Academic and industry experts have come together to preach just one message: “Stop thinking in straight lines and start thinking in circles so that we can have a circular economy”. These were the exact words of Arese Lucia Onaghise, one of the panelists at the Circular Economy Roundtable organised by the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in collaboration with the University of Eastern Finland (UEF).
Thinking in straight lines as mentioned above follows the process of: produce —> use —> discard and the line of thought ends there. Whereas thinking in circles involves the process illustrated below, where you produce —> use —> recycle —> produce again or repurpose the recycled waste materials and then it goes on and on in that productive circle of thought leaving no room for unnecessary waste.
The roundtable discussion, which held on Tuesday, August 8 and Wednesday, August 9, 2023, featured proofs of real-life practicable solutions to individual, corporate, national and global maximisation of resources through functional waste management systems.
Through its collaboration with the University of Eastern Finland, under the Finland-Lagos Recycling Culture Research & Development Project (F-LRCRDP), the University of Lagos has set the pace for re-strategising the design, development and processes involved in the circular economy culture in Nigeria.
Professor Bolanle Oboh, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics & Research), who represented the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Professor Folasade Ogunsola, OON, FAS, while conveying the Vice-Chancellor’s warm welcome at the opening ceremony, intimated the gathering of the University’s concerted efforts to create a future-ready university. She informed, that it was on that premise, that an interphase with Finland had commenced in 2022 to improve teaching, research and development of a vibrant and sustainable environment in Nigeria through viable collaborations between town and gown.
According to her, reaching out a hand to Finland, birthed the Circular Economy Roundtable being held in Lagos. The university looked forward to the roundtable spurring interactive discussions where important questions are tackled and solution-driven steps are put in motion. She appreciated the Finnish partners who accepted UNILAG’s hand of partnership and are willing to share the practices that have worked in their locality, with a view of replicating and adapting the systems to the Nigerian community through research collaborations and roundtable discussions with stakeholders and the public such as the one hosted in UNILAG.
Professor Oboh posited that for optimal results, multi-disciplinary studies and efforts needed to be carried out to ensure not only state-wide but nationwide impacts are made with the resolutions reached at the end of the two-day meeting.
Professor Pertti Pasanen, Principal Investigator (Finland), F-LRCRDP, equally brought greetings from the Rector, University of Eastern Finland (UEF), Professor Jukka Monkkonen. In the Rector’s speech, it was averred that collaborations between institutions and countries are required in fighting against environmental pollution and global warming, among others. According to him, “the ongoing international collaboration on F-LRCRDP is an example of UEF’s effort to participate and support other countries to develop solutions and practices for circular economy.”
The topics that were extensively discussed at the UNILAG, UEF hosted Circular Economy Roundtable spanned across civic education and responsibilities of citizens in solid waste management (SWM) systems, circular economy business models, the Finnish Innovation Fund, Sitra, SWM via circular economy, value-chain and sectoral approaches to the recycling culture. The roundtable had 3 major parts each day: keynote speeches, panel discussions and focus group discussions. Industry professionals, stakeholders and researchers deliberated on the impacts of different working models implemented in Nigeria and Finland.
Listening to the keynote speakers and panelists from different universities, agencies, alliances and groups, it was evident that a lot of work had gone into sustainable waste management in Lagos State and Nigeria as a whole. However, submissions made by their counterparts in Finland and observations by members of the physical and online audience served as a catalyst to spur the discussion along the path of exploring more collaborative research with academia, system design upgrades with industry, and educational awareness with the public.
Participants were also taken on an industry tour to GIVO (Garbage In Value Out), a circular economy company that offers an end-to-end recycling solution. At the GIVO centre located in Maryland, Lagos State, Nigeria, demonstrations were organised to help participants of the UNILAG, UEF Circular Economy Roundtable appreciate the processes behind converting discarded plastics to fillets, flakes and even to new products such as flower pots, decorative tiles etc.
At the end of the 2-day deliberations, it was agreed that:
- by adopting waste management practices that aim to reduce, recycle, and reuse materials, everyone could contribute their quota to minimising waste and promoting the continuous use and regeneration of resources.
- stakeholders, including citizens, should be encouraged to recalibrate their mindsets to view proper solid waste management as a pathway to financial growth (don’t see waste, see opportunities).
- emphasis should be placed on improving the incentives for recycling, picking and sorting/separation of waste materials to encourage more willingness from the populace and members of the waste pickers association to key into the vision of promoting a circular economy in Nigeria.
- There should be a review and implementation of policies that will reduce the rate of plastic consumption, introduce more environmentally friendly alternatives and ensure sustainability is factored in from the product design phase of producing the materials that end up as waste.
Circular Economy has come a long way in Lagos, Nigeria. It encompasses the entire lifecycle of products and materials, aiming to create a closed-loop system with minimal waste and maximum resource circulation.
Although there are many ways the processes already in motion can be improved upon to become automated and scalable, it is imperative to note that it takes time to build anything of good quality. Therefore, while the most suitable systems are being designed, perfected and implemented with time, we are all encouraged to take a stance in aiding the process by aligning ourselves with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 12: “Responsible Consumption and Production” adopted by the United Nations.
To effectively do this, we can learn a thing or two from nature. Just as one of the panelists, Mr. Kayode Bello of Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), pointed out, Circular Economy mimics the design already established by God in nature which can be observed in the way humans breathe in oxygen produced by plants and in turn, produce carbon dioxide required for plants’ growth through photosynthesis.
The 1st Circular Economy Roundtable had in active participation academic and non-academic staff of the university, members of other universities and key role players in industries such as: University of Eastern Finland (UEF); University of Johannesburg, South Africa; the Finnish Innovation Fund, Sitra, Finland; Jätekukko, Finland; Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG); Lagos Waste Management Agency (LAWMA); Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA); Food Beverages Recycling Alliance (FABRA); Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA); Lagos State Planning and Environmental Monitoring Agency (LASPEMA); Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation (WAPA); Waste Pickers Association etc.
The roundtable discussions and industry tour were moderated by Dr. Beauty Iniobong John of the Department of Quantity Surveying, University of Lagos, Nigeria.
Principal Investigators for the research collaboration between UNILAG and UEF are:
Professor Mike Adebamowo of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and Professor Pertti Pasanen of the University of Eastern Finland (UEF).
Other Finnish universities and institutions supporting the Finland-Lagos Recycling Culture Research & Development Project (F-LRCRDP) are: Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (LUT University); Savonia University of Applied Sciences (Savonia UAS), and Laurea University of Applied Sciences (Laurea UAS)
We invite you to watch the live stream of the roundtable for a full grasp of the conversation below:
Pictorial highlights from Day One (1):
Pictorial highlights from Day Two (2):