In numerous developing countries, systems of garbage disposal or solid waste management face particular fundamental difficulties. This issue has progressed into different problems with continuously heightening complexity as a result of insufficient resources, lacking informed management or reliable decision making, increasing amounts of waste and hazardousness, established or non-existent regulatory framework, absence of adequate disposal sites, short sightedness or impractical long-term planning by officials, corruption, and so much more. Many developing countries still lack the essential infrastructure to manage their solid waste. Not every waste produced gets collected by the existing systems. Indiscriminate burning of garbage, throwing solid wastes on the streets, and dumping refuse in water bodies are the common ways people dispose of garbage in developing countries. These methods do not only make the environment filthy and cause various health complications to those exposed to it but also have adverse effects on the atmosphere and the world at large. After all, we all need to reduce our carbon footprints. This article, therefore, seeks to bring to light some of the problems of garbage disposal in developing countries and proffer measurable solutions to them.
Keywords: challenges of garbage disposal, hazards of solid waste, waste management, improved solid waste management.
In recent years, technological advancement and innovation in almost every sector have further brought to light the gap between developed and most developing countries. The waste management sector is no doubt not left out. The sector has witnessed so much advancement that it has moved from the traditional method of garbage disposal and treatment resulting in the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), which becomes trapped in the atmosphere. One of the most toxic and significant gases that contribute to climate change is methane and it is released when garbage is burnt or from landfills. Carbon dioxide, (another form of GHG and less harmful than methane) is released from more advanced ways of garbage treatment and disposal. Although developing nations contribute the least to emissions, they are one of the most affected by climate change because they lack the technology and the know-how to improve their standard of living and reduce emissions.
Consolidated Bylaw (2007) defined solid waste as “any material that is primarily not a liquid or gas, is unwanted and/or unvalued and is discarded or discharged by its owner.” Solid waste is expected to be recycled but even that is a colloidal issue in developing nations. In cities like Bamako in Mali, Cotonou in Benin, Aflao in Ghana, and Sokoto in Nigeria, wastes which are dumped right in the middle of the roads, hamper vehicular movements for days before they are carted away. In Bamako, Mali, Macro waste is the only company managing waste with just 5 trucks in the whole of Bamako and less than 500 numbers of 240 liter bins. Waste collection is done in less than 20% of the whole city. “In developing countries, it is common for municipalities to spend between 20-50 percent of their available recurrent budget on solid waste management. Yet, it is also common that 30-60 percent of all the urban solid waste in developing countries is uncollected and less than 50 percent of the population is served (World Bank, 2015).”
Again, the World Bank in 2015 said, “the overall goal of urban solid waste management is to collect, sort, treat, and dispose of off solid wastes generated by all urban population groups in an environmentally and socially satisfactory manner using the most economical means available.” Therefore, garbage has the sole purpose to serve as primary and secondary materials for manufacturers of products to be consumed and thus not meant to be eyesores in society. According to Oyedele (2014), “wastes are unwanted and discarded materials from domestic, commercial and industrial operations. Wastes are generated from our daily activities and eradicated but refuse grounds and dump-sites can be turned into gold-mine.”
Incessant and inappropriate refuse disposal is one of the major issues faced by the developing world today. Many kinds of literature have established that the solid waste problem has been a mammoth challenge for low-income countries as it is quite dynamic and much adaptation and resources are needed to combat it. With the population increasing in quantum leaps, the environment is inundated daily with massive garbage spilling onto the roads, rail lines, and clogging drainages resulting in a lot of inconveniences. This uncontrolled menace poses great threats to our environment as it has led to public health issues, distasteful unpleasantness, traffic congestion, and drainage system blockages. Proper waste disposal is paramount to an inhabitable and sustainable society. Thus, it has become a crucial issue in both domestic and international supply chains, for proper environmental protection, efficient utilization of resources, and sustainable development.
