The Problem Of Solid Waste Management In Nigerian Cities (A Case Of Owerri Municipal Area Council)

Project and Seminar Material for Public Health

The Problem Of Solid Waste Management In Nigerian Cities (A Case Of Owerri Municipal Area Council)


This study was carried out to examine the problem of solid waste management in Owerri Municipal Area Council. To achieve this objective, two research hypotheses were formulated to guide this study. The primary data were collected with the help of a well-structured questionnaire of two sections administered to the respondents in Owerri Municipal Area Council. The collected data were analyzed with tables and descriptive statistics while Chi-Square statistical method was used in testing the research hypotheses. All data were coded using SPSS software. The study reveals that solid waste management has a significant effect on the environment of Owerri Municipal Area Council and there is a significant relationship between the effects of solid waste management and the factors responsible for the high rate of waste generation in Owerri Municipal Area Council. The study concluded with some recommendations that sensitization in Owerri should be held at least twice a month to reduced the dangers of poor solid waste management.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Solid waste management (SWM) in many low- and middle–income countries is sometimes driven by the informal sector. Unfortunately, contributions of the sector to SWM are not acknowledged in many developing countries. This situation often arises from inadequate awareness and lack of advocacy for these development contributions. This article reports on the impact of a study conducted by final year geography undergraduates on the informal waste management sector in Nsukka urban area, Nigeria. The purposes of this exercise were to stimulate development intervention on behalf of the sector to improve perceptions, attitudes and performance; to impart a range of development research skills, and to expose the students to the business opportunities provided by SWM and recycling. Informal waste sector workers and government officials responsible for SWM were interviewed, and some commercial data on recycling operations were collected. Findings of this study indicate that such advocacy initiatives were effective in increasing students’ awareness of opportunities and interest in working in the informal waste sector to promote better SWM and development in Nigeria. Lessons from this university case study are also drawn for other developing countries struggling to achieve the poverty reduction and job creation Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“These contributions are also evident in several Nigerian cities (see for example, Adeyemi et al. 2001; Agunwamba 2003; Nzeadibe and Eziuzor 2006; Afon 2007; Imam et al. 2008; Nzeadibe and Iwuoha 2008), although such contributions have tended to be approached from varying viewpoints among the cities. On the other hand, the need to improve the governance of solid waste in Nigeria has been well recognised (see for example, Agunwamba 1998; Federal Ministry of Environment 2000; Ayotamuno and Gobo 2004; Adama 2007; Imam et al. 2008; Nzeadibe et al. 2010). Regrettably, little thought has been given in earlier investigations to advocacy 1 as a strategy for improving the capacity of both the formal and informal waste sectors to deliver better solid waste and resource management (Twebaze 2008; Nzeadibe 2009a)”.

Environmental degradation and biodiversity depletion are crucial and disturbing topics among environmentalist today (David, 2014). Probing into the root cause of this problem and the consequences of our actions is the first step towards reducing the rate of environmental degradation and biodiversity depletion. Humanity has always produced waste that are concluded not only the discarded bones of animals slaughter for food but the momentous increase in waste that characterized our society dates from the industrial revolution (Raymond, 2013). Waste is more easily recognized than defined. Waste is an issue that affects us all. Disposing of waste has huge environmental impacts and can cause serious problem if not properly managed. Waste therefore needs to be disposed off in ways which will minimize its negative impacts. Gourlay (2012) defined waste as any residue from a process of production, transformation or uses any substance, material, products or generally any movable object that has been discarded. Something can become waste when it is no longer useful to the owner or it is used and failed to fulfill it’s purpose (Gourlay, 2012). Solid waste according to Miller (2008) is any useless, unwanted or discarded material that is not liquid or gas.

