Waste Disposal What are the Problems in Developing Countries? —

S. OLA. DANIEL, F.R.S.H., M.B., CH.B.(GLAS.), F.M.C.P.H.(NIG.), F.W.A.C.P., Dip. Epid.

(U.S.A.), M.F.C.M. (U.K.), D.P.H.(GLAS.), Senior Lecturer/Consultant Physician, Department of Community Health, College of Medicine, &


University of Lagos THERE IS


serious for health of the solid waste-

increasing concern about the

implications management problem highly



facing developing as con-

industrialized countries. This

as more

reached a remarkable dimension in countries because of the poorly organized or non-existent solid waste-management. In this paper, solid waste is defined as discarded solids arising from animals or human life and activities in addition to naturally occurring solids such as leaves. In most of the developing countries the rate at which household refuse is being generated outstrips the cleansing rate and unaesthetic over flowing on-site accumulation of refuse is therefore ubiquitous. The amount and nature of household refuse varies greatly from one country to another and between urban and cern



that Lagos is fast becoming one of the dirtiest capitals in the world (Williams, 1971) through the irregular collection of the solid waste which now constitutes a clear threat to public health of the city in the propagation of flies, rodents and other vectors of diseases.






to a customs.




It appears that an appreciably large quantity of refuse is created in the tropics. In Lagos, 306,422.9 and 252,532.3 tons of refuse were dumped for 1972 and 1973 respectively. Lagos, playing a triparte role of former capital of Lagos State, the capital and the seaport of Nigeria, differs from other large and medium-sized towns in its creation of refuse, and characteristic refuse collection problem. It is alleged that the Lagos Municipal Refuse Collecting Service does not cover the entire municipal area, and individuals have been obliged to find makeshift solutions; rubbish is burned in yards or dumped on waste ground (or ’Itiku’), in roadways, and drainage systems thereby aggravating the already unhealthy environment of the city (Medical Officer of Health’s Report, 1973) despite several Keep-LagosClean campaigns launched in the past; the last one was in April, 1976. The sporadic and temporary measures of getting rid of solid wastes in Lagos have left no lasting impression on the cleanliness of the city. Is there any fault in the collecting system? Is the arm of the Local Government - City Engineer’s Department charged with the responsibility unable to cope with the task? A special committee of the Lagos City Council was therefore set up in 1973 to find answers to these questions. The report of the committee recommended, inter alia, that the Department of Public Health should take over the function from the City Engineer’s Department. During the period of the Public Health Department’s management this study was carried out in an attempt to evaluate the new collecting system in Lagos and its environs. The impetus for the study was the observed frequent neglect of refuse collection in the city of Lagos. Its justification is the growing awareness of the residents,

standards, climate and

MATERIALS AND METHODS THE STUDY commenced in February, 1974 with a survey of a random sample of metropolitan Lagos

covering 1,099 households. Information was obtained by questionnaires on the type of premises, type of household refuse receptacles, frequency of collection of refuse from the households, by whom collected and other disposal methods used. Only one information was regarded as adequate for a household with one receptacle, but where there are more than one receptacle per household separate information was obtained on each receptacle. There was over 90 per cent response from those interviewed. The data were coded and transferred to I.B.M. 80 column punch cards for analysis. Relevant information on refuse disposal in tonnage of waste, and trips of lorries and trailer-bins to place of final disposal was obtained from the Lagos City Council.

RESULTS Table I shows the type of premises. About 40 per cent of the premises are single houses or flats, while 60 per cent are

single-room apartments.

Table II shows the number of people in the household 5.5 persons/household was the mean.

TABLE I of Premises


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Table III shows that 41 per cent and 27.5 per cent household use separate and combined receptacles respectively, while 28.2 per cent use both and 3.3 per

Number of

TABLE II in the Household


cent none.

depicts the types of household receptacle, the being the bucket (aluminium or plastic type) (45.4 per cent) and steel drum (38 per cent). 11.7 per cent of the households use chutes, plastic basin, et Table IV



Table IV(ii) shows that tacles had no covers.


than half of the recep-


IV(iii) shows that receptacles of capacity 25

832 (61.0 per cent) were litres or less. About 40 per cent were 26 to over 100 litres receptacles. The mean capacity of receptacle for all the households was 36.2 litres.

Mean = 5.5 Persons/Household.

