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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Groups want Coca Cola, others held accountable for plastic pollution

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has urged the Edo State Government to compel Coca Cola Company, Seven Up Bottling Company and other producers of plastic to engage in Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) by taking responsibility of the plastic waste they produce.

The Return-To-Sender Action in Benin City

This demand was the highpoint of a Return-To-Sender Action organised by ERA/FoEN and other groups  on Thursday, September 28, 2023, in Benin City, the Edo State capital, as an extended action of a Brand Audit Exercise in four different markets in Benin. The exercise was targeted at determining the highest polluting brands. Coca Cola and Seven Up came up as the highest polluters, with a frequency rate of 33% and 23% respectively.

The exercise, which was carried out in collaboration with Zero Waste Ambassadors (ZEWA), Edo Civil Society Organisation (EdoCSO) and Students Environmental Assembly of Nigeria (SEAN), University of Benin Chapter, involved the collection of discarded  plastic bottles which were returned to Coca Cola and Seven Up facilities in Benin City.

Speaking during the action, the Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Chima Williams, represented by Babawale Obayanju, stated that the flooding experienced in Benin City and its environs is aggravated  by the plastic waste materials that have found their way to the drainage systems and water ways.

He added that out that statistics clearly show that the identified companies are making lots of money and are equally contributing heavily to the plastic waste menace in Benin, without any waste management systems in place.

“We brought their plastic waste back to them as it is polluting our environment and based on our findings during the brand audit, The Coca-Cola Company, Seven Up Bottling Company and others primarily use plastics for their packaging, including PET bottles with plastic caps.

“It is very crucial for these companies to design and develop a take-back or withdrawal scheme for their products as there are no active withdrawal schemes currently in place. Implementing the take-back/withdrawal schemes and exploring circular economy models can enhance recycling rates and reduce plastic pollution.

“We also request that The Coca-Cola Company and the other brands should have a squint at further research and development into eco-friendly packaging materials, collaborate with recycling partners, and engage with consumers to achieve its plastic reduction targets and contribute to a cleaner environment,” he stated.

He called on Coca-Cola Company, Seven Up, CWAY Group and others to transition to sustainable packaging alternatives such as biodegradable materials, reusable containers, or reduced plastic packaging

Also speaking during the action, Project Officer, Waste Management of ERA/FoEN, Melody Enyinnaya, stated that the plastic pollution experienced in Benin City is appalling because of manufacturers producing without retrieving their waste.

“This situation has thrown our environment into a dumping ground for plastics especially our drainage systems and our rivers,” she said, even as she demanded that Coca Cola, Seven Up and all other manufacturers should withdraw their plastics waste from the environment as we need fishes in our rivers not their plastics.

She admonished them to participate in recycling programmes and encourage customers and consumers to recycle their products’ waste as all the waste materials found during the brand audit are all recyclables, and to engage in awareness campaigns to educate consumers about plastic pollution and the brand’s commitment to sustainability.

The Brand Audit and Return-To-Sender exercise was organised to hold plastic producers accountable for the waste they produce, to draw attention to the dangers of plastic waste in the environment, and to call on producers to replace single use plastics with reusable or biodegradable plastics.

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