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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

NESREA, UNEP task stakeholders on circular solutions to plastic pollution

In its drive towards ensuring environmental sustainability and a cleaner and healthier Nigeria, the National Environmental Standard and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) convened a crucial stakeholders’ consultation session on the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Circular Solutions to Plastic Pollution in Nigeria.

Some participants at the event

Held in Lagos on Wednesday, March 13, 2024, the event was aimed at discussing best approach patterns towards reducing pollution arising from single-use plastics commonly used for packaging sachet drinking water usually referred as “pure water”.

In his opening remarks, Professor Aliyu Jauro, Director-General of NESREA, said: “The proposed GEF Circular Solutions to Plastic Pollution in Nigeria Project holds immense promises. It aims to reduce from the upstream, consumption of single-use water sachets as well as its attendant pollution from poor management while ensuring accessible and safe drinking water for our communities.

“Through a multi-faceted approach, encompassing regulatory measures, industry engagement, circular economy models, and awareness raising, we are to create a paradigm shift on best approach to reduce plastic pollution in the Food and Beverage sector.”

According to the D-G, represented by Chukwudi Nwabuisiaku, Assistant Director, NESREA, “Shiran et al., 2013 asserted that estimated 460 Metric Tonnes of plastic was produced in 2019, with 430 Metric Tonnes being virgin plastic and 29 Metric Tonnes recycled.

“As you know, Nigeria lacks solid waste management infrastructure for efficient storage, collection, transportation and management of plastic waste in environmentally sound manner or through cross-value-chain approach. Also, our attitude and perception to handling of plastic waste is very poor.

“The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is thus committed to averting threats posed by plastic pollution.

“The question we may likely ask is ‘why the concern for plastic pollution?’. The answer is not far-fetched, as it is because of the negative health and environmental impacts of plastics to public health, biodiversity and the environment. Plastics are non-degradable; hence are indestructible, blocks drainages, causing flooding, prevent oxygen absorption by aquatic lives, as well as endocrine disruption amongst others.

“As we all know, plastic pollution has become a global concern resulting in the global agreement in 2022, when the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) adopted resolution 5/14, giving mandate to UN Member States to start negotiations towards an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the Marine Environment to commence negotiation for a Treaty on Plastics and its Waste Management. It is imperative that we come together as public servants to find sustainable and circular solutions to combat this menace.”

In his submission, Mr. Linus Orakwe, UNEP National Consultant, noted that the project, which is yet to kick off proper, is currently at the Project Preparatory Grant (PPG) phase, adding that the main objective of the project is “to reduce the consumption of single-use water sachets in Nigeria while ensuring accessible and safe drinking water for the people”.

Concerned by the submission of speakers, Egberi Odiri Mackson, National President, Hygienic Water Producers Association (HWAPAN), who cautioned the organisers not to compare Nigeria with countries in other climes, said: “This is Africa, Nigeria to be precise where access to potable water is from the private sector. Even in government establishments they use bottled water while the middle and lower class use sachet water. In my view, talking about the reduction of production of single-use plastics will affect everybody.

“Policy development and implementation is the way to go. Government should rather come out with a policy that will ensure clean and safe environment for all. They should think of formulating a policy that will see to the recycling of plastic materials and converted to other use like road construction, by doing this they would have created another channel for investment, employment and income generation.

“If the government puts up this policy, they can then give a mandate that, for every road construction project in the country, there should be a certain percentage of plastic.

“Also, give out grant for those planning to set up recycling plants to come up with pellets which the construction companies can use for their projects such as it’s being done in India.”

Dr. Clementina Chinwe Ativie, National President, Association for Table Water Producers of Nigeria (ATWAP), in her submission declared that what should be important to all stakeholders is how to ensure that Nigeria gets potable water and at the same time reduces the number of plastic materials in the environment.

While narrating some steps taken in the past in ensuring massive reduction of plastic wastes in the environment, the ATWAP National President, who said her association can identify the end users of both drinking the water and it’s plastic waste, said: “in 2006, we went into partnership with the Lagos State Ministry of Environment and came out with a programme known as ‘Nylon/Plastic Buy Back Consultative Forum’ in which we attached a premium to all our products, in less than two weeks the designated facilities used for the programme was overfilled with used plastic materials.

“ATWAP at the executive level has also devised means of executing community development projects where we take bulk water by mounting drum-like stainless refilling tank in strategic places, we also do one-off pack just like it’s being done in advance countries. So, people can come and buy the water. So, by the time you remove the quantity or the number that could have come into maybe 1000 litres, in the process you know how many sachets that could have gone to the environment” she maintained.

Dr. Leslie Adogame, Executive Director of Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development (SRADev Nigeria), in his submission disclosed that plastic technology globally has come to stay.

He said: “There is no advocate anywhere in the world that will support a complete ban on plastics, but I think the concern for us who are members of civil societies, our interest is to support sustainable development.”

Dr. Adogame, whose outfit is a major advocate for plastic-free future for the world, added: “We are very much aware of the socio-economic impact of what plastic pollution can cause, so we try as much as possible to advocate for best practices.

“There are some categories of plastic even in the global negotiation that are problematic but if we can find solution, we can find alternatives and find other strategies which don’t turn out to be problem to the environment.”

The stakeholders’ consultative session, which was organised by NESREA in partnership with UNEP and funded by GEF, had numerous members of civil society organisations in attendance such as Nigeria National Plastic Action Partnership, and Food and Beverages Recycling Alliance (FBRA), among others.

By Ajibola Adedoye

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