A few movies and books have depicted grim versions of a dystopian world where a few groups of mankind are forced to survive after global warming and pollution have devastated human society.
Can we dismiss stories like that viewing them as far-fetched predictions of the future or do they have some grain of possibility in them as evidenced in current trends? Whatever the case, problems of pollution have always been a subject of keen interest to environmentalists, activists, and even world leaders.
Climate change and other environmental and aesthetic degradations have broken our natural systems, giving rise to new and fatal diseases- case in point COVID-19- consequentially resulting in a breakdown of the global economy.
As such, in the spirit of Earth Day, an annual celebration that was held on April 22, all inhabitants of our beautiful planet are called upon to #RestoreOurEarth – an apt theme for this year’s commemoration.
Globally, leaders are on a quest to alleviate pollution of every sort- ocean, air, land, etc. Also, organisations and initiatives continue to run public awareness campaigns in an effort to make responsible and respectable dwellers out of earth’s citizens. To say the least, with rapid urbanisation and economic growth come greater implications.
In Africa, waste is piling up and overflowing to boot with nowhere to go, spreading disease, disarray and dishevelment across the continent. According to a World Bank report, waste generation in Sub-Saharan Africa is about 62 million tonnes annually.
Also, the World Economic Forum has it that in Africa, a total of 8 million tonnes of plastic waste leaks into the ocean each year. Alarmingly, it is been projected that come 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean if we do not take action to curb waste pollution.
Putting it bluntly, if we continue to discard waste items including bags, nylons, plastics, cans, and other similar junks without caring about potential hazards, there might just be no fish left to eat in the ocean. A horrific thought to contemplate, I’m sure!
To mitigate waste pollution, governments across the globe have upped their game and imposed plastic bans. In fact, 46% of Africa’s 54 countries have plastic bans, making the continent one with the highest percentage of national plastic bans in the world according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Despite this legislation, Africa still remains the second-most polluted continent on the planet.
In addition to formulated policies, there are other approaches to effective waste management. In times prior to modern civilisation, people discarded wastes onto unpaved streets and roadways where they were left to accumulate and rot; an unsanitary practice that was later abolished. However, from that point onward, humans began toying with various systems of waste removal that were best suitable for their time.
Today, technological innovations targeted at reducing pollution now figure prominently in mitigating some of the growing pains of our increasingly technological world.
To some, technology is regarded as a figurative double-edged sword not only capable of ruining the environment but also able to undo damages to environmental quality. In what follows, I explore ways technology is used to better the environment especially in the area of waste management.
Recycling of waste into new products
Eco-friendly individuals contribute their quota in battling waste pollution. From a Nigerian woman who stunned the internet (Twitter) after showing off beautiful bags, clothes, and shoes she made from sachet water nylon to Tanzanian youths who are converting plastic bags into mattresses, selling them for a profit and distributing them to people in need, the media is awash with stories of inventive environment-conscious people in Africa.
Let me tell you, these are not isolated incidences by any means. African youths are unleashing their power and resources to revive our planet, preserving the security of their communities in this ongoing battle against climate change.
Waste disposal applications
Companies in the waste management industry are creating new ways of managing waste efficiently and in an eco-friendly way. For example, Yo-Waste, a tech waste management company based in Kampala, Uganda, developed an app that allows individual households & small businesses to manage waste collection services from their mobile phones.
In developing countries, landfills and dumps are the two most popular resting places of waste due to their cost-effectiveness. Leveraging the power of science, the waste management industry has modernized garbage dumps. Devices like trash compactors have been designed to minimize the space that landfills occupy.
Automated trash collection
This phenomenon is not uncommon in developed countries in Europe and Asia. With automated sensors that trigger instant alerts every time a container is full and needs to be emptied, waste disposal becomes easier than ever. Though not widespread yet, this technique is gaining some attention in Africa.
What I’ve demonstrated, from the foregoing, is that waste management need not be a rigorous and tedious activity. What’s more, it can be a lucrative business!
I’ve also taken the liberty of highlighting African startups that proffer innovative solutions to the continent’s waste pollution. Let’s review some of those startups implementing tech-driven strategies to handle and dispose of waste, enhancing efficiency, employment opportunity, and environmental safety.
Scrapays Technologies Ltd
Launched in 2019, Scrapays is a Nigerian cleantech startup that connects waste producers with independent recyclable material collection businesses so they can discard sorted waste efficiently with incentives.
Recently, the startup won 12 million Naira in grant funding from the Deji Alli ARM Young Talent Award (DAAYTA) program 2021 that held virtually on April 9. The Deji Alli ARM Young Talent Award (DAAYTA) is a youth-focused initiative founded in 2015 by Asset & Resource Management Holding Company Limited (ARM) in honour of its founding CEO Deji Alli. It aims to provide support to young entrepreneurs with smart and innovative ideas that have a positive impact on people’s lives and the communities that surround them.
Based in Jos, Nigeria, OkwuEco is a waste management platform that uses state-of-the-art technology to help its clients identify, sort their waste and connect with waste collectors or waste disposal services.
Coliba is an Ivory Coast-based recycling and waste management startup that addresses the problems of plastic pollution in the community. It uses web and mobile applications to connect waste producers with affiliated plastic waste collectors, enabling users to earn airtime or discounts on certain products by recycling.
A Ghanaian e-waste management startup, AppCyclers converts electronic waste products into useful outputs such as egg incubators, home decor items, jewellery, key holders, mirror frames, and other accessories for reuse.
With the continuous efforts of the abovementioned startups, coupled with the application of technological tools disclosed earlier and environmental consciousness in every citizen, Africa might just be on the right path in contributing to a clean world.
ICT Clinic by CFA is published weekly in the Sunday Punch