The Longman dictionary of contemporary English defined waste as unnecessary materials, in a house or environment not fit for use. The oxford advanced learners dictionary defines waste as worthless material, rubbish from kitchen, garden or factory, etc that are regularly disposed off. Waste has also been defined by Okocha (2010) as any unwanted material or substances that are harmful to man and his environment which are left or discarded after use. Also included are-by-product lines or materials required by law to dispose off. As a result of the increase in urban development in Nigeria, the country has experienced high growth rate, in terms of increase in population in urban areas and expansion in its major cities. This increasing population has led to continuous increase in human activities which has led to the increase in the amount of waste generated and deposited in the environment (Baird, 2010). These wastes include: food remnants, plastics, polytene, Carbon dioxide, car fumes, industrial waste etc. The increasing generation of waste coupled with the inabilities of the public sectors to provide a suitable means of proper disposal has created an unhealthy situation in which waste are dumped indiscriminately without thoughts to its effect on man and the environment (Vidal, 2010).

According to Janice (2017), the continued increase in population and the consequent increase in waste generation without a corresponding increasing proper waste disposal facilities, has led to a situation in which the waste disposal facilities available can no longer cater for the increasing population, spaces provide for disposal are limited and areas designated for disposal can no longer accommodate these waste most towns and cities have very poor facilities for waste management and in some case only few disposal facilities are available for people to dispose off waste (Onorkarhoraye, 1994). This shows that there has been a poor attitude towards proper waste management both on the part of the government and the people.

Developing countries such as Nigeria has been epitomized by rampaging natural forces, man’s insatiable demand for ever dwindling resources and worsened by an increasing but uncontrolled surge in population growth especially in Nigerian cities (Raymond, 2013). The world may indeed be a beautiful planet, but it is in ever constant danger of destruction and despoliation by nature and man. An unfortunate paradox can however be recognized here, in that while the developed countries of the world are able to effectively combat the destructive physical impacts of their immediate environment due to their access to technology and resources, the developing countries are almost totally at the mercy of nature with very low institutional capacity to respond to environmental threats (Omofonmwan and Osa-Edoh, 2008). Vast lands are lost annually to sea incursion, gully erosion and desertification in developing countries, problems which are being effectively managed in most developed countries (John, 2013).

Infact, in actual sense, waste is generated everyday at a very high level, ranging from fumes generated from cars, generators, power plants and even to industrial waste. This has led to environmental and atmospheric pollution and degradation. This has also led to a situation in which more waste that can be evaluated is created. Waste management could be referred to as the collection, transfer and recycling of waste (Vidal, 2010). The importance of proper waste disposal cannot be over emphasized. Proper waste disposal prevents health problems that improper waste management poses to the environment. Sachets and sachets from uncollected and decomposed garbage can contaminate underground water (UNCHS, 2008). And these have enormous health complications in the urban areas. Olu (2010), observed that when waste are not properly controlled, it causes environmental problems such as blocking of channels of urban streams and rivers major traffic road paths, and at the same time causing health problems like making dysentery etc. it is against this background that this study is conducted to investigate the effects of solid waste management in Abraka, Ethiope East L.G.A of Delta State.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Environmental issues such as indiscriminate dumping of solid waste and improper waste management will continue to cause health problems and environmental degradation (Janice, 2017). It will continue dominate our discussions and consciousness as it is now clear that the physical, chemical as well as the biological integrity of our planet is being compromised daily (Sada and Odemerho, 1988). The destructive processes are not only continuous but are increasing both in quantum and in rate. While some of the impacts such as loss of biodiversity might be gradual, there are hosts of communities around the world today that are being consumed by indiscriminate waste dump etc., with loss of aquatic lives and billions of dollars worth of properties being lost due to environmental degradation (Kaka, et al, 2010).

