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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Solid Waste Pollution in Lagos, Nigeria: An Analysis of the Social, Technical and Economic barriers to Market-Driven Solutions

Global attention is focused on the crisis of plastic pollution. According to the World Wildlife Fund, 8 million tonnes/year of plastic enters the oceans. Nigeria is estimated to be the 9th worst plastic polluting country. Lagos is the most populated city in Africa and is estimated to produce 10,700 tonnes/day of municipal solid waste. However, the city’s waste management systems are severely under-capacity. This has led to a crisis of plastic pollution in the city’s public areas and waterways.

This dissertation is a qualitative analysis of different solutions to Lagos’ plastic pollution. The method used is an adaptation of Glaser and Strauss’ Grounded Theory Method. Interviews were conducted of major stakeholders in Lagos waste, plastic and pollution – the Lagos Waste Management Authority, local NGOs and companies, academics, sustainability experts, polymer scientists, and so on. In addition, a survey of the population was also carried out to obtain residents’ views on the pollution’s impacts and solutions. Findings were contrasted to the literature in the pertinent areas. A final analysis was done to generate recommendations for solving the pollution crisis.

Seven recommendations are given on how to improve Lagos’ recycling system. The first is to formalise street waste collection labour. This would allow for better work conditions and social benefits for the street waste pickers. The second is to implement policies governing the production of recycled PET. The third recommendation is a policy change for producers and importers to have added responsibilities. Fourth is the simplification of the Lagos waste stream by eliminating materials that could compromise the quality of recycled materials. Tied to guarding the quality of materials is the fifth recommendation to start residential source separation and public education programmes on recycling. Sixth is for the government to begin the collection of reliable data on waste and open access to the data to the public.

The final recommendation is based on the realisation that the coastal pollution problem crosses city, state and country borders. An alliance of waste management efforts by major cities along the West African coast is needed to stop the flow of waste along the ocean current.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.