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Despite multi-billion-naira recycling potential, plastic wastes overwhelm Nigeria

Despite the huge potential for recycling, which can rake in billions of Naira and create many jobs, plastic waste has continued to cause hazards to…

Despite the huge potential for recycling, which can rake in billions of Naira and create many jobs, plastic waste has continued to cause hazards to the Nigerian environment. With a population of over 200 million people, Nigeria produces a high volume of plastic which most often ends up in water bodies, gutters and drainages; clogging the water channels and contributing to the perennial flooding the country has been experiencing in some urban centres over the years.

It’s been estimated that Nigeria generates about three million tonnes of plastic waste yearly, coming top on the plastic waste generation chart in Africa.

But over 88 per cent of the plastic waste generated in Nigeria is not recycled. Globally, Nigeria is ranked 9th for plastic pollution.

Waste comes in sizes; ranging from macroplastic (pieces larger than 25 millimetres in diameter) to nanoplastic (less than 1,000 nanometers). It takes various forms, such as polyethylene terephthalate (used for food packaging, beverages, and personal care products), polyvinyl chloride (used in plumbing pipes, flooring, and clothing) and polystyrene (used for food packaging, laboratory materials, toys and computer housing).

Studies have shown the adverse effects of plastic waste on the environment. For instance, experts say it can cause intestinal damage when ingested by fishes and turtles.

Microplastic particles (less than 5mm long) have been shown to be potential vectors of disease agents. Plastic has been reported in cooking salt, stool and drinking water (tap, bottled and sachet) with potential risks to human health.

Scavengers hard at work yet plastic litters Kano

Plastic waste litters every nook and cranny of Kano State, especially the metropolitan areas, despite scavengers picking them up regularly.

A peep into gutters in Kano greets the eyes with the sight of used water sachets, used beverage bottles, polythene bags and other forms of plastic. Mountains of plastic are found at dumpsites, while on roads too there are litters of the solid waste.

Dr Garba Saleh Ahmad, an environmentalist, who spoke to Daily Trust Saturday, said “Plastic wastes are very cheap and convenient to use hence they are for packaging for almost everybody and they are discarded everywhere.

“The environmental effect is that they are non-biodegradable. They don’t decompose at all or easily and are found almost everywhere.

“Some of them have recyclable values and are reusable. So, their first environmental effect is that they block drainages and waterways and this causes flooding. Also, they lead to stagnation and become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and subsequently lead to rise in Malaria cases in our communities.

“Another environmental effect is that when set on fire, these materials are cancerogenic. People need to be very aware of this so that they handle and treat them for a safer environment.”

Meanwhile, the new administration of Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf recently issued an executive order mandating residents, especially commuters, to use waste bins in the vehicles they commute in as part of efforts to keep the city clean.

Also, as a response to warnings of possible flooding by Nimet, the waste management agency in the state had embarked on a massive refuse collection across some areas in the metropolis.

Plastic wastes stretch Lagos’ fragile ecosystem

Lagos, a bustling metropolis and the economic hub of Nigeria, is grappling with a growing environmental crisis caused by uncontrollable accumulation of plastic wastes.

While these materials have undoubtedly revolutionized some industries and impacted the lives of many, their improper disposal and inadequate waste management systems have unleashed a host of hazards upon the fragile Lagos ecosystem.

Lagos is surrounded by a network of water bodies, including the Atlantic Ocean, rivers, and lagoons, which face severe pollution due to indiscriminate disposal of plastic wastes.

An environmental scientist, Dr Ibrahim Abdullahi, said improperly discarded plastics find their way into the water sources through open drains, rivers, and storm water runoff, leading to contamination and endangering marine life.

“I am deeply concerned about the long-term consequences of plastic waste on our ecosystem. The chemicals released from decomposing plastics can contaminate soil and water, posing risks to human health and agriculture,” he added.

A resident, Mrs Chidinma Okonkwo, said, “As a resident of Lagos, it breaks my heart to see our beautiful beaches littered with plastic waste. It not only harms marine life but also affects tourism and the livelihoods of those who depend on the coast.”

Another resident, Mr Adeola Ogunleye, said “I have seen firsthand how plastic waste clogs drainage systems during the rainy season, leading to devastating floods in many parts of Lagos. It’s time we take action and reduce our reliance on single-use plastics.”



Abraham Emmanuel, a serving corps member attached to Onigbongbo Local Government Area, was seen by our reporter alongside others while cleaning drainages and road waterways on the Opebi-Allen Avenue axis.

He said corps members in Lagos resorted in such cleaning exercises as part of their community development service and nation-building, adding that plastics have blocked some drainages, thereby causing an inflow of flood to some buildings in the metropolis.

“I feel it’s very important to clean the environment because of its dangers to everyday living. The accumulation of water impedes the normal flow of water in the drainage. For instance, anytime drainages are blocked, it affects our apartment here in Ikeja because the water will start entering the compound. This is very dangerous to our well-being,” Emmanuel said.

As at the time of filing this report, efforts to reach the Lagos State Environmental

Protection Agency (LASEPA) and Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) did not yield positive results.

