Published in Case Studies on November 3, 2010
Need for attitudinal change and Pro-active Recycling
If you can stomach it, have a look at the picture attached. This is a flowing river that shares the same fence with a Missionary hospital which is soon to be a Teaching Hospital in Jos-Nigeria. This picture shows how poor attitude and crass ignorance can destroy the environment and indeed the health of its people.
Waste products of various kinds, bio-degradable and non-biodegradable, are dumped into flowing rivers mostly by children. The non-decomposable ones include plastic containers, wrappings, metal products and cans of various sizes and all other products of modernization.
What are the effects of this on the environment and on health? One, these products don’t decay so stop soil aeration, killing soil fauna and flora. Two, they block drainages and pipes. Three, they serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes, bacteria and fungi whose harmful actions on man cannot be over-emphasized. Epidemics of cholera and bubonic plaque can arise easily. Four, it is unhygienic and foul-smelling. Unpleasant sites aren’t the best tourist descriptions.
Attitudinal change must begin from homes. Parents must teach their children healthy waste disposing habits. The Governments of poor countries must install refuse dump containers around major streets. They should also ensure regular clearance, not allow them spill over. The curricular of school children must be re-structured to include refuse sanitary hygiene. Religious institutions like the church and mosques (which wield a lot of influence on their members) must be involved as key stakeholders in public enlightenment and law enforcement. Cleanliness, after all, is next to Godliness.
Companies involved in manufacturing must be made to develop policies of product retrievals from the markets they serve. Coca Cola must be made to have a cork-retrieval system. Nestle must have a tin-retrieval scheme etc. That must be made a mandatory part of their Good Manufacturing Practice, GMP. When given tax-relief incentives and partnerships with the local communities, NGOs/CSOs, this will go a long way in reducing the indiscriminate dumping of non-biodegradable products.
Pro-active recycling is an issue to be tackled. Recycling must be made to look attractive and profitable. Private initiatives that recycle waste products should be encouraged to succeed. In Nigeria, we once had the Waste-to-Wealth Scheme as part of the Poverty Alleviation Strategy of the Government. It started well but the lack of continuity of government policies derailed the programme. I am not expecting Government with all its bureaucratic bottlenecks to spear-head it again. They should create the conducive environment, possibly give loans or encourage those in the business to excel.
Germany is world class in terms of recycling. Companies or entrepreneurs shortlisted for this pilot project should be sent to Germany to learn the tricks, return home and implement what they have learn. The battle against indiscriminate dumping of refuse in flowing streams and surface waters must be won. The earlier we start, the better.