Dr Adama digging into waste again

Who does the best recycling job, the state or ordinary people collecting waste for money? NAI researcher Dr Onyanta Adama is on her way to Nigeria for a second field study about the informal recycling sector in the Nigerian city Kaduna. On her first trip she focused on the various groups of waste-pickers, from children collecting bottles in the street to middlemen buying waste materials from Kaduna’s factories and selling them to private recycling companies. Now she wants to learn more about the environment and health implications of informal waste management.

– On the positive side, by collecting waste the volumes of non-biodegradable waste are decreasing. On the negative, waste pickers sometimes put garbage dumps on fire in order to remove valuable materials such as copper. Health hazards involve inhalation of dangerous fumes and accidents from handling broken glass and metal scrap, says Onyanta Adama.      

Attempts from the Nigerian government to implement a policy on solid waste recycling have so far been unsuccessful. The informal sector however, driven by ordinary people collecting waste to make a living, has proven quite effective.

So how should the government respond to the informal waste management sector?

– The state can play a supportive role by providing the necessary infrastructure, rather than by integrating the private sector into the public sector. If you make the informal recycling part of the government bureaucracy you are likely to lose valuable social capital. The commitment of individual waste-pickers would most likely not be the same, it would become just another job as the workers are no longer in control themselves, says Onyanta Adama.

Mattias Sköld

Read more about Dr. Onyanta Adama's research.

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