Kogi risks epidemic

The metropolitan areas in Kogi State are choked with plastic wastes and experts are concerned that with the poor management of the situation, the state faces the risk of a major epidemic.

They said the indiscriminate dumping of these used plastic materials in many areas has posed health hazards in the society, besides serving as an agent of flooding.

According to Dr Abubakar Hasim, an environmentalist and a retired director in the federal Civil Service, poor handling of the plastic wastes is capable of causing epidemic such as cholera, dysentery and its likes.

He said, “I have witnessed people picking up used bottle water from dirty environments, gutters, markets, drainages and event centres to re-use it for local brews and sell to unsuspecting customers.

“The used waste bottle must have picked pathogens, microorganism – capable of causing diseases such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa or fungi with the contact with its present hosts.

“Who knows! Perhaps, the source of cholera, dysentery and other communicable diseases in the society may be from these used bottles picked from the gutters or event centres.”

Dr Hasim insisted that the indiscriminate dumping of this synthetic materials in Lokoja environs can lead to environmental disaster, considering its topography and the geographical setting of the capital city.

“The larger part of Lokoja settlement is sandwiched between mountains and rivers Niger and Benue. This has made it vulnerable to incessant erosion and flooding,” he added.

According to the Executive Director of Conscience for Human Rights and Conflict Resolutions (CHRCR), Comrade Idris Miliki Abdul, plastic wastes have contributed to the environmental hazards in Lokoja.

“The state ministry of environment and related agencies need to improve on their function to stem the incident of erosion and flooding in many streets of Lokoja.

“These synthetic wastes are known to have blocked water flow in busy areas like Post Office and market areas, including major streets that collect water from higher ground (mount Patti) to River Niger.

“The state government needs to evolve a consistent environmental policy to address the menace of indiscriminate dumping by providing baskets and bins in the busy areas in Lokoja, as is being done in metropolitan areas in other states,” he said.

However, an attempt to speak to the Commissioner of Environment over the subject was not fruitful, as he was said to be away on official assignment.

A source said the government will soon roll out rules and regulations regarding indiscriminate dumping of waste.

Similarly, residents of Maiduguri have expressed concerns over indiscriminate dumping of plastic waste which could lead to health hazards in the state capital.

Some affected areas are Bryan NNPC Depot, Polo General, Gwange and other parts of the city centre.

A health practitioner, Modu Kumshe, lamented that plastic wastes block drainages which ultimately cause flood, especially in Polo and other areas.

“As we approach the rainy season proper in Maiduguri metropolis, these plastics are the main reasons we experience floods because we only have rainfall in two months or so.

“It is not enough for the government to spend millions of naira on evacuation of drainages every year. When it is raining heavily, wastes usually block the drainage channels,” Modu said.

A resident, Kachalla Yunus, warned that the state government should take decisive action in Bayan Depot and Polo areas due to massive indiscriminate waste dumping.

He said there is need for the state government to introduce some mechanism to ensure strict adherence by all and sundry in the metropolitan.

“It is getting out of hand because heaps of wastes dotting Bayan Depot off Damboa road, calls for concern. Government must do something about it very urgently because it is affecting our environment.

“This could lead to outbreak of communicable diseases in our neighbourhood,” he said.

Meanwhile, the 2023 National Environmental Sanitation Day commemorated penultimate week by the Federal Ministry of Environment, focused on the theme: “Promoting Sustainable Waste Management for a Healthy Environment: Stop Open Dumping.”

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Alhaji Ibrahim Yusufu, said the national advocacy day was dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding on the importance of sanitation and hygiene as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases, save lives and ensure effective and quality sanitation delivery services as well as meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3, 6 and 7 by 2030.

He said, “This year’s theme could not be more apt and timely considering the critical role sanitation and hygiene play in preventing and controlling the spread of infectious diseases such as Cholera, Typhoid fever, Lassa Fever, COVID-19 virus, Monkey pox virus etc. The theme is also a clarion call for every one of us to work together and leverage on lessons learned from response to COVID-19 to address the neglect of sanitation and hygiene as a major means of preventing and controlling transmission of sanitation & hygiene associated infectious diseases.

The permanent secretary acknowledged that poor sanitation has been identified as being responsible for a significant percentage of preventable communicable diseases particularly in developing countries including Nigeria.

He added, “A large number of children die every year due to sanitation and hygiene enabled diseases. More than 3.5 million children suffer from diarrheal diseases and this is not a small figure. Children, who are less than 5 years old, are more prone to such diseases.”

“The advent of emerging and re-emerging diseases such as COVID-19, Lassa Fever, Monkey pox, Cholera etc. in Nigeria has further underscored the fact that access to sanitation and hygiene is not only a fundamental human right that safeguards public health and human dignity but also an essential need when it comes to disease prevention. This year’s National Environmental Sanitation Day therefore calls for individuals, communities, governments at all levels, development partners, etc. to be involved in the planning and implementation of sanitation and hygiene activity within their immediate environment, community and the nation at large.”

By Terkula Igidi (Abuja), Salim Umar Ibrahim (Kano), Tijani Labaran (Lokoja), Olatunji Omirin (Maiduguri) & Jide Olasunkanmi (Lagos)

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