Solid wastes are usually classified as:
1.) Municipal – domestic waste, construction and demolition debris, sanitation residue, and waste from streets, etc typically generated from residential and commercial complexes,
2.) Hazardous – dye, old batteries, old medicines and medicine bottles, mercury, cyanide, chemicals like disinfectants and pesticides, etc typically generated from local industries and hospitals, or
3.) Infectious – sharps, soiled waste, disposables, anatomical waste, cultures, discarded medicines, disposable syringes, swabs, bandages, body fluids, human excreta, etc typically generated from hospitals, the production or testing of biologicals or in research activities in the bio-medical fields).
When not properly discarded, collected, or disposed of, these wastes lead to air and soil contamination, and blockage of drainage networks, groundwater supplies or water bodies.
Consequently, these blocked drains cause flood risks during rainy seasons, and generate stagnant water which breeds disease-causing vectors and promotes infection transmission. Some of these vector-borne infections include dengue, malaria and lassa fever, caused by houseflies, mosquitoes and rats which feed on organic waste. Other health consequences of improper waste management include; Hepatitis C from poorly managed medical waste and sharp medical objects, cholera from water sources contaminated by solid wastes, birth defects resulting from poorly managed radioactive substances, higher risks of cancers from genotoxic substances, etc.
Nigeria is reported to be one of the largest producers of solid waste in Africa, with an estimated rate of solid waste generation at 0.65-0.95 kg/capita/day, an annual average of 42 million tons of solid waste, constituting more than half the 62 million tonnes of waste generated in sub-Saharan Africa annually. Proper management of this waste however remains a major environmental challenge for the country with only 20-30% of its solid waste reported as properly collected and disposed of, despite its host of policies and regulations.
The problems of solid waste management range from poor collection and disposal methods; lack or poor waste management database; non-compliance to laws and lack of awareness on dangers of poor sanitary habits; to insufficient budgetary provisions, and can be generalizable across many developing countries due to rapid population growth, uncontrolled urbanization leading to overcrowding and unhygienic living conditions, increasing use of disposable materials, etc. They are however not without their country-specific attendant health consequences, especially as have been recorded in Nigeria in the most recent times.
For instance, in the first 19 weeks of the year 2020 alone, 1000 people were infected with lassa fever with 192 recorded deaths; and 5 of the 10 leading causes of death – lower respiratory infections, neonatal disorders, malaria, diarrheal disease, and tuberculosis – have also been linked to poor solid waste management, just to mention a few. Global and national health authorities have posited that these health concerns will continue to rise and become increasingly difficult to control if proper solid waste management is not prioritized and given the urgent attention it requires.
Although Nigeria has attempted to introduce strategies for proper solid waste management – like the set-up of the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) which is a model for other states in the country, the engagement of the private sector to reduce the burden of waste collection and disposal across several states, the establishment of more composting and recycling plants in Ekiti and Kano states, the launch of its waste-to-wealth initiative focused on managing and processing used materials to create reusable products, and the cash incentive/reward program introduced by some manufacturing companies to reward individuals who return empty/used plastic containers – a concerted effort is required to revive Nigeria’s regulatory framework and attract private sectors to invest in waste collection, recycling and reusing; monitor and enforce sanitation laws; regulate the activities of franchises on good and sustainable sanitation practices; sensitize the general public on the need for proper disposal of solid waste; and train sanitation or waste management officials on professionalism, service delivery.
As it revamps its solid waste management strategy, Nigeria could very well learn from strategies that have succeeded in other countries. Like the:
- Zero-waste strategy in Singapore, Japan, and Australia
- Privatization of waste management in Accra, Ghana
- More efficient collection services in Cairo, Egypt, and Nepal
- Turning wastes to valuables in Denmark and Malaysia
 Hoornweg D and Bhada-Tata P (2012). Urban development series, knowledge papers. Washington: World Bank. What a waste: A global review of solid waste management
 Chinedu.I, Christian.E, Anijiofor.S.C, Daud.N.N; Solid Waste Management in Nigeria: Problems, Prospects, and Policies. Journal of Solid Waste Technology and Management. 44(2):163-172 · November 2018
 Cabral JP. Water microbiology. Bacterial pathogens and water. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2010;7(10):3657–703
Reviewed by Folake Oni