Waste disposal

Garbage collector beautifully walled – in in Makoko, Yaba, Lagos.


The environment is a gift as well as a responsibility to all mankind. It is a gift of the creator who designed its innate order and has thus given us guidelines which we as stewards of his creation need to respect (Benedict XVI, 2008). Man has gone a long way in exercising his role as a co-operator with the creator. The advances in science and technology tells its own tale in the environment – a tale both positive and negative.

The haphazard industrial revolution has contributed a great deal to a degradation of the environment. With continuous and not – so – careful exploitation of the earth’s resources, the balance in the ecosystem has been altered thus giving rise to the incessant problem of waste.

Waste has not always been a problem. There was once a time when there was ample space and resources due to relatively low population density, less exploitation of natural resources and less consumption of goods than today. Presently, with over 7 billion people seeking the habitable space on earth, one needs to be conscious about how much waste and what kinds of wastes one generates.

Some wastes are hazardous (both domestic and industrial) while some others are more benign. Some wastes are reusable – biodegradable, transformable, or transferable to another use – while others are end products that need to be discarded, with limited degradation possible. Due to these different properties of wastes, different methods of disposal or management have been developed and adopted in different parts of the world. Implementation and effectiveness of any one method or combination of methods depends on the waste management bodies in a country, the resources available, and most importantly on the individual’s willingness to comply.

Lagos State being the most densely populated state in Nigeria, due to its commercial activities, generates a very high proportion of waste to which household wastes constitute about half of the solid wastes generated (Adewole, 2009). The Lagos State government via its waste management authority as well as other private sector agents has recently contributed a great deal towards ensuring proper waste management for a cleaner environment. Their activities include increasing the number of waste management personnel, waste collection vans, pollution control equipments, waste storage bins as well as several waste recycling initiatives.

Despite these laudable efforts in disposing, treating and recycling waste, the problem of waste management still persists. Some studies have concluded that some of the perceived causes of this intractable waste problem include the waste disposal habit of the people, corruption, work attitude, inadequate number of plants and equipment among others (Adewole, 2009).

The irresponsible attitude of some individuals cannot be overlooked; it is common sight to find a fashionable lady throw out a cob of maize through the window of her jeep or to sit by a young lad who thinks it normal to ‘decorate’ the route of his long trip with his banana peels until he exhausts the bunch. In most cases, the norm is to keep ones’ immediate environment clean but that which is not clearly defined as personal can be a dumpsite.

This paper aims at studying the waste management habits among Lagosians and to verify the impact of education on the individual attitudes to waste disposal. It will also serve to advocate for more enlightenment programs towards a safer environment and to emphasize the need for a genuine knowledge of ecology which implies respect for nature as well as respect for man.


Several studies have been conducted in different parts of the world including Nigeria, to determine the causes and problems of waste management and a number of them have identified personal attitude to waste disposal as a major contributory factor.

The massive build up of waste in Nigeria is as a result of, among many other reasons, the negative posture adopted in managing wastes from urban communities in the country. Wastes are regarded as non resources which at best are regarded as having a nuisance value (Nze, 1978).

According to Ekemini (2012), the thrust of the problem of waste includes ignorance, lack of waste management facilities and the nonchalant attitudes of residents towards a clean environment.

Fafioye and Dewole (2013) in a study aimed to critically examine the problem of solid waste management indicated that there were significant relationships between the problems and the educational background of the city dwellers, nonchalant attitude of the inhabitants, lack of adequate environmental health personnel and good operation equipment to work with. They recommended adequate orientation on waste management for the residents as well as more efficient contributions by the government.

In an article, Mr Ola Oresanya, the Managing Director of Lagos state Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), identified the biggest challenge as the waste from markets to highways as well as bad attitude of the road users. He stated that there’s only a 50-55% environmental awareness among the people of Lagos state.

Adewole (2009), in his paper reviewed the waste management practices and the issue of sustainable development in Nigeria. He found that waste disposal habit of the people, corruption, work attitude, inadequate plants and equipment among others are militating against effective waste management. He proposes that if there is to be sustainable waste management in Nigeria, the availability of land, human resources, plants and equipment, including capital, must be readily available.

Some more studies have shown thateducation and the general creation of awareness can bring a solution to the problem of poor waste management practices.

