plastic bottle. The incentivisation of the process is what I found most instructive.
In many other countries, the practice of sorting your waste, at point of generation has become standard. I think a fine does come with not sorting suff properly, in some places.
I think the way to go in making the Lagos model work lies with incorporating incentives at all levels of engagement. There are a few start-ups and initiatives in Lagos who have tried to run with some models, paying people some little money for plastic bottles and running different reward systems. Not surprised that the impact has not been as should be. I can imagine the challenges with logistics and sustainability that might be there. I have been waiting, for years now, for one such company to come pick up my bags of plastic bottles, as they promised.
I think the Lagos government has to develop a global model and take the lead in partnership with private entities. I like the initiative at a school in Ajegunle where parents are paying school fees with plastic bottles. What about poor households paying their refuse disposal fees with plastic bottles? What about the supermarkets running a reward scheme where customers receive a token or discount for plastic bottles returned? What about discounts for not collecting plastic bags at supermarkets? What about households receiving discount on refuse disposal fees for sorting their waste? What about estates being rewarded for waste management initiatives?
The little things. We have to fix the little things. The solution lies with the little things.”
Not much has changed since then.
But LAWMA has in place a reward model, with people who sort their waste receiving some discount off their dues. Not sure many know about this. I doubt that the level of enlightenment is as it should or could be.
We have to fix the little things. It is in fixing the little things that we get to fix the big things.
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