• Tuesday, March 05, 2024
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BusinessDay

Can Lagos take away styrofoam packs and change the culture? It should.

styrofoam packs in Lagos (1)

One week into its ban on the sale, distribution, and use of Styrofoam packs, the Lagos State Government took a few steps back by allowing three weeks for its implementation rather than with immediate effect. The extension cast doubts about the government’s resolve to implement this significant policy direction, given the scale, impact, and consequences of the ban on an item that has become part of the culture. Businessday urges the Lagos State Government to stay the course and finish what it has started.

The deadline postponement allows the government and citizens to reflect and strategise how to effect this critical change. Styrofoam packs are popularly called takeaway packs. They are integral to the city-state’s cultural and economic life and that of most Nigerian states.

styrofoam packs
styrofoam packs

People use them everywhere and for sundry purposes. They serve in food and beverage packaging as takeaway containers for meals, soups, snacks, meat trays and egg cartons. People also used Styrofoam to pack electronics, appliances, furniture, décor, pharmaceuticals, and medical supplies.

Lagos has rightly led Nigeria on the vexed matter of plastics pollution. In doing so, Lagos is in the right company of many cities and countries that have done so.

We endorse the Lagos State ban on single-use plastics. Lagos has rightly led Nigeria on the vexed matter of plastics pollution. In doing so, Lagos is in the right company of many cities and countries that have done so.

Many countries and cities are implementing bans and restrictions on Styrofoam packaging because of its harmful effects on the environment and people. Rwanda banned plastic bags in 2008 and all single-use plastics in 2019; Kenya banned plastic bags in 2017 and included packaging from non-biodegradable plastics two years later. Others include Chile, the Dominican Republic, India, and Thailand.

styrofoam packs in Lagos (2)
styrofoam

Styrofoam is banned in many US cities, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Washington, D.C. It is also banned in San Francisco and Vancouver, Canada. London has a levy on single-use plastic bags and is considering banning Styrofoam.

Styrofoam is dangerous. Simple. It is harmful to the environment and negatively impacts humans. It is non-biodegradable. According to Washington University, Styrofoam takes 500 years to decompose; it cannot be recycled, so the Styrofoam cups dumped in landfills are there to stay. With enough Styrofoam cups produced daily to circle the earth if lined up end to end, the potential for significant ecological impact is great.

Lagos and its citizens should focus now on alternatives to single-use plastics. The state should also pay attention to the payroll of producers and the consequences of the ban. Many big, medium, and small firms manufacture and distribute the packs in Lagos State. How can the state assist them with the transition?

The ban on single-use plastics in Lagos should ignite the creativity and resourcefulness of the people of Lagos. Many exciting alternatives to Styrofoam and single-use plastics offer sustainable application options.

The primary area is food and beverage packaging. The many alternatives include biodegradable materials, reusable containers, and paper-based options. Plant-based options include bamboo and leaf wraps that decompose quickly and are compostable.

Citizens can turn to reusable containers such as stainless steel, glass jars, and silicone food wraps, which are durable, easy to clean, and can be used repeatedly. Paper-based options exist in poly-coated paper cups, boxes, aluminium cans, and foils. They are lightweight, recyclable and offer good heat retention.

Shopping and carrying is another central area featuring single-use plastics. People have grown used to carrying disposable plastic shopping bags. There are alternatives, however. They include reusable bags, fabric tote bags, cloth produce bags, and foldable shopping bags. They are convenient and eliminate the need for disposable plastic bags. Other alternatives include basketry and woven materials. They exist but currently serve as cultural statements. The opportunity is to go into large-scale production of traditional bamboo, straw, or reed baskets. They are sturdy, eco-friendly, and aesthetically pleasing.

Manufacturers can produce drinking straws from stainless steel, bamboo, paper and glass. They are durable and eco-friendly. They can also create reusable mugs and thermoses that eliminate the need for disposable paper or plastics.

Businessday points to the opportunities in the ban on single-use plastics. It should stir the entrepreneurial drive of Lagos. Let citizens turn on their creativity.

We hope the LASG reconsiders and develops a strategic communication plan for this change management effort. Change management is a continuous process and not a one-time event tackled with the military-era language of “with immediate effect”. Lagos should carry its citizens along and get buy-in for a large-scale effort to change behaviours.

It should articulate the specific change, its necessity, and the desired outcomes. It should set realistic and measurable goals for the change initiative.