Tables V and VI show how refuse is cleared and its

frequency of disposal from the premises respectively. 461 (33.7 per cent) households were cleared by Lagos City Council. Almost equal percentage 32.1 per cent were cleared by children. 679 (49.6 per cent) receptacles were cleared daily (Table VI).



TABLE III Uses Separate


General Container

Table VII shows that

nearly half of the household emptied in the morning while nearly 30 per cent received irregular collection (e.g. whenever receptacle was filled). receptacles


Table VIII depicts the method of disposal of the uncollected refuse. 167 households (about 20 per cent) employed open dumping. Table IX contains the list of the reasons given by 2511 households for failure of the local authority to collect refuse. 89.2 per cent of the 251 households did not know of any reason. 655 households did not reply. The


of refuse collected in

Lagos for the

TABLE IV (i) Type of container for Storing Refuse


1972, 1973 and for January to April, 1974 were 306,422, 252,532 and 81,129 tons respectively. There was

apparent annual decrease in weight of collected


COLLECTION WHEN ASKED on how often the refuse should be collected about 65 per cent want the refuse collected daily, 19.2 per cent every other day and 10.8 per cent weekly. Out of 875 who want the refuse collected daily only 87 gave the number of times refuse should be collected in a day. 72 per cent of these want twice to thrice a day collection. 1,096 (82.5 per cent) households want the Lagos Municipal Authority or nearby local authority to be responsible for clearing the refuse; out of these, 649 (59.0 per cent) prefer early morning collection.

DISCUSSION THE COLLECTION and disposal of garbage and refuse in Lagos is the responsibility of the Lagos City Council. The objectives of the service is to collect, transport or convey, and finally dispose of garbage and refuse in a hygienic aesthetically acceptable manner at the lowest possible cost to the Lagos taxpayers. The present study, which is an appraisal of the existing solid-waste (refuse) disposal service in Lagos,

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TABLE IV (ii) of Cover of Container


TABLE IV (iii) Capacity of Container



36.2 litres



Where Refuse is



not Cleared

by Local

25 litres

TABLE V How Container is Cleared From the Premises _

Disposed of if Container is Authority



to 100.

TABLE IX Reasons For Failure of Local Authority


Collect Refuse




Time of the

Emptying the


TABLE VII Dust Bin is Cleared


shows that this objective has not been fully attained. The reasons are many. Sixty per cent of the premises covered by the study were single-room apartments with on-site storage problem as well as that of collection. Only 27.5 per cent of the households made use of communical household receptacles (Table III) and 41 per cent used separate ones thereby adding to the difficulties of collection. Even then out of the 1,099 households surveyed 723 (65.8 per cent) had coverless open receptacles or dust bins which were exposed to rain and strong wind. Most times these receptacles were rejected by the refuse collecting crew because their contents were water-logged. Moreover, the spillovers from them were left uncollected. Also because of the inadequate capacity of the majority of receptacles (61.0 per cent) the amount of uncollected refuse and spillovers was


This study shows that the mean number of persons per household is 5.5 which is higher than the figures of 3.2 and 3.8 obtained in previous surveys of Lagos (Morgan, 1968 and Federal Office of Statistics 1970-711 survey respectively). The observed increase may be explained by the fluctuation in the population of Lagos with the civil war, when it was at a low ebb but later reached an all time high figure after the cessation of hostilities. Moreover the rapid urbanization now taking

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place in Nigeria has affected Lagos to an extent that the refuse disposal service is fast becoming inadequate to cope with the rapidly increasing amount of refuse

created. The noticeable marked increase in weight and volume of Lagos refuse over the past years will continue to rise due to increasing prosperity and improved standard of living. Many problems will inevitably be created by the additional weight and volume of refuse. To solve some of the problems it might be useful to know the exact composition and yield of the refuse (Oluwande,

1970). Improvement of the present on-site storage system might also facilitate collection. For example communal receptacles should eliminate the use of separate recep-

