Don't Waste Your Waste

By Idowu Adeyemi
The Olushosun Landfill in Lagos
The Olushosun Landfill in Lagos

Before you finish reading this article, around 50,000 tons of solid waste- an amount equivalent to the weight of 15,000 lorries- would have been dumped into landfills across the world. Among the largest global dumpsites are the Great Pacific Garbage Patch landfill (about the size of Texas), the Bordo Poniente landfill, the Fresh Kills landfill and the Olushosun landfill. Yes! The Olushosun landfill in Lagos is the fourth largest worldwide as it generates almost 10,000 tons of waste per day. However, only 13% of the recyclables are salvaged from the landfills at present; and other non-recyclables are often left to rot despite the dreadful consequences. Organic wastes generate enormous amount of landfill gas- a global warming gas which is 21 folds more potent than carbon dioxide. Moreover, landfills take up a lot of land space, harbor pests and disease causing agents, and pollute ground water, air and soil. Yet these same wastes can produce electricity, yield economic benefits, provide relief to our collective lungs, and save the planet. The difference? Our attitude!

Solid wastes have long been established as an eco-friendly electricity generation source. This is particularly important in Nigeria as 3-4GW is currently being generated annually, a tenth of South Africa's output, for a population triple the size of South Africa. Although there are projects that focus on converting solid waste to electricity, only few of them have been embarked on in Nigeria. Examples of the waste-to-energy projects are the Ikoyi market plant that generates biogas for powering a 2kVA generator and the proposed 25MW Olushosun landfill power plant which is based on generating energy from rotten waste through anaerobic digestion. In addition to the electricity generation capability of solid wastes, they can provide huge energy and economic savings through re-use and recycling. For instance, recycling a glass bottle can save energy equivalent to the amount required to run a 100W light bulb for four hours and recycling a plastic bottle can conserve enough energy to light a 60W bulb for up to six hours. Moreover, recycling an aluminum can requires 5% of the energy for producing a new can, saving an amount of energy for watching TV for three hours. Recycling a ton of paper saves 17 trees, 7000 gallons of water, 2 barrels of oil and 4100kWh- enough to power the average American home for six months. And as expected, Nigerian youths and government have contributed their quota in recycling solid wastes. For example, Wecyclers, a young recycling company, utilizes bicycles to collect recyclables from over 5000 households in the densely populated poor areas of Lagos that are neglected by waste disposal lorries, and there exist a plastic recycling plant at Olushosun for conversion of water sachet to garbage bags. However, these contributions are quite small considering the quantity of wastes generated in Nigeria. Solid wastes should be seen and treated as valuable resources. A resource which can provide our homes with electricity, relieve our lungs of noxious pollutants, and yield energy and economic savings. Don't waste your valuable resources, don't waste your waste.

----- Idowu Adeyemi, Nigeria Future Energy Group (NiFEG), Masdar Institute, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates,

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