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Reducing Food waste to Tackle Climate Change in Nigeria

By Ojugbele Omotunde

Mismanaged plastic waste (MPW) is a key contributing factor to the climate change catastrophe and a growing global concern.

Waste is an unavoidable byproduct of living, but how it is handled and disposed of has a significant influence on both people and the environment.

Regardless of the amount of trash generated, proper management is a wise choice that needs not compromised

Reports say a whopping 2.01 billion metric tonnes of municipal solid garbage is said to be produced each year globally but only 33 percent of this waste is managed in a way that is environmentally sustainable

Of this amount, the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa regions, are reported as places where over half of the waste generated are dumped in open places, especially on the streets.

It is also reported that globally, 41% of this waste are burned openly, with some igniting it in incinerators. This is despite global opposition.

These emissions have a 5,000 times greater climate change impact than CO2. Burning also poses health risks, including respiratory tract infections, and contributes to the buildup of harmful effects on the ozone.

In Nigeria people often use drainage channels for waste disposal. Nigerians also burn waste, releasing greenhouse gases, air pollutants, and toxic compounds, including black carbon.

These emissions have a 5,000 times greater climate change impact than CO2. Burning also poses health risks, including respiratory tract infections, and contributes to the buildup of harmful effects on the ozone.

According to Green Sail, improper waste management pollutes the air and seas in addition to leaving trash all over the place. It further said that Greenhouse gases cover and warm our planet like a duvet.

As per June this year, report by Dataphyte indicated that Nigeria produces 32 million metric tonnes of garbage each year. Plastic garbage makes up 2.5 million metric tonnes of the total, and the pace at which waste is generated is 2.4% every year.

Nigeria also scored 12.7 out of 100 in proper waste management which is significantly lower than average when compared to the results of its Sub-Saharan African neighbors, Equatorial Guinea and the Seychelles, who scored 69.10 and 63.10, respectively, according to the data hub.

The World Bank predicts Nigerians to generate 0.51kg of daily waste, with the total expected to reach 107 million metric tonnes by 2050.

Majority of states in Nigeria struggle with garbage management. Waste is transported from one location to another around the nation.

This is done by transporting waste from locations with high population density, where it is primarily created, to areas that are either sparsely or not yet occupied by people.

This is so as environmental laws are poorly enforced. The NESREA Act of 2007, which repealed the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) Act, provides that the government may impose harsher penalties and more stringent actions on anyone who violate Article 33.

The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (Establishment) Act, 2007, Section 20 also authorizes the government to use suitable measures to bring emissions down to levels that are acceptable, and Section 25(1) gives it the authority to enact regulations that safeguard public health and advance good environmental sanitation.

Except in cases when such discharge is allowed or authorized by any law now in effect in the nation, Section 27 (1) forbids the discharge of any hazardous material in such damaging proportions into the air, and or in its waterways, or at the nearby shorelines. If this provision is broken. Violation of the law carries a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

Regretfully, these hazardous waste disposal practices have persisted unchecked throughout the nation.

The government must ensure that legislations that have been passed to safeguard the environment are strictly enforced.

As part of its deliberate efforts to lessen the effects of climate change, governments at all levels in Nigeria must be willing to invest in proper waste management, given that it is a capital-intensive endeavor.

A genuine cooperative relationship between the public, business, and civil society is also required. Increased and targeted public education is needed to help people realize the negative effects of careless garbage disposal.

Furthermore, it is the duty of all citizens to take the lead in waste management. Nigerians must be prepared to pay fair prices for the waste they produce, and the government must ensure that gabbage is collected on schedule for effective management.

In the same vein, it is proper that the federal government map out waste production, thereby prioritizing locations when putting mitigation measures into practice.

Food waste has been identified as one of the human activities that result in climate change. When food is trashed, it releases methane gas, a propeller for climate change and other environmental problems.

The World Food Programme estimates that about one-third of the food produced globally is lost or wasted due to one reason or the other.

Food wastage, which includes both food loss and food waste, causes huge economic losses as well as severe damage to the world around us.

Wasting food isn’t just a humanitarian or social issue but also an environmental problem.

As emphasised by the World Food Program, the food cycle doesn’t just end at trash cans. Food waste that ends up in landfills and rots produces a large amount of methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than even CO2.

It said the food wasted in landfills is responsible for roughly 8 percent of global emissions and that when households throw away food, they are also wasting the time, resources, and energy that went into creating the food initially.

According to report, excess greenhouse gases warm the earth’s atmosphere by absorbing infrared radiation. These gases include methane, CO2, and chlorofluorocarbons. This process results in global warming and climate change.

Climate activists are therefore of the opinion that reducing food waste can help mitigate climate change in Nigeria.

They are of the view that recycling food waste and reducing the amount of food cooked by households, and as well as good preservative methods can help reduce amount of food waste.

A climate activist and Executive Director of Youth in Agroecology and Restoration Network (YARN), Opeyemi Elujulo reasons that cooking food only enough to fill the mouths per time is the first step in reducing food waste.

“So the first thing is cooking enough. Second, while buffets are generally tasty, patrons frequently take more than they can consume and end up leaving waste behind. The second is that, depending on the tray or pot, people should learn to just take what they can finish.

“People should avoid buying in bulk for perishable goods and shop more frequently. Properly refrigerate and store food to prevent spoilage”, he said.

Additionally, Elujulo suggested repurposing and composting leftovers to create compost fertilizer, which may then be used for backyard gardens.

Similarly, David Ojebola, a representative of the Agbeloba Farmers Multipurpose Cooperative Society in Ibadan, asserted that methane, a byproduct of broken-down food waste, has 25 times the potency of carbon dioxide.

He said it retains solar heat for a period of twelve years. According to him, food waste produces 20% of greenhouse gasses (GHG).

In addition to embracing and building additional food processing industries and storage facilities, Ojebola asked the Nigerian government and people to measure and trace every food in the farm, in transportation, and in the marketplace.

He continued by stressing the importance of educating consumers and producers about waste, while noting that manufacturing companies could consider implementing a food donation program as a way to strengthen their social responsibility.

“Reusing food waste is another way to reduce food waste. Biogas, which is essential in renewable energy to ensure energy security, can be generated from food waste through anaerobic digestion,” he added.

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