How Digital Technology can help Waste Management/Recycling Industry in Nigeria

Waste management is actions and activities needed to manage waste from its inception to its final disposal including collection, transportation, treatment and disposal of the waste.

These waste management actions, activities and processes are also monitored and regulated. Part of the waste management process involves the 3R’s; Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Reduce involves reducing the amount of waste you produce; Reuse involves thinking of ways you could reuse something; and Recycle enables the materials you throw away to be used again by making them into new products. This ensures that there is less exploitation of virgin material resources, hence reducing pollution and GHG emission; leading to a clean and healthy environment.

In Nigeria, Recycling waste is not a common practice. The environment is littered with refuse which are dumped at random. Most of this waste are not sorted either hence having adverse effects on the environment. But some form of local recycling still exist in the country; from landfill / door to door waste collectors who depend on obsolete methods of collection and transportation of the waste, to traders who are the conduit between the collectors and small scale businesses who sell these materials to recycling facilities abroad.

With Nigeria set to accommodate 250 million inhabitants by 2030 of which 60 percent of them live in urban areas, sustainably managing our cities effectively has become one of the most pressing challenges.

There has been an increase in the use of smart technologies for improved use of resources which enables autonomous devices to activate when needed or compiling data which can be utilized in streamlining services or creating new ones depending on previously undiscovered need.

But the digital revolution is also being witnessed in the waste management industry in other parts of the world. From recycle for reward schemes to digital waste marketplaces, small start-ups and environmental bigwigs alike are devising futuristic ways of waste collection and disposal and Nigeria must adopt these methods and device new ones in order to solve her waste management problem.

Digital technology ideas and startups that could thrive in Nigeria include the use of software to link small-scale waste producers with collectors which enables the collectors identify their vehicles making the most pickups and also letting their clients see the amount of residual waste and recycling created and how frequent they need to utilize the service. The platform can also connect organic waste producers to biogas operators in order to facilitate the recovery of energy from waste.

Other app and platform ideas include pairing people who want to dispose their waste to people willing to get rid of the waste without payment and having digital platforms where users receive incentives and rewards for recycling as seen in apps such as Cyclefi and Tiptapp. Furthermore, food waste apps have been thriving in parts of the world. These apps such as Foodcloud and Too Good To Go work by providing platforms for supermarkets and stores to sell their excess produce at reduced rates, donate unsold food to charities and local communities. Add that to fashion recycle apps like regain which helps divert unwanted clothes from landfills by turning them into discount coupons and recycling electronic banks dotted around the world which help recycle electronic products, then you will agree with me that the waste industry has been truly digitalized and Nigeria stands to gain a lot by joining the bandwagon.

These platforms will need basics such as electricity and internet access to be successful; hence the Nigerian Government should provide the necessary investment and environment for these platforms to thrive. There is also need for the Nigerian Government to launch a circular economy for some of these products in order to put an end to the improper use of these products such as electronic waste and promote the recycling of these usable products while also developing systems for the disposal of toxic and non-usable waste.