Over the years, developing countries such as Nigeria has been rampaged with serious environmental problems such as indiscriminate waste disposal, pollution, flooding, degradation, spillage, among others. Environmental problems have been topical issues in recent time which needs urgent attention. Vidal (2010) noted that the manifestation of these impacts includes; urbanization, deforestation, desertification, overpopulation and all kinds of pollution. These impacts have both negative and positive effects on the natural environment. The unwise use of the natural environment due to ignorance, poverty, overpopulation and greed amongst others has led to the degradation of the environment. The charges (degradation) occur as most Nigerian cities attempt to adjust their seemingly endless wants and desires for food, shelter, recreation, infrastructural facilities, and so on to the land and other resources available to them (NEST, 2012). As observed by Raymond (2013), these land use activities contribute to the overall development of the country but they equally produce negative impact on the environment. These negative impacts are referred to as environmental degradation which implies “abuse of the environment” due to improper resources management and waste disposal (Baird, 2010).

Solid waste management has emerged as a major environmental threat for cities in developing countries worldwide (Van de Klundert, et al., 2013). In a survey released by UNDP in 1997, 151 mayors from around the world ranked insufficient solid waste disposal as their second most urgent urban challenges surpassed only by unemployment and followed by urban poverty. Solid waste management has gained notoriety in Nigeria today because of its visibility and the embarrassment it has constituted to the image of the industrialized and developing. Only few state capitals have been able to put in place fairly sustainable urban waste management programmes. It is therefore a common site to find mountains of waste scattered all over our cities for days or even weeks with no apparent effort displayed at getting rid of them, even with the attendant risk of air and ground-water pollution (David, 2014).

The problem of the deposal of savage and refuse is quite serious because of the rapid rate of generation of non-biodegradable materials such as plastics (Molles, 2005). Environmental conditions in cities have gradually deteriorated due to the rapid growth of the cities and the attendance inability of social services and infrastructures to keep pace with the rate of growth. Inadequate storm drains, dumping of refuse in drainage lines and construction of houses close to and even on the natural water channels have been shown to be responsible in that order for the increasing cases of flood in the urban centers. Environment problems such as indiscriminate waste disposal is associated with the increasing growth of urban slums including overcrowding in squalid housing conditions, poor quality or unavailability of basic infrastructures and social services, such as water and sewage facilities and even lack of access routes (NEST, 2012).

Environmental degradation mostly caused by improper waste disposal has destroyed the natural landscape of most developing countries. It is observed that improper waste disposal has negative impact on the natural quality of the environment (NEST, 2012).

Environmental pollution can be categorized into three groups. These are air or atmospheric pollution, aquatic or water pollution and land or surface area pollution. The World Health Organization (WHO) (2010) defined air pollution as “limited to situation in which the outer ambient atmosphere contains materials in concentrations which are harmful to man and his environment”. According to Janice (2017), man’s activities on the earth surface have largely degraded the quality of the lower atmosphere. The growth and development of industries and urbanization has contributed greatly to the excess carbon monoxide produced by combustion and other human activities. Carbon monoxide reacts with the blood vessel and prevents it from taking up oxygen and the people are suffocated (Baird, 2010).

In Nigeria, several rural towns that had in the past enjoy fresh and dry air are currently experiencing air pollution problems due to improper waste disposal (Obajimi, 2008). This is due to industrialization process and expansion in human activities. Aquatic or water pollution is the discharge of unwanted biological, chemical and physical materials into water bodies from man’s environment. The pollutants are usually chemical, physical and biological substances that affect the natural condition of water. This incidence is responsible for the wide spread water contamination in most industrialized and developing countries (Nwilo and Olusegun, 2017).

It has been discovered that solid waste has equally flooded the water ways in urban centres. Land surface pollution is the occurrence of unwanted materials or waste on land. The commonest pollutant on land is the waste products that are often scattered on land area in the cities. According to Onwioduokit (2008), most environmental problems are due to the production or consumption of goods whose waste products translates easily into pollutant. Sada (1981) and Ayeni (2008) believed that the emergence of urbanization is responsible for the rapid accumulation of solid waste. Generally, it would appear that the growth of urbanization and industrial development coupled with improper wastes management control have added a great dimension to land area pollution in industrialized and developing countries. Generally, there are other environmental problems resulting from the humanization of the natural environment, only some of the important impacts are discussed (Ogbobi, 2010).

