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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Experts highlight Basel Convention elements missing in Nigeria’s plastic waste management policy

Stakeholders in the waste management sector have highlighted major elements and issues in the Basel Convention plastic waste amendments that are missing in the Nigeria National Policy on Plastic Waste Management.

Nigeria Plastic Waste Policy
Participants at the virtual Stakeholder’s Dialogue on Nigeria Plastic Waste Policy

They have, however, called on the Federal Government to address the issues of plastics management in the country throughout the lifecycle.

The Nigeria National Policy on Plastic Waste Management recognises that plastic is a material used daily by all and sundry and that its use has become pronounced due to its durability, low cost, light weight and ease of production.

However, the National Policy on Plastics Management, prepared and published in January 2020, was prepared to regulate and control the use of plastics in the Nigeria nation.

As a party to the Basel Convention (BC) ratified in May 2004, the nation is obliged to implement the plastic waste amendments already adopted by BC which took effect on 24 March 2020.

But, a project commissioned by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) and implemented by the Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development (SRADev Nigeria), which basically focuses on facilitating national advocacy on the domestication and transposition of the Basel Convention on plastic waste amendment to national law toward the ban of single-use plastics, has pointed out that the National Policy has not addressed the issues of trade in plastic waste (the trade rules were to become effective globally on January 1, 2021).

While implementing the project, a technical review and gap analysis of the current National Policy on Plastic Waste Management in Nigeria upon which the transposition of the Basel Convention Amendment is hinged was conducted in conformance with the Basel Convention Amendment on plastic waste.

The review carried out by distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Director, University of Lagos Centre for Environmental Human Resources Development, Prof. Babajide Alo, and Basel Convention Coordinating Centre for African Region, University of Ibadan, Prof. Percy Onianwa, noted that the major elements and issues in the Basel Convention plastic waste amendments are patently missing in the Nigeria National Policy.

Prof. Alo in his presentation at a virtual Stakeholder’s Dialogue on Nigeria Plastic Waste Policy held on Tuesday, March 23, 2021 and hosted by SRADev Nigeria stressed that the Nigeria policy needed to explicitly address the issues of plastic management in Nigeria throughout the lifecycle. He added that the policy has unfortunately not addressed the issues of importation and export of plastic wastes and that the new BC plastic rules clearly require controls for all mixed plastic wastes not destined for environmentally-sound recycling.

Alo, who is also a Technical Adviser to SRADev Nigeria, urged the government to take the opportunity provided by the transposition process now globally on-going to pass comprehensive legislation that prevents plastic waste at source or prevents the country from becoming a dumping ground for plastic waste from developed countries as was the case with e-waste.

Corroborating him, Prof, Onianwa said the National Policy gives very scanty reference to control of transboundary movement of plastic waste, adding that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has not been recognised as a key stakeholder government parastatals in the management of plastic waste, that no reference to possible role of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) in supporting NESREA for the formulation of standards for qualities of plastics products and plastic wastes to meet international trade requirements, and that detailed technical regulations are required to define ”contamination limits”, and “exclusivity” of plastic wastes.

Part of the recommendations for addressing the gaps in legal and institutional infrastructure for implementing the amendments he listed include:

  • Raise awareness among stakeholders in govt, private sector, NGOs, academia, etc about the amendments
  •  NESREA and SON to establish contamination limits and other regulations for immediate implementation
  • Review of National Environmental Regulations for the Plastic Sector to include aspects on control of TBM of plastic waste, and detailed technical guides for plastic waste
  • Rapid Training for Key Enforcement Stakeholders (Customs, NESREA, FMEnv, Judiciary, etc) for deployment to enforce the amendments
  • Upgrade laboratory facilities and conduct Laboratory Training on Analysis of Plastics for Contaminants (e.g. for NESREA, SON, public analysts, academia, etc
  • Overhaul Permitting system of the FMENV to establish preparedness for the PIC control system for plastic wastes
  • Nigeria should take a position on the issue of the inclusion of cured resins and fluorinated resin in Annex IX.

Executive Director, SRADev Nigeria, Dr. Leslie Adogame, explained that a 14-man civil society forum deliberation on the policy document and the technical review towards an advocacy action plan for domesticating and advancing Basel Convention amendment on plastic waste into national laws in Nigeria was held on January 29, 2021.

He said the forum recommended among others:

  • The Permitting system of the FMENV should be overhauled to establish preparedness for the PIC control system for plastic waste as required by the plastic waste amendment.
  • There is need for a national inventory on plastic waste-based fuel in the country and its compliance with best practice.
  • Nigerian should immediately make its stand known on the question of the inclusion of cured resins and fluorinated polymers in Annex IX of the Basel Convention.
  • There is need for study to assess institutional capacity of the entire plastic waste management sector, information on plastic additives.
  • There is an urgent need for advocacy on the phase-out of single-use plastic such as styrofoams, disposable cups, and straws as against 2028 proposed in the National Policy.
  • There is need for an inventory on the availability of replaceable alternatives to single-use plastic.
  • There should be the right-to-know on the chemical constituents (engaging SON, FCCPC, MAN, NCS) of plastic waste in the nationally and internationally traded in the country.
  • Awareness creation, capacity building as well as regulation of the waste-pickers.

Adogame commended all the stakeholders that participated in the dialogue and the GAIA for financial support to the project.

Sirine Rached, GAIA Global Policy Advocate, commended Nigeria for her efforts towards transposing the Basel Amendments.

Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network (BAN) founder, made a presentation on: “Introduction to Basel Convention Amendment – Transposition of Basel Amendment in Nigeria”.

The Basel Convention regulates the transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and other wastes and obliges its Parties to ensure that such wastes are managed and disposed off in an environmentally sound manner. The Convention covers toxic, poisonous, explosive, corrosive, flammable, eco toxic and infectious wastes.

Before April 2019, most plastic waste flows between countries were uncontrolled under international law. Exporters only had to obtain prior informed consent from importing countries before shipping hazardous plastic waste, as is the case for all hazardous waste under the Basel Convention.

In April 2019, the Basel Convention agreed on new rules that require exporters to secure prior informed consent from importing countries for shipments of all but a narrow set of non-hazardous plastic wastes. The rules stipulate that the plastic wastes so exempted from controls must be sorted, mostly halogen-free, free from contamination, and destined for environmentally-sound recycling.

It is expected that when transposing the rules into national legislation, countries can either clarify these points, or stretch them into loopholes that undermine the spirit of the Basel Convention. Countries may also pass laws that place greater controls on plastic waste trade than the Basel Convention and therefore provide greater environmental protection, such as import or export bans.

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