O’leary and Walsh  (1995) in an article proposed that to maintain long term program support on waste management, the public needs to know clearly what behaviours are desired and why. Involving people in the how and why’s of waste management requires a significant educational effort by the community. They went further to recommend that successful education programs must be consistent and ongoing. Ekemini (2012) also proposed a key solution to the problem as education.

According to the Compendium of Social Doctrine, a correct understanding of the environment prevents the utilitarian reduction of nature to a mere object to be manipulated and exploited. It also states that there is need to place ever greater emphasis on the intimate connection between environmental ecology and human ecology.


Literature review, content analysis and focus groups interview formed the basis of inquiry for the study. Articles on the trend in waste management and disposal in Lagos state were obtained from waste regulatory sites. Relevant information was analyzed and, consequently, two groups were sequentially erected.

Students of the University of Lagos [UniLag], Akoka, and residents of the Makoko community of Lagos state respectively constituted the groups.

In UniLag, interviews were conducted and a seminar was held titled ‘Waste: two sides of a coin’, which emphasized the idea of the environment as a gift and a responsibility. Participants were enlightened on the ecological consequences of improper waste management, and, on the other hand, the benefits –ecological, economic and health-wise- of proper waste management, with emphasis on recycling. Among the speakers were an environmental biologist and a waste entrepreneur. A baseline survey was also carried out to ascertain the effect of the seminar on the participants. Refreshment, in paper packs, was served and a big waste bin was put in one corner of the seminar hall to check participants’ adherence to personal responsibility in waste disposal.

At Makoko, a focus group discussion was held to discover the precise challenges of residents in proper waste disposal. These challenges were noted and practical solutions and follow-up strategies were proposed.


During the seminar, the questionnaires – made up of open ended questions – were administered to 40 UniLag students. They all agreed that Lagosians litter their environment. The tables below give an insight on their responses.

Table 1: Reasons for littering the environment

S/N Response Frequency Percentage*
1 A result of bad habit formed by living in a dirty environment 13 20.00
2 Inadequate number of bins 19 29.23
3 No laws to punish offenders 3   4.62
4 Poor hygiene / ignorance of hazards posed by environmental littering 19 29.23
5 Laziness to use available bins 11 16.90
  Total 65 100.0

*Multiple responses

Source: Field Survey

Dividing these reasons into two broad sub groups, we have –

  • Personal factors – 66.15%.

They consist of lazines, bad habits and ignorance

  • And impersonal factors – 33.85%.

Dead – letter laws and inadequate bins make up this category.

The greater percentage of the sample population (66.15%) say that the reasons for littering – bad habit, ignorance of hazards, laziness to use available bins – lies with them, the people of Lagos State. This implies that the measures put in place to reduce / prevent this problem in future must be interiorly accepted by Lagosians; the measures should not be merely external like provision of more bins and enforcement of laws. This position is seen even more clearly in the solutions proposed by the students and in the case of the visit to Makoko.

Students –

Table 2: Personal Contribution to Effective and Proper Waste Disposal

S/N Response Frequency Percentage*
1 Keep the litters in hand until you find a bin 7 10.45
2. Education of the Populace 20 41.79
3. Teach others by example; practice 17 25.37
4. Provision of more bins 9 13.43
5. Make laws to punish offenders 3   4.48
6. Recycle 3   4.48
  Total 67 100.00

*Multiple responses

Source: Field Survey

The solutions proposed are in line with the causes – direct / indirect; personal / impersonal – which were earlier identified. The advocates for the ‘education’ of Lagosians amount to about half of the sample population. Almost all the respondents also advised that the populace be educated to help in changing their negative attitudes towards the environment in general. This confirms the study of Ebong and Bassey (2004) that a key factor in solving the problem of waste littering in Lagos, and in Nigeria as a whole, is not only the enforcement of laws. Nor is it just the provision of bins or the allocation of more resources to waste management agencies in both the public and private sector. The key lies in educating (or re-educating) Lagosians to change their attitudes and to cultivate environmental friendly values so that the generations to come will meet a clean environment, a clean state, a clean country.

In educating or re – educating, we must realize that ‘old habits die hard’. It won’t be enough to just hand out the theory – seminars, speeches, etc. It should be an education in virtues; virtues in the sense of good habits which with time, will replace the bad habits accumulated over years or even generations. Lagosians are generally clean but they need to realize that it’s not enough to keep just their “personal space” clean. Streets, buses, yards, garbage bins and garbage areas, the air, etc. needs to be clean also. If they see these places / things as part of their personal space, the re –education would have met its objective.