Other problems like shortage of manpower, finance, attitude of people towards waste disposal, lack of disposal sites or location etc. have contributed to the continues existence of uncontrolled or improper disposal of waste in the environment (Janice, 2017).

1.3 Aim and Objectives

The aim of this study is to examine the problem of solid waste management in Nigeria cities using Owerri Municipal Area Council, with the view to suggest possible positive solutions to the problems. However, the specific objectives includes to:

  1. Identify refuse dump sites in Owerri Municipal Area Council;
  2. Determine the various types of waste generated in Owerri Municipal Area Council;
  3. Examine the factors responsible for the high rate of waste generation in Owerri Municipal Area Council;
  4. Examine the effects of solid waste management in Owerri Municipal Area Council;
  5. Identify the various methods of waste disposal and management in Owerri Municipal Area Council;
  6. Suggest possible solutions to the problems of improper waste disposal and employ suitable methods of disposing wastes in Owerri Municipal Area Council.

1.4 Hypotheses

The following null hypothesis will be tested in this study;

  1. H0: Solid waste management has no significant effect on the environment of Owerri Municipal Area Council.
  2. There is no significant relationship between the effects of solid waste management and the factors responsible for the high rate of waste generation in Owerri Municipal Area Council.

1.5 Significance of the Study

This study is very necessary, as the effects of solid waste management on the natural are enormous. Although, there are available literatures on the topic, not much is known by a vast number of the population about the adverse consequence of accumulated waste in the environment. The presence of improper waste disposal in Owerri Municipal Area poses a very great threat, not only to the environment, but also to the residents in Owerri Municipal Area Council.

The recommendation that will be made from this study will help to preserve and improve the natural quality of the environment, taking into account the circumstances and particular requirements of developing countries and any costs which may emanate from their incorporating environmental safeguards into their development planning and the need for making available to them, upon their request, additional international technical and financial assistance for this purpose. It will enlighten the general public on the dangers of degrading the environment through indiscriminate waste disposal. It will therefore suggest control measures and mitigation techniques to conserve and preserve then natural environment against degradation (solid waste management).

It is not unusual to find heaps of refuse along major roads, streets, markets places, moats, etc. In Owerri, the presence of this indisposed waste has greatly defaced the environment and also poses a great threat to human life.

This study highlights the dangers of indiscriminate dumping of waste; benefits of proper waste management etc. It will also give useful information on the important and need for proper waste disposal in Owerri with respect to health and the environment. In conclusion, the study is to aid in upgrading available information on waste disposal and management in Owerri Municipal Area Council.

1.6 Study Area

1.6.1 Location and Size

Owerri Municipal is a Local Government Area in Imo State, Nigeria. Its headquarters is in the city of Owerri. It has an area of 58 km² and a population of 127,213 according to the 2006 census. The postal code of the area is 460. Owerri city sits at the intersection of roads from Port Harcourt, Onitsha, Aba, Orlu, Okigwe and Umuahia. It is also the trade center for palm products, corn [maize], yams and cassava [manioc]. Eke Ukwu Owere market is the main market in Owerri Municipal.

Before the advent of the British in 1901-2, Owere town (anglicized Owerri) was and still is today made up of five villages namely – Umuororonjo, Amawom, Umuonyeche, Umuodu and Umuoyima (collectively known as Owerri Nchi Ise). Historically, the indigenes of Owerri trace their ancestry to a man called Ekwem Arugo. With British influence and colonization in the early 1900s Owerri town was the headquarters for Owerri Division and later old Owerri Province. Also, when Imo State was created on the 3rd of February 1976, Owerri city was chosen as its capital. On the 15th of December 1996 Owerri city attained municipal status.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Introduction

This chapter presents summary, conclusion and recommendations for further studies.

5.2 Summary

This study was carried out to examine the problem of solid waste management in Owerri Municipal Area Council. To achieve this objective, two research hypotheses were formulated to guide this study. A well-structured questionnaire was used as the main instrument to gather data from 120 respondents in Owerri Municipal Area Council. Out of this number, 90 (75%) copies of questionnaire were appropriately completed and returned for data analysis.

The data collected from the respondents were analyzed using tables and simple percentage while Chi-square statistical tool was employed for testing the research hypotheses. All data were coded using SPSS statistical package. The findings revealed that:

  1. Solid waste management has a significant effect on the environment of Owerri Municipal Area Council.
  2. There is a significant relationship between the effects of solid waste management and the factors responsible for the high rate of waste generation in Owerri Municipal Area Council.

5.3 Conclusion

Based on the findings of this study, it is concluded that there is a need for behavioral and attitudinal change in achieving solid waste reduction, reuse and recycling for sustainable environmental management. Waste management requires the concern of government, businessmen, politicians, religious organizations, civil servants, men, women, literate,’ illiterate, the rich, the poor and a host of other tangible and intangible groups. All these must be brought together by government policy and legislation to work together like welfare officers to attack vigorously the waste problems. Thus, the quest for an effective solid waste management policy leads to a search for a comprehensive, coordinated and governmental planning which will combine with adequate legislation, adequate fiscal provision, public involvement and awareness to bring about the expected improvement in the quality of our urban scape (Omuta, 1988). This is the only way to ensure sustainable cities in Nigeria.

5.4 Recommendations

Based on the findings of this study, the researcher made the following recommendations/suggestions as follows:

  1. Sensitization in Owerri should be held at least twice a month to reduced the dangers of poor solid waste management.
  2. Solid Waste Management in Nigeria should become the concern of everybody both the landlords, tenants, school children, traders, business people, civil servants, the privileged, the politicians etc. One single governmental agency cannot alone effectively cope with the volume of solid waste generated in Nigerian settlements.
  3. Agencies charged with the responsibility of solid waste management must be sufficiently supported by way of adequate funding and circulatory infrastructural improvements to enable the agency perform successfully.
  4. The Ministries of Environment and their agencies, local authorities should strengthen their training programme for the managerial staff generally and inspectorate/monitoring staff particularly, taking them to task to their job. This would enhance effective monitoring and control of waste from collection to disposal.
  5. Efforts should be geared towards the use of scientific techniques to develop appropriate technologies for dealing with solid waste management such as encouraging the emergences and development of industrial ecology where wastes from one activity are input of raw materials for another activity.
  6. The public should be educated by the waste management authority on solid waste and its related issues through the radio, television, newspapers, and even in schools on proper ways of handling solid waste and keeping the surrounding clean.
  7. People should develop proper attitudes and perceptions towards waste handling through formal and informal education.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is solid waste management a major environmental challenge in Nigeria?

Solid waste management is a major environmental challenge in most Nigerian cities. Waste generation rate in Nigeria is estimated at 0.65-0.95 kg/capita/day which gives an average of 42 million tonnes of wastes generated annually.

Is waste management in Nigerian cities monopolized by state governments?

The findings revealed that waste management in Nigerian cities is largely monopolized by the agencies of state governments (sub-national governments) which have limited capacity to tackle the problems of solid waste management in their cities. In addition, 52 % of wastes generated are organic wastes which creates additional disposal problems.

How much solid waste is generated in Sub-Saharan Africa annually?

This is more than half of 62 million tonnes of waste generated in sub-Sahara Africa annually and where and how to channel these wastes becomes a huge problem for the nation. This study examines the problems and prospects of solid waste management in some selected Nigerian cities using the mixed method of data collection.

How much waste does Nigeria produce in a day?

In Nigeria, waste generation was estimated to be 42 million tonnes per year, at a daily rate of 0.65-0.95 kg/capita/ day [26], and this is expected to increase due to increasing standard of living and increased income.

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