Different approaches to garbage disposal such as refuse dumpsites, incineration, recycling, shipping, and home garbage disposal units have been used with little or no progress in many developing countries. More advanced methods of refuse disposal such as biodegradable containers and biodegradation and pyrolysis have less functional or practical difficulties but greater feasibility, causing problems such as initiation and maintenance costs. Given the overwhelming cost, financing solid waste management systems is repeatedly a significant challenge. The World Bank’s investments have stepped up to help countries meet that demand (What a Waste 2.0).
Urbanization, which is one of the main drawbacks of low-income countries in tackling challenges of solid, liquid and toxic waste management implies rapid garbage accumulation. Increased rate of population, reduced opportunity and the search for ‘greener pastures’ are major contributors to rural-urban migration. According to a recent report by World Bank (2001), “in 2016 the world’s cities generated 2.01 billion tons of solid waste, amounting to a footprint of 0.74 kilograms per person per day. With rapid population growth and urbanization, annual waste generation is expected to increase by 70% from 2016 levels to 3.40 billion tons in 2050.”
Urban settings are the main points of waste production and the volume of garbage created daily is far more than their population. The cost of maintaining all these wastes is also rapidly increasing which constitutes noticeable challenges for developing countries. These countries are intensely affected as over 90% of refuse is often discarded and burned in unregulated dumpsites and available open pits, which attracts insects and many times fill the air with black smoke from burning rubber, tires, or plastic.
Understanding the Problems of Effective Garbage Disposal
Numerous problems are facing the waste management sector in developing countries. Below are some of them:
Ineffective garbage collection, disposal and processing system: garbage cleanups are meant to be overseen by state governments in most developing countries. This is as a result of the incapacity of local governments, whose core responsibility is waste management. Official garbage landfills and/or dumps are very few in developing nations or are nearly non-existent. Therefore, garbage is mostly dumped by people in unofficial or illegal waste dumps. These waste dumps are created indiscriminately by the people in their areas and burned by them, which then releases methane that is detrimental to the planet. This is as a result of improper planning or lack of it thereof.
According to World Bank (2015), “Local governments are usually authorized to have responsibility for providing solid waste management services and most local government laws give them exclusive ownership over waste once it has been placed outside home or establishment for collection. As cities grow economically, business activities and consumption patterns drive up so solid waste quantities. At the same time, increased traffic congestion adversely affects the productivity of the solid waste fleet.” The significance is that garbage has to be transported over long distances. Sometimes, it is moved close to 200 kilometers, from sites of garbage collection to points of official waste dumps.
Poverty and inadequate orientation of the people: globally, in urban settings, the general parlance of garbage disposal is “polluters pay.” This makes it easy for governments to fund waste management system and improve it. But, in developing countries, with the high rates of poverty, “lawlessness” and larger uneducated masses, most of those polluting the cities give preference to disposing of their garbage in the dark, on the streets, in flowing water (especially during heavy rainfalls), or simply burning them, because for them this is normal, more often permitted, easier than other options, less expensive, acceptable in their societies, or simply the only choice they may have.
Fraud and Corruption: developing countries battle fraud and corruption daily in all sectors and waste management is not left out. Those in charge siphon funds as in most developing countries, open dumping with open burning is the norm. Corruption is also rampant in the waste management sector because clearance dates cannot be determined correctly. For instance, when trees are cut down and new ones are planted, one can determine when they will grow but one cannot predict when new wastes will pile up after they are cleared. Hence, making it difficult to directly assess corruption, as it is easier to inflate budget cost on complex project like refuse disposal. In exchange for money, those in the realm of affairs might favor waste management companies that have strong and corrupt connections rather than the efficient ones. Thus, delaying prompt and timely garbage clearance, which is often due to lack of proper supervision and efficient national anti-corruption efforts there by leading to burning or incineration method. While this is done indiscriminately without consideration to the types of categories and composition of the waste materials, the practice leads to increased production of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This in turn increases the thickness of the carbon dioxide layer with the resultant general increase in global heat, which further compounds the problem of global warming.
