As it stands, we all are getting to realise how public health can jeopardise economic stability. It is now importance that we do not make errors on purpose or play negligent and as such, we must take sustainable actions in protecting our environment.
We are Nigerians because we feel a sense of belonging deep down, not because of a treaty our forebears signed and, in a bid, to record tremendous progress in this sector, we must acknowledge how this basic concept of public engagement and trust can be critically linked with a green environment.
Waste managers rely on citizens to consciously reduce the amount of waste they generate, separate or manage specific waste types at home, dispose of waste properly, and pay for waste management services. To motivate this support, local and state governments must gain the trust of citizens.
Cities and countries are engaging the public by providing high-quality services that earn approval and trust and that, in turn, motivate citizens to pay for services, be environmentally aware, and comply with guidelines and regulations. Although changing citizen behaviour can take time, the benefits of a strong relationship with the public are invaluable to a waste management system.
Enlightenment programs are a key aspect of raising awareness for solid waste management. The use of media in reaching citizens cannot be overemphasized. Effective programs distributing content in a variety of languages and through both basic and advanced technology, such as radio, television, and mobile phone applications.
At this point, we should see relevant government agencies focusing on schools to educate young citizens who will eventually become environmentally conscious adults. Incorporating environmental and waste management issues into the formal curriculum and participate in hands-on activities such as onsite recycling, composting, and gardening will be of tremendous help in fixing the buzz. Fruits and vegetables grown in school gardens can be incorporated into the Federal Government’s National Home Grown School Feeding program or given to students to feast on as they so desire.
Encouraging our students and citizens to visit waste facilities such as recycling centres or dumpsites can actually trigger corresponding actions from those who would eventually become adults. My nieces changed their perception of waste handlers when I took them to one of the dumpsites in Oyo State.
Of the states and local communities in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, only Lagos State makes waste management information available to the public. The most common types of information made available include collection schedules and waste drop-off locations, waste collection cost, local statistics on waste generation and composition, and community programs and recycling campaigns (Blue Box Project). Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) as at the time this study was undertaken publishes a report periodically, providing a comprehensive review of solid waste management in the mega city.
Reports on GHG emissions resulting from waste; recycling information specifically for visitors and migrants; and guidance to households on how to request a waste will require a little more of pestering.
Nigerian States typically share information on environmental laws, legislation and policies while they leave out national waste management statistics, and the dire need for infrastructure such as landfills and transfer stations.
Common platforms for information distribution include face-to-face interactions, signage, media, websites, periodic reports, mobile applications, and fliers.
The Federal, State and Local Governments will benefit when citizens provide feedback on waste management services. Citizen feedback allows waste management agencies to measure satisfaction and trust, understand gaps in services, and make critical changes that benefit the population, the environment, and the economy.
Launching a Citizen Report Card to understand citizen satisfaction with waste operations will place private service providers in check and allow waste management agencies play the role of a referee. The results of the survey can be used to evaluate whether private operators are performing well and to make decisions on renewing their contracts. Integrating digital platforms accessible via phone, smartphone, and computer that allows citizens to report issues such as overflowing waste bin or illegal dumpsites will definitely make the work easier. Citizens that provide feedback deserve to be notified once the issue is resolved. These forms of citizen engagement allow for a closed loop between public agencies and the community affected by services.
A variety of channels can be used to collect citizen feedback; they including phone, website, email, social media, surveys, and proper field monitoring. This will give a better idea of the level of services and the implementation of policies, and therefore forms an important basis for practical decisions.