The term waste management, in all its ramifications encompasses all steps taken in controlling the production, storage, collection, transportation, processing and disposal or utilization of wastes, in a sanitary manner.
Practically, there are just two methods- those that are environmentally friendly e.g sanitary or engineered landfill and composting, and those that are not, including incineration, stream dumping and open burning. Other existing methods include: petrification, bailing, land burial and pyrolysis, just to mention a few. Also of all the listed methods above only the sanitary landfill, stream dumping and land burial are permanent waste disposal systems while the others are just waste treatment i.e. meant to reduce the waste volume.
In Nigeria, especially in major urban centres, solid waste management is a critical problem. In fact, Nigerian Government has taken different steps in the past to combat the problem without success. You don’t need to look far before you see mountain of refuse in most of urban centres. Earlier on, the step taken was based on waste disposal on some designated landfills (that were not sanitary because they were not constructed with underlain (LDPE) to prevent leachate problem). This system i.e. one-fits-all does not work again because of increase in population and urbanization that affect the land use pattern. Then, when and where the municipal government cannot cope with waste collection and disposal successfully, people resolve into waste dumping into storm water, during the rainfall, open dumping and stream dumping. Also, solid wastes generated in the country are characterized by a high percentage (60-80%) of organic materials. This gives the wastes high density and makes them very attractive to flies, cockroaches, rats and other vermin..
Based on observation, waste management problem in most of Nigerian communities is multidimensional in nature. It is associated with lack of community participation in solid waste management. Most of policies concern this issue are made without considering the community people who are the waste generators. For instance, in a study conducted at Orita- Aperin communities in the year 2004 by the author, it was found out that attitudes and belief of community people affected their waste management practices.
Also, in Nigerian context, waste disposal is normally seen by the municipal government as a venture without any financial gain. That is, the issues of environmental protection and healthful living are not very important to some health planners. In addition to this, the question of whose responsibility is to take care of waste generated in a community has not been clearly answered. Unless in some civilized areas, many people do not realized that they are liable to the disposal of wastes generated by them as they dump them by the road side for government workers to pick up!
The question remains where to start best. First and fore most, the state Government and some Non-Governmental Organizations that deal with environment should take up continuing education and awareness campaign in the communities, concerning proper solid waste management. This should be followed by stringent sanction and heavy penalty for the deviants and offenders. The current method of waste collection and disposal by the Government should be immediately reversed to the new option been campaigned for in the recent time. This is waste- to -wealth or thrash – to – treasure through recycling and community participation. This new concept is popularly known as Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM).