Environmentalists claim that million metric tonnes of plastic pollute the environment annually with little effort at making the world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, animals, waterways, oceans and the environment.
An environmentalist, Mr Richard Inyamkume, therefore, calls on the government and other stakeholders to intensify campaign against plastic pollution in the country.
Inyamkume, Senior Programme Officer, Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Initiative, a non-governmental organisation, said that government and other stakeholders needed to intensify campaign to change public attitude and behaviour towards the use and disposal of plastics.
He said that government and citizens should evolve practical strategies that would reduce the menace of plastic waste in communities.
“There are many ways of addressing environmental issues of this nature; one way is to raise advocacy that will change public attitudes and behaviour towards the use and disposal of plastics’’, he said.
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 re-use, re-cycling and substitution,’’ he said.
He, however, underscored the need for the citizens to understand their specific roles in the campaign for a plastics-free environment.
He noted that citizens should also be encouraged to organise regular community clean-up 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.
“The World Environmental Day is set to address plastic pollution which has been a serious environmental concern among other issues.
“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.
Inyamkume observed that plastic pollution in Nigeria was increasing due to the proliferation of plastics producing factories and a corresponding increase in the demand for plastic materials by the public.
“There ought to be enough public awareness or sensitisation on the proper methods of disposing of plastics to prevent its consequences such as plastic pollution mostly in urban and commercial areas.
“Dumped plastic bags, water bottles, straws, cups, utensils, dry cleaning bags, take-away containers and disposable plastic materials constitute.
“If not properly managed, plastic waste could affect life on land and in oceans or rivers; and as a concerned environmentalist, I think there is need for concerted efforts to address plastic pollution globally,’’ he said.
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 re-cycled.
He said that because plastic pollution had been a serious environmental menace all over the world, the organisation decided to organise the neighbourhood clean-up, in collaboration with the students of Government Secondary School, Jabi, Abuja, to sensitise the students to the importance of managing used plastic materials.
“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 Jabi Lake because all the wastes of the residents flow to the lake; we want the students to understand that it is important to dispose of waste efficiently.
“We are also saying that you can re-use any plastic materials because single-use plastic materials are contaminating the environment.
“We are advocating for a total ban of single use of plastic materials in Nigeria because plastics do not decay; they remain in the soil, river and ocean for years,’’ he said.
Michael also urged producers of plastic packages to use bio-degradable materials such as paper bags and leaf to package consumables.
He said that the production of paper bags would boost people’s interest in tree planting, while creating jobs for chemical engineers and other Nigerians.
Miss Clara Okpala, a student of Government Secondary School, Jabi, underscored the need to ban the production and utilisation of single-use plastics because whenever plastic waste got into rivers, it harmed and killed the fish and other marine creatures.
Martins Obi, another student of the school, said that plastic waste, because of its inability to decompose, often blocked water channels, thereby causing floods which displaced people from their homes.
In the same vein, Oyedepo Joshua, a student of Government Science and Technical College, Garki, said that the re-use of plastics would assist in the efforts to address plastic pollution in the country.
Similarly, Master Vincent Davies, a student of Model Secondary School, Maitama, called for the erection of waste bin stands to promote healthy environment.
Davies said that indiscriminate dumping of used nylon and plastics had been rampant on the school premises.
Expressing concern about plastic pollution, Mr Sunday Agbontaen, the Head of Reservoir and Production Department, FCT Water Board Lower Usuma Dam, said that the dam was spending additional cost to evacuate the pollutants embedded by the side of the dam.
Agbontaen, nonetheless, said that a new plant would be designed to address the emerging pollutants such as plastics, steels and other pollutant substances.
According to him, pollutants coming from Mpape community of Abuja have increased the cost of water treatment.
“But all the same, that is why we have the treatment plant to eliminate the pollutants in the water.
“That is why when the water comes in, even at the catchment area up the Mpape zone, we monitor the water quality.
“When it comes to the plant, we also monitor non-water quality. That will now give us the standard of what 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.
Giving an insight to government’s commitment to ridding Nigeria of plastic wastes, Alhaji Ibrahim Jibril, the immediate past Minister of State for Environment, said that the Federal Government was working on a national policy on plastic waste management.
Jibril said that the policy was to regulate use and disposal of plastic waste in the country, noting that the Federal Ministry of Environment in collaboration with critical stakeholders had also developed a national strategy for the phase-out of non-bio-gradable plastics.
According to him, the ministry is also 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 on the platform of community-based waste management programme in the ministry.
“Two plants have been completed in Ilorin, one in Lokoja, while work on another is ongoing in Karu Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, Bola Jari in Gombe State and Leda Jari in Kano State,’’ Jibril said.
He also said that the establishment of the plants would assist to turn waste to wealth and ensure the sustainability of the environment.
The minister, therefore, solicited the support of the media to educate Nigerians on the effects of plastic pollution and the need to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics.
By Deji Abdulwahab