Some environmentalists have called on the government and other stakeholders in the environment to start aggressive campaigns to change the public attitude and behaviour toward the use and disposal of plastics.
They proffered solutions to plastic pollution in line with the theme of the 2018 World Environment Day which is: “Beat Plastic Pollution’’.
Mr Richard Inyamkume, the Senior Programme Officer, Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Initiative, said that the government and citizens should evolve practical strategies that would reduce the menace of plastic waste in communities.
Inyamkume said that other methods of tackling the environmental issue involved public activism and legislation.
“I believe in change of attitude as it can increase public consciousness about the impact of plastics on the environment while prompting alternative considerations for the use of plastics in the country.
A campaign against improper plastic waste disposal can begin in the home-setting before going into the streets; it should make high impact and encourage plastics reuse, recycling and substitution,’’ he said.
Inyamkume, however, underscored the need for the citizens to understand their specific roles in the campaign for a plastic-free environment.
He noted that they should also be encouraged to organise regular community cleanup activities to clear plastic waste.
“Besides, government and policymakers ought to review national legislation and policies so as to discourage the production of single-use disposable plastic materials, while encouraging the production and importation of environment-friendly products.
“Plastic pollution occurs where plastic materials are indiscriminately dumped in an area in such a way that it begins to impact negatively on the ecosystem,’’ he said.
He said that the global community was planning to achieve clean, sustainable and pollution-free cities by 2030 and as such, efforts were underway to address plastic pollution.
“In Nigeria, plastic pollution has increased over time due to the proliferation of plastics producing factories and a corresponding increase in the demand for plastic materials by the public.
“These increases have come with attendant environmental consequences such as plastic pollution, mostly in urban and commercial areas, and there has not been enough public awareness or sensitisation on the proper methods of disposing plastics.
“What usually constitutes plastic pollution includes but is not limited to single-use plastics such as plastic bags, water bottles, straws, cups, utensils, dry cleaning bags, take-away containers or disposable plastic materials,’’ he said.
The environmentalist said that if not properly managed, plastic waste could affect life on land and in oceans or rivers.
Inyamkume said that Nigeria should to join the global crusade to end plastic pollution because of its hazards to the environment.
In his view, Mr David Michael, the Executive Director, Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation, a non-governmental organisation, called for a total ban on single-use plastics if they could not be re-used or recycled.
“We are advocating for a total ban of single use of plastics in Nigeria because plastics do not decay; they remain in the soil, river and ocean for years,’’ he said.
Michael urged producers of plastic packages to use biodegradable materials such as paper bags and leaf to package consumable products.
He said that his organisation organised the neighbourhood clean-up in Jabi community, in collaboration with the Government Secondary School students in the FCT, to sensitise them to the need to control plastic waste in the country.
“Plastics here in the Jabi community run off to Jabi Lake. If you see the quantity of plastics in Jabi Lake, you will never believe it.
“That is why we chose this community that is very close to the Jabi Lake because all the wastes of the residents overflow to the lake; we want the students to understand that it is important to dispose waste safely.
Clara Okpala, a student of Government Secondary School, Jabi, underscored the need to ban the production and utilisation of single-use plastics, observing that waste could harm and kill fishes and other marine creatures.
Martins Obi, another student of the school, said that plastic waste often blocked water channels, thereby causing floods which displaced people from their homes.
Oyedepo Joshua, a student and member of Eco-Club in Government Science and Technical College, Garki, said that the re-use of plastics through environmental creative arts would assist in the efforts to reduce plastic pollution in the country.
Joshua, who used plastic bottles to create a chair, said that the re-use of plastics would assist in the efforts to address plastic pollution in the country.
Vincent Davies, a student of Model Secondary School, Maitama, said that indiscriminate dumping of used nylon and plastics had been rampant on the school premises, calling for the erection of waste-bin stands to promote healthy environment.
Expressing concern about water pollution, Mr Sunday Agbontaen, the Head of Reservoir and Production Department, FCT Water Board Lower Usuma Dam, said that pollutants coming from Mpape community had increased the cost of water treatment.
Agbontaen said pollutants in the water attracted toxins which were dangerous to human health, observing that the dam’s facilities had the capacity to screen the solid pollutants and disinfect the water for human consumption.
“When the water comes in, even at the catchment area up the Mpape zone, we monitor the water quality; we also monitor non-water quality to know the type of treatment the water will go through.
“So, in the treatment process, we will be able to understand that this amount of pollutant is higher in the water.
“We need the number of chemicals to treat it in accordance to World Health Organisation and Nigeria Standard Organisation,’’ he said.
The dam official said that a new plant would be designed to address the emerging pollutants such as plastics, steels and other pollutant substances.
In efforts at checking pollution, the Ministry of State for Environment, Alhaji Ibrahim Jibril, said that the Federal Government was developing a national plastic waste recycling programme to establish plastic waste recycling plants across the country in partnership with state governments.
“At present, a total of eight plants have already been completed and handed over to the states while 18 others are at various stages of completion.
“In addition, the Federal Government is also collaborating with state governments to establish plastic waste recycling plants under the community-based waste management programme in the ministry.
“Therefore, two plants have been completed in Ilorin, one in Lokoja, while work on another is ongoing in Karu Local Government Area of Nasarawa State,’’ he said.
Jibril advised officials of Food and Beverages Companies Alliance and some waste management stakeholders to implement the Extended Producer Responsibility policy.
He explained that the policy was designed to promote the integration of environmental costs associated with goods throughout their life cycles into the market price of the products.
Jibril also said that the implementation of the policy would go a long way in supporting efforts to clean the environment and make it pollution free.
He urged food and beverages companies to set aside a certain percentage of their profits for a campaign to sensitise Nigerians to the need to collect and recycle plastics and plastic bottles.
The minister urged the companies to encourage the recycling of plastic bottles and devise strategies that would motivate consumers to return the used bottles for recycling.
Also, Mr Clem Ugorji, the Director, Public Affairs and Communications, West Africa Business Unit, Coca-Cola Nigeria, said that Food and Beverages Companies Alliance was working to create a framework that would ensure effective collection and recycling of bottles.
Ugorji said that the alliance was working to become Extended Producer Responsibility-compliant, while making it mandatory for all food and beverages companies to discharge their social corporate responsibility.
In the same vein, Prof. Oladele Osibanjo, the National President, Waste Management Society of Nigeria, said that the society was collaborating with the alliance to organise a workshop to proffer solutions to the menace of plastic pollution in the country.
Osibanjo, who said that the workshop would be held in Lagos, said that it would attract relevant stakeholders in the waste management sector.
By Deji Abdulwahab