Fourth Industrial Revolution: Turning Waste to Wealth for The African Nations – By Richard Odusanya

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A group of Waste for Wealth Initiative
A group of Waste for Wealth Initiative
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The first law of thermodynamics, also known as the Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. … This means that energy cannot be created or destroyed.

Nigeria generates an estimated 32 million tons (MT) of solid waste per annum, of which only about 9 MT are recovered. The remaining 23MT end up in landfills, underground sewage, and drainage systems. This in turn causes all forms of expensive environmental challenges especially erosions, destruction of properties, loss of human lives, livestock and land.

Solid Waste in Lagos
Solid Waste collection and dumping in Lagos

Many years ago, our ancestors managed their household and agricultural waste sustainably by recycling them because they were environmentally friendly. They wrapped foods with leaves, wrote on wooden slates and even used iron or clay pots and wooden cutleries etc. They also practised composting. This form of lifestyle did not accumulate waste and generated zero hazardous waste to the environment. Pollution was minimized while the vegetables, fruits and food were eaten fresh without any dangerous chemicals being added to endanger lives.

However, because of the population increase, the “modern” lifestyle, tends to ease life but encourages the use of many toxic chemicals, food packaging and other items which generate enormous and hazardous waste which are not environmentally friendly. Items like plastics, papers, electric cables and appliances, aluminium cans etc have become common in use, and therefore make a large proportion of both municipal wastes, household wastes and even industrial wastes.

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Because our government does not have the foresight to see waste as a valuable resource when recycled, the government via its agencies do not encourage citizens to practice the right waste disposal habits. Little or no budget is allocated to municipal waste management works and private agencies. They are rather used by the government to recover funds from citizens.

Waste collection and recycling - workers cleaning waste bottles for recycling purposes
Waste collection and recycling – workers cleaning waste bottles for recycling purposes

The populace on their own path are reluctant to change their consumption and wasteful lifestyles, coupled with inappropriate waste handling, like dumping waste into drainages and dropping of plastic sachets on the roadside, etc. Creative thinking is at work when one considers the bridges they build, road construction, railways and so on.

If this unpleasant habit continues with the growth in population, then we are doomed to destroy not only our environment but as well our natural vegetation. This will in turn cause more pollutions and various health hazards, diseases. Therefore, the only option is to a change of lifestyle and wake up call to the government and its responsible environmental agencies.

It is interesting to note that China, with its vast population, has found a way by providing food for its growing population by using both orthodox and scientific means to survive. This has created an avenue for them to bring in a new form of neo-colonization into Africa, and for this reason, creativity has been ignored for no apparent reason.

In European countries like Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, waste is seen as a resource and a large chunk of the budget is allocated to waste management. Every waste is recycled including drainage and sewage water. There are for instance cash incentives when recyclable plastics, beverage cans and bottles are returned at the grocery store or collection centres.

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A country can benefit economically by encouraging citizens to recycle both household and industrial waste. Countries like Sweden and Denmark even buy certain sorted wastes from other countries, these are used to generate central heating, electricity and to serve other energy needs.

The EU, in a way to tackle the global environmental pollution problem, has invested into a circular economy project. This is because they understand the gains this brings to the economy, the health of the citizens by a clean environment, amongst other benefits.

A group of Waste for Wealth Initiative
A group of Waste for Wealth Initiative

Nigeria being the largest economy in Africa and a quarter of the continent’s population can tap into waste recycling machinery and invest in this high profiting resource recovery revolution. Nigerian businessmen and women can extend their tentacles to neighbouring West African countries by taking control of this vast and untapped economy that is waiting to be utilized.

With the vast quantities of waste at our backyard, our lifestyles would get a boost and throw poverty out of the window. We need to put on our thinking caps and think, initiate plans, and subject ourselves to the challenges of our time without been told because a hungry man is an angry man bearing in mind that it is morally wrong to live by the waterside and still be thirsty.


Richard Odusanya
Richard Odusanya

Richard Odusanya is the convener of AFRICA COVENANT RESCUE INITIATIVE ACRI

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