The seminar on “Waste: Two sides of a Coin” organized for the UniLag students was open to all; there were presentations on valuing the environment as a gift and a responsibility, on recycling and on attitude change – responsible personal waste disposal. There was ample time for discussion between participants and the facilitators. A positive result was recorded when the students left at the end of the event; the trash bins by the sides of the hall were used and the hall was left unlittered save for a crown cork on the floor.


Also, in the discussion with residents of Makoko, Yaba, a host of reasons similar to those above were given for their littered streets and dirt-filled open drainages. The residents were quick to complain of inadequate number of bins and infrequent visits by, the Lagos state Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) trucks to remove accumulated waste. On speaking further with them, they readily agreed that they also contribute, a great deal, to the problem of waste. The onus does lies on them as it does on everyone else to curtail the problem of waste disposal. The government and her officials must also aid the people to solve the problem.


We have inherited from past generations, and we have benefited from the work of our contemporaries: for this reason, we have obligations towards all, and we cannot refuse to interest ourselves in those who will come after us to enlarge the human family. (cf Compendium of Social Doctrine, point 467).

This study concludes that solid waste littering is a problem among Lagosians. Prominent among the various causes of this problem are ignorance of the hazards posed by the litters and a nonchalant attitude towards the environment.

There seems to be a norm of caring solely for the ‘private space’ – one’s immediate environment, but, as public domains belong to ‘no one’, it’s not so common to see anyone willing to take responsibility for it. However, it is precisely the public arena that determines, to a large extent the identity of a people, making a favourable or unfavourable first impression.

To arrest this trend, people should be educated and encouraged to embrace environmental-friendly values and the Government should also play her part in bringing efficient trash systems closer to the populace.


To individuals and families:

The family as the first school must play its role in educating and forming its members on a sound knowledge of ecology. Each one must see the issues of waste management as a collective responsibility and make the necessary effort to imbibe good waste disposal attitudes. Children deserves good examples from their parents and older siblings.

To educators and Non governmental institutions:

Priority should be given to education and re- education through workshops, enlightenment programs, practical examples, rewards for cleanliness [which should be properly assessed], etc. which should include grassroots participation.

To the government:

There is need for purchase of updated equipment for managing waste as well as an urgent need for well trained staff, vehicles, trucks, tippers, pay loaders, bulldozer and road sweeper, which must be backed up with well stocked maintenance store provided for spare parts for all equipment.

The government at local levels should also see to organized refuse collection both from residential and industrial estates. There must be a disposal site in each street and avenue nearest to the sources of waste, which must be accessible to everyone and the refuse collection should be regular. It’s very discouraging to see an over – flowing street garbage.

Also families, schools, educators and non – governmental organizations should be aided in the efforts to solving this issue.



 Adewole, A. T. (2009). “Waste management towards sustainable development in Nigeria: A case study of Lagos state”. International NGO Journal Vol. 4 (4), pp. 173-179.

Fafioye, O.O and John Dewole, O.O (2013). “A critical assessment of waste management problems in Ibadan Nigeria. Greener journal of environmental management and public safety.Vol 2 (2). Pp 060-064.

Navez- Bouchaive, F. (1993). “Cleanliness and the appropriation of space, refuse and living habits in large Moroccan towns, People’s Mediterranean, Morocco”.

Nze, F.C. 1978. Managing Urban waste in Nigeria for social and economic development. Journal of management studies Lagos. Vol 5, Nigeria.

O’Leary, P. and Walsh, P. (1995). Decision maker’s guide to solid waste management Vol 2

Benedict XVI, Address to the members of the Roman Curia for the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings. 22nd December, 2008.

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church Chap 10, p.286, points 463 and 467

Internet articles.

Ekemini, I. (2012). “Problems and prospects of waste disposal in Port-Harcourt metropolis”. Retrieved Oct 22nd 2013 from

Mr Ola Oresanya. Press release. Retrieved Oct 22nd 2013 from

Freduah George: Problems of Solid Waste Management in Nima, Accra. Retrieved October 3rd, 2013 from www.

© 2017 Amaka Juliet Anozie

For Deutsche Welle Blogger competition




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