Companies are undoubtedly plagued by open-air waste incineration. The World Bank noted that waste generation rates have increased in recent years and are expected to increase significantly in the coming years to reach 2.2 billion tonnes per year by 2025.
Open burning of waste is a process in which unwanted products, by-products and materials are incinerated, usually at low temperatures and in an uncontrolled manner. It is used to reduce waste. This is normal practice in Nigeria even though the world is against it because of its effect on the climate. It is estimated that 41% of the world’s waste is burned in the open.
Many communities in Nigeria are still immersed in the practice and ignore the danger such an act poses to the environment. At the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, UK, open burning of waste was first discussed and countries called for an end to the practice. Over a million premature deaths are recorded each year due to air pollution, waste and open burning are identified as one of the factors contributing to the increase in pollution levels, especially in urban areas.
Burning waste releases greenhouse gases, air pollutants, reactive trace gases, toxic compounds and short-lived climate pollutants, including carbon black. Black carbon emissions are one of the leading causes of illness and premature death and impact climate change up to 5,000 times that of CO2.
“One of the biggest challenges we face when trying to solve this problem is the lack of data and the lack of awareness associated with its impacts on climate and health at all levels,” said Professor Desta Mebratu, United Nations Climate Champion. , from the University of Stellenbosch.
Mebratu added: “Emissions from surface burning of waste are difficult to characterize and are therefore not widely included in nationally determined contributions. Some countries have recently attempted to incorporate them into their revised NDCs with support from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.
Some doctors and scientists have alluded to the discovery of certain carcinogenic ingredients in the burning of waste. Although efforts have been made by various states across the country to curb this practice, the regulations against it appear to be focused on urban areas.
For example, in Lagos, where there is a waste collection system through the public waste management authority and other private companies, the waste is dumped in a landfill located in the Olusosun landfill in the Ketu region. in Lagos and they always pollute the air every time they are burned.
Not so long ago, the Ogun state government warned residents against burning garbage in the state. He noted that dumping rubbish on the road had become a crime, adding that the act could lead to the generation of carbon dioxide.
Commenting on the matter, a professor of medical geography at Bayero University in Kano, Yusuf Adamu, said there were health implications of burning waste near residential areas beyond its impact on the climate and the deterioration of the ozone layer.
He said: “The effect of open burning of waste is that unhealthy gases are released into the atmosphere. The gases pollute the air and over a long period of time they begin to affect the health of people, especially their throats and lungs. It can lead to certain respiratory tract infections. These gases are dangerous for your health, but it is not something that happens in a short period of time. It is an effect of accumulation that we have on the ozone layer.
“The soil is also affected and contaminated and the houses around an area where waste is burned in the open are polluted with heavy materials. The soil will be contaminated. If there is open water around the area, it would be contaminated as well. ”
For his part, a climatologist at Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola, Adamawa State, Professor Adebayo Aderemi, said that burning waste could affect the environment and therefore the health of residents. of the region.
He said: “It releases gases into the atmosphere which would pollute the atmosphere and it has consequences. One of the gases that pollute the air is called nitrogen oxide.
The speaker described nitrogen oxide as a mixture of nitrogen compounds that he said were responsible for global warming.
Aderemi added, “There is also another gas called volatile organic compounds. These are carbon-based compounds that, when reacting with sunlight, will be released into the atmosphere in the form of compounds such as ozone and smog.
He further stated that such activities could produce carbon monoxide which reacts with sunlight and creates harmful substances.
He added: “Carbon monoxide is an important greenhouse protection agent that causes global warming. In addition, we have what is called a particulate solution or particulate matter. These are particles that produce visible smoke and reduce visibility. The particles create an unhealthy atmosphere and also make the house dirty. They can cause serious health problems. They pollute the air and some of them have negative effects on the ozone layer and cause global warming and climate change.
Aderemi explained that beyond the effects of waste combustion and smoke emissions on the climate, they could also have a negative impact on human health, causing cancer and affecting gases and important organs in the body.
Claiming that such particles cause cancer being carcinogenic, he added that carbon monoxide could affect organs and the respiratory system. He said, “They can also affect the kidneys and other vital organs in the body. The gases can cause throat irritation. Ash produced by smoke can be toxic to the body. These are some of the health implications of the uncontrolled burning of solid waste. ”
In addition, a professor of environmental sustainability and environmental education, Kola Olusanya, said it is unfortunate that Nigeria continues to burn garbage due to the delay of other third world countries.
He said: “We have China, India and Brazil and these countries have already found solutions to open waste burning. Burning waste in the open is not only dangerous for the climate itself; it is much more dangerous for the ozone layer. Landfills, naturally without igniting them, contain enough chemicals that can ignite and when this type of smoke mixes with chemicals, the smoke you get is not the same as that from wood of heating. These are toxic fumes because they contain chemicals. The effects will last longer beyond regular smoke.
“This means that if we are to take into account climate change, the depletion of the ozone layer and also play our role like other countries as was concluded at the recent climate change conference in Glasgow, Nigeria must adopt sound waste management techniques. ”
Olusanya said the country should engage in sorting waste to throw only those worthy of the landfill.
He added: “In countries where waste sorting is common, the idea of treating waste is a way of controlling what pollutes the environment. We have a situation where waste like food is turned into compost. Other waste was separated and recycled and sold to factories to reproduce plastic products. By the time this has been done, you will find that the landfill is reduced.
“We also have electronic waste which is a major challenge we are currently facing in Nigeria due to the second hand market for goods imported from overseas. After use, they end up being part of our waste and go to the landfill and they produce a heavy toxic chemical smoke which will be released into the environment.
The professor said that beyond affecting the climate and the ozone layer, it was dangerous for human health.
He added: “If we engage in waste reduction, waste separation, it would reduce what goes into the landfill and what goes into the landfill will be what is not hazardous because we would have removed what is going to the landfill. is dangerous from there. And they would have been recycled; we can’t just start talking about recycling because it already exists. We need to get involved more seriously.
“If you see the waste managers in Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja and other places, you will notice that the collected waste is collected and disposed of together. In other climates, from the point of collection, the waste is sent to sorting centers, where it is separated and only those that are no longer useful would be thrown away. ”
It is high time the country took its waste management seriously, he said, and the government also needs strong policies to take effect in homes.
Olusanya said: “For example, at home, get various garbage bags. You don’t put garbage in the same garbage bag that you put in the tissues. There should be another one for plastic bottles, water bags and the like. By the time we do this, we will find out that the waste that will arrive at the landfill will be insignificant. ”
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