tacles with their attendant inconvenience and nuisance since this study shows that nearly half of the households use buckets (aluminium or plastic) while only 38 per cent use steel drums. The problems of the steel drum are many. In the foreseeable future these steel drums may fall out of favour because of their noisiness, their liability to corrosion, their weight and unattractive appearance. Light weight plastic containers (of greater capacity than the present plastic buckets) may become popular because of their relatively low cost, good appearance, cleanliness, noiselessness and reasonable resistance to chemicals and fire. In the developed countries, these plastic containers are being tried out and are not only becoming popularly used, but also replacing disposable bags. It is noteworthy that in this study disposable bags were not recorded among receptacles used for households collection of refuse. Could it - be that the high cost and low fire-resistance of such bags have prohibited their use by the Nigerian general public? This study shows that chutes, if not properly operated, may create problems of storage and disposal of refuse. While it is not advocated that these chutes should be abolished, it is strongly advisable that they be made noiseless, fire-proof and insect and rodent-proof. Only a third of the 1,099 households in the present study are serviced by the existing Municipal or Local Authority refuse collecting system. A remarkable finding is that the remaining two-thirds have to resort to make-shift arrangement for the disposal of their garbage and refuse by members of the households, (often by children in nearly a third of the instances). Under these circumstances the observed decrease in tonnage for the first four months of 1974 which was attributed to short-supply of vans for collection may represent the tip of the iceberg. It is therefore appalling to note that only 676 (49.6 per cent) households get their receptacles emptied daily, 29.6 per cent irregularly, 11.4 per cent on alternate days and 9.4 per cent weekly. This appears to contribute not only to the unaesthetic surrounding of the premises but also to the breeding of insects and rodents. The presence and proliferation of rodent populations in and around human habitations pose serious public health problems because some species of rodents are linked closely with certain human disease cycles; in addition a number of rodents’ diseases, may be transmitted to man under these circumstances of close and continuous ecological association (WHO Tech. Report Series No. 553, 1974). The breeding of these rodents is further aided by 38.6 per cent of the households that dispose of their refuse in various ways, for example, indiscriminate open dumping and incomplete burning. The burning of the refuse is usually carried out in improvised ’incineratcrs’ which, if well operated, are effective with minimum nuisance, but in

they have been so offensively operated, that their use is now prohibited in Lagos and its environs. To enforce this ban will not be easy since a large number of health inspectors (on day and night duty) will be needed. Moreover so long as the local authority collecting service remains inefficient will the public continue to burn (completely or incompletely) uncollected refuse. There is no doubt that the users are partly to blame for the inefficiency of the service since more often than not they fail to cooperate by putting out their filled receptacles in time for the early morning collection by the local authority. This system has proved workable in the developed countries, even in some parts of Lagos, and with more cooperation it should be applicable to the whole of Lagos and its environs. Apart from lack of co-operation, other factors also come into play. When asked about the reasons for failure of the Lagos City Council (or appropriate local authority) to collect garbage and refuse the various reasons given by 251 households (Table IX) revealed that majority of them were not aware of the refuse collecting service provided by the authority. It is this kind of ignorance that leads to the indiscriminate dumping of refuse which not only offends the eye but can also involve serious health hazards. Since human factors are involved in the utilization of available services it is suggested that there should be a functional systematized health educational programme to inform the public in the control of this important health problem. It is not known to what extent the special hazards usually encountered in garbage and refuse collection (Cemino, 1975) contributed to the failure of collection by the workmen of Lagos City Council. Further research is needed on this aspect so that the result obtained could be applied to ameliorate the working environment of refuse collectors. In addition communication channels should be opened between the consumers of the service (i.e. the general public) on the one hand and the local authority (Lagos City Council) on the other to provide a feedback mechanism necessary for evaluation and amelioration of the service most cases

provided. The fact that 82.5 per cent of the households in the

study still want the Lagos Municipal Authority or nearby local authority to be responsible for clearing the refuse (despite its poor record) reflects the confidence the general public has in the local authority. It is up to Lagos City Council to justify the confidence reposed in it by accepting the task. As the costs of collection, treatment, and disposal of solid waste are rising year by year, and no doubt, represent an appreciable proportion of Lagos Municipal budgets, it is high time the Lagos City Council considered, from the point of view of economy and efficiency, contracting out the refuse collection and disposal service on yearly basis. Of course, an added advantage of contractor service is that yearly retainership of such contract would depend on evidence of high

efficiency which should be the

backbone of the service.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THIS study we have concluded that the present solid-waste collection service in Lagos is grossly inadequate and needs urgent overhauling for better performance. The following recommendations are directed to correct the inadequacies which have been found: 1. The Lagos City Council should supply standard Continued

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Waste disposal--what are the problems in developing countries?

75 Waste Disposal What are the Problems in Developing Countries? — S. OLA. DANIEL, F.R.S.H., M.B., CH.B.(GLAS.), F.M.C.P.H.(NIG.), F.W.A.C.P.,...
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