The European Union (EU) has urged the federal government to intensify efforts at ending plastic waste pollution in Nigeria through effective waste management that creates economic opportunities.
Experts have warned that plastic pollution is as potentially dangerous and disruptive as the threat of climate change.
This, in part, informed the United Nations’ theme for the 2023 World Environment Day: ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ in response to the dangers posed by plastic pollution on human and aquatic life.
Several studies have shown the impact of poorly disposed plastic or unrecycled plastic items which end up in water bodies, thereby endangering marine life and causing health and environmental challenges on human.
To this end, the EU delegation represented by Sabri Mekaoui noted that Nigeria needs to shift its focus to plastic waste management.
Speaking at the 50th edition of 2023 World Environment Day hosted by the Federal Ministry of Environment in Abuja, Mekaoui said the EU is supporting Nigeria in programming and responses aimed at reducing green-house gas by 20 per cent so as to meet its global commitment on climate change mitigation.
He urged the federal government to view plastic waste as a critical environmental crisis which requires urgent intervention.
“Eliminating plastic waste is not going to be a solution; the solution is putting plastic back to the economic value chain,” he said, pointing at the need for the government to develop and enforce policy, regulatory and legal framework as well as ensure behavioural change on the part of the citizens.
Mekaoui also challenged the government and private sector to invest in the economic value chain of plastic.
“There are a lot of economic opportunities in the value chain of plastic, which we do not concentrate on, we only look at recycling; recycling is just one component f the value chain, there are a lot of economic values to earn from plastic,” he said.
Also, the Federal Ministry of Environment with partners from Sterling One Foundation, Oando Foundation, Oxfam Nigeria and the European Union urged stakeholders and the public to pay close attention to the dangers caused by unmanaged plastic wastes.
Yusuf Ibrahim, Permanent Secretary at the ministry, said, “Nigeria is no stranger to the concerns over increasing quantum of plastic waste in our environment from all manner of sources such as packaging/storage of food, drinks and beverages, as they litter the environment, block drainages; resulting ion flooding and also release of toxic gases when burnt or incinerated with devastating effects on our health and environment.”
Ibrahim called for concerted efforts and corporation from both private sector, government and civil society to end the menace of plastic pollution.
He said the ministry of environment is in alignment with global initiatives to establish legally-binding instrument on plastic pollution and the Global Waste Initiative 50 by 2050 that set the target to recycle and treat at least 50 per cent of waste produced in Africa by 2050.
“In a bid to make our contribution in line with the global agenda, we are implementing the National Policy on Solid Waste Management, National Policy on Plastic Waste Management and the National Policy on Waste Battery Management,” Yusuf said.
He called for quick implementation of international treaties on waste management, noting that delay in addressing the issues could further reverse the gains made on climate action.
Nigeria is already battling with the environmental challenges of plastic pollution, which is responsible for drainage blockade, flooding and the negative impact on marine habitat.
It is believed that plastic pollution can alter habitats and natural processes, reducing ecosystem’s ability to adapt to climate change and directly affecting millions of people’s livelihoods, food production capabilities and social well-being.
Tonia Uduimoh, Programme Manager at Oando Foundation, said the Oando Foundation prioritises sustainable clean environment, hence its investment and partnership with the Ministry of Environment.
“As the world grapples with the adverse effect of excessive plastic use and disposal, Nigeria is not left out of the struggle to effectively manage plastic waste. An estimated 2.5million tons of plastic is produced in Nigeria annually, placing the country among the top 20 nations that contribute 83 per cent of the total volume of land based plastic waste that ends up in the ocean,” she said.