Use of one- time throw- away products: There is no gain saying the fact that nowadays one of the ever-increasing problems associated with garbage disposal is production and marketing as they are largely driven by throw away consumerism. It is common that producers only strive to maximize profits by encouraging the production of single-use items and desperately persuading consumers through advertisements and selling of products, which some customers believe, were designed to ‘deliberately’ fail, less desirable or have short lifespan. They systematically down play issues of reuse, recycling or the consideration of environmentally friendly materials. Typical examples are the mobile phone charger and adaptor, which have to be replaced whenever a consumer upgrades from one model of the same brand to another. Though in the developing countries there are still menders, scrap users and sellers who make a living by gathering scrap electrical equipment, auto spare parts, metal, copper or aluminum. They sell to manufacturers and companies who measure the items and pay according to their weight. However, not all items seem to be mendable as some items are complicated, while others have incompatible or expensive parts and accessories. When these products cannot be repaired, they become trash thereby heading to dumpsites, endangering human and environmental health.
Technology and Innovation: Initiatives such as recycling, bio-oil and building eco-friendly amenities are the new trends in combating waste disposal. Developed countries have identified this development as a cutting-edge solution to manage waste but also as a source of revenue generation and empowerment of its citizens. They also encourage their citizens by incentivizing waste collection and sanctioning improper waste disposal, thereby getting the cooperation of the citizens in refuse disposals and a mind shift in the old pattern of dumping waste carelessly without recourse. The reverse is the case in developing countries, where people still maintain old habits and are not educated or encouraged by any means to understand the effects and benefits of waste disposal.
In addition, investment in infrastructural equipment that processes and converts waste to other useful products are not so available to properly harness waste. Governments are doing so little in financial and human to mitigate waste management issues
Harnessing the youthful population: There are proactive and innovative young minds that possess the skills and technical know-how of waste management and recycling but do not have the platform or enabling environment to harness their potential and explore. If such group of people are given the right tools and resources, they will contribute largely to driving meaningful change through advocacy and project implementations that can turn our waste into valuable resources.
- Private waste companies should work hand in hand with the government to help reduce the menace of garbage littering.
- Advocacy and awareness campaigns on the harm of burning and disposing of their trash indiscriminately, to sensitize the citizens on the dangers of improper waste disposals.
- Adequate education and enlightenment on the advantages of appropriate storage, collection and recycling of waste.
- Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) should collaborate with the Governments in charting a course and declaring a state of emergency on waste management.
- The waste management sector needs funding for sustainable impacts. International donors and multinational corporations should not only help with funding but oversee the process, to curb any irregularities or misappropriation in the utilization of the allotted funds. They should set-up mechanisms for accountability and feedback in their interventions.
- Data collection should be promoted to keep track of dump sites and monitor progress in compliance and desired change.
- Design training, workshops and programmes to provide young people with the required skills and empower them. These will increase the indices of human capital development – provide jobs and improve economic growth.
- Formulate policies that will address the importance of waste management and impose sanctions to ensure people comply with rules and regulations.
- Government should seek international partnerships to aid in the provision of infrastructure and funding, needed for recycling and other innovative waste management ideas.
- Scavenging: Encourage people to source waste materials and provide rewards systems from the proceeds of the recycled products.
The brouhaha of garbage disposal will cease to exist in developing countries only if they are able to effectively combat the menace of corruption and other problems facing them as regards to waste management. Wastes can also be managed effectively in the future through the inclusion of waste management training in school curriculum. These students will be the ones to enlighten their parents, neighbors, and community as regards the hazards of burning waste, disposing on streets and water bodies. Word of mouth will be more impactful and create more sustainability in sensitizing the citizens of developing countries.
The citizens should also support the efforts of the Government and CSOs by giving their full cooperation in jettisoning old norms and embracing change. Challenging the mentality and mindset of people can be one of the biggest obstacles to any transformation. Hence, the need for concerted efforts in achieving the solutions for a safe, clean and healthy environment.
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