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Stakeholders explore how varsities can tackle plastic pollution

Some stakeholders on environmental pollution on Tuesday, April 12, 2022, in Ibadan, Oyo State, gathered to discuss how universities can drive a thriving ecosystem for innovations and entrepreneurship on plastic waste.

Participants at the event

The stakeholders met at a workshop tagged ”Circular Plastic Economy Innovation Hub: Stakeholders engagement”.

The workshop was held at the Pan African University Life and Earth Sciences Institute (PAULESI), hosted by the University of Ibadan.

Bukola Areo from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Oyo State, representing the  Commissioner in the ministry, said:  “The ministry has taken several giant steps towards managing plastic wastes in the state.

“We have corporate organisations coming up to donate waste bags to the ministry and we also engaged the community and landlord associations by distributing waste bags and encouraging them to sort their wastes from source.

“We have to sort the plastics from organic wastes so that we would be able to recycle it. The ministry also engaged scavengers.”

According to her, recycling is one of the key issues in waste management.

Mr Ekuma Eze, the Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Director of the Nigerian Bottling Company, stressed the task of solving the plastic waste challenge.

He admitted that government or any other institution alone can not do it.

“So, we need collaboration among institutions, government and NGOs to put our resources and ideas together to bring solutions to the plastic challenge,” Eze said.

He disclosed that Coca Cola Foundation had also been magnanimous in funding a whole number of initiatives in the country all geared towards bringing solution to the plastic waste issue.

Prof. Muyiwa Oyinlola, the Director of Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, said: “One of the objectives of the initiative is to build capacity for innovation to tackle the circular and plastic pollution challenge.”

According to the associate professor in Sustainable Development, it is also targeted at entrepreneurship and innovation, capacity building and supporting the ecosystem.

“We are saying that universities should be able to drive the process by engaging entrepreneurs, government and other stakeholders.

“We want to add value to plastic.  The idea is that you won’t see N20 in a drainage and not pick it up. So, if you see plastic in a drainage, you will pick it because it adds value.”

Dr. Seun Kolade, Associate Professor, Entrepreneurship and International Development at De Montfort University, described the plastic waste problem as a multi-stakeholder problem which requires a multi-stakeholder solution.

Kolade, who is also the chairman of the African Entrepreneurship Cluster, said: “The expectation is to consolidate the brilliant ideas.

“You have seen the people who are gathered here today from a whole range of backgrounds and disciplines. You have the industry guys here, four to five universities here as well as the private sector.

“The expectation is that going on from here, we begin to implement some of the ideas and bring people in the public space into the picture by way of incentive for people to recycle their products and for industries to also invest into it.

“Government should also come in by way of policy instrument and intervention.”  he said.

Abraham Akpan, Programme Manager, CPEIHub, expressed hope that the programme would be beneficial to the teaming Nigerian youth population by being gainfully engaged in jobs.

Akpan said that the flooding problem being experienced could be linked to environmental factors of which plastic pollution was key.

“The plastics block our drainages thereby causing harmful effects. We want the university lecturers and students to come up with innovative solutions while the younger ones would build entrepreneurship systems around,” Akpan said.

Prof. Titilayo Akinlabi, Director, PAULESI, said that the workshop, was to develop a roadmap to take the whole project forward from the engagement into supporting the various universities.

She said five universities were represented which include: the University of Nigeria Nsukka UNN, Ahmadu Bello University ABU, University of Lagos UNILAG,  Obafemi Awolowo University and PAULESI.

“We are going to continue to provide necessary support for them to be able to continue in the research and development and actual production of these equipment that could be used to cover the plastic bottles.

“The plastic bottles are picked from the streets and put into pellets. They would use that to produce filament for 3-D printers,” Akinlabi said.

He said that the equipment that would be used would not be imported from abroad. We are proffering African solutions to African problems. she said.

By Ibukun Emiola

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