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Nigerian Bottling Company’s sustainability plan to protect environment, create jobs

It is estimated that about eight million tons of plastic is dumped into the ocean every year, threatening aquatic wildlife, altering ecosystems, and posing many risks to human health. Today, a major environmental challenge facing the world is sustainable waste management, especially a wrong approach towards the disposal of plastics.

This has been worsened by a pervasive global throwaway culture, which leads to the generation of more than 29 million metric tons of waste every year. As a result of poor waste management systems around the world, a lot of plastic packaging sent to landfills eventually end up in our natural environment.

With this huge global challenge in mind, organisations like the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC), for which plastic packaging is key to its value-chain, are leading the charge in advocating a collaborative approach towards sustainable plastic waste management and the protection of our environment.

The company had in late June, in partnership with RecyclePoints, a waste recycling and social benefit organization, commissioned a Plastic Recycling Bank.

The recycling bank, which is part of a chain of recycling hubs set up by the Coca-Cola System across Nigeria, is expected to help drive the collection and recycling of post-consumer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics.

Read Also: Billion-dollar opportunities for Nigeria in anti-plastic waste fight

The company has been pivotal in formation of the Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance (FBRA), described as a team of forward looking companies united by a shared concern for the environment, and committed to promoting the sustainability of the environment by driving a self-regulatory post-consumer packaging waste recovery within the food and beverage sector.

These companies include but are not limited to Nigerian Breweries, Coca-Cola, Seven-Up Bottling Company, Nigeria Bottling Company, Nestle, Guinness, Intercontinental Distillers, Tulip Cocoa, ABInBev, Prima Caps and Preforms.

In line with the Nigerian Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Policy, that requires companies to take control of their post-consumption waste, setting for instance, a 2019 monthly collection target of 150tons of post-consumer PET bottle recovery.

The positive implications from establishing a sustainable model for plastic collection and recycling include the emergence of new businesses arising from the plastic waste recycling value chain

 

This partnership also necessitated that member companies of FBRA recycled their internal waste with RecyclePoints. More importantly, this partnership drove community recycling programs enabling RecyclePoints to reach-out and empower more communities through waste recycling.

In 2018, FBRA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Lagos State Government, through the Ministry of Transportation, to rid the state’s waterways of plastic and packaging waste.

The MoU is a three-year partnership between Lagos State and the FBRA to clean-up and prevent waste pollution from plastics and other food and beverage packaging, on Lagos State’s inland waterways. The FBRA will provide funding for equipment, gears and personnel training while the Lagos State government will be responsible for structural civil works, managing execution, personnel, waste sorting centres and enforcement. FBRA and Lagos State government will jointly fund public awareness campaigns and advocacy on appropriate packaging waste disposal systems.

Efforts by the FBRA and its steering committee are reported to have has so far recorded recycling of over 1 billion bottles into fiber; over 1,800 direct employment on an average income of $6 per day (3 times the national average); as well as the creation of synthetic fiber for local industries and export.

Recently, NBC took a major step to galvanise industry action in resolving the issue of plastic waste in Nigeria by holding a stakeholders’ forum themed ‘Packaging & Waste Management: Key Drivers, Challenges & Solutions’.

The event featured key stakeholders in the environmental sustainability space, including officials of Federal and State Ministries of Environment, industry leaders, regulators, NGOs, recycling agencies, customers, and consumers.

The company’s annual stakeholder forum which is designed to address critical issues of concern to stakeholders in the consumer-packaged goods industry and the society, was conceived as part of NBC’s contribution to national development, as a responsible and forward-looking organization. The event serves as a platform for robust discourse, exploration of new ideas and knowledge sharing on some of the most important issues facing businesses and society, especially in the manufacturing sector.

This year’s event, which was held virtually, witnessed the convergence of leading stakeholders in Nigeria’s manufacturing and waste management ecosystem and made a case for a policy direction on the reusability of plastics.

Speaking on the economic significance and reusability of plastic bottles, Matthieu Seguin, managing director of NBC, restated the company’s belief that every package should have value and life beyond its initial use; and should therefore be collected and recycled into another useful item.

He further reiterated the company’s recycling sustainability commitment, saying that “as manufacturers that use plastic packaging, we have decided to be part of the solution. Our message is clear: we want all our PET bottles back. Our goal is to recover 100percent of our primary packaging and recycle 50 percent of the same by 2030”.

Without doubt, this is an audacious statement of intent in the sustainability thrust of NBC in driving the new-economic life for plastics beyond their initial use.

It is important to note that the NBC model recognises that the global waste crisis is caused primarily by our single-use approach to product packaging. And that by zooming the lens on the circular economy, organizations can transform a seemingly overwhelming challenge into a vortex of economic opportunities for millions of people and a healthier environment for all.

The positive implications from establishing a sustainable model for plastic collection and recycling include the emergence of new businesses arising from the plastic waste recycling value chain. New job opportunities for waste aggregators and collectors, better awareness and attitudinal change on environmental pollution, cleaner waterways and improved aquatic life, a healthier environment and social inclusiveness in the fight against environmental waste pollution.

Seguin, who is also the chairman of the Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance (FBRA), the industry coalition dedicated to building a sustainable recycling economy for the food and beverage sector, also called for wider industry collaboration to ensure sustainable management of plastic waste.

“We also recognize the need to drive a larger, industry wide discussion, if we want to see the extent of change in society that will make a difference in the environment and go a long way towards advancing our World Without Waste agenda, whilst shaping the future of waste management in Nigeria,” he said.

He promised that NBC would continue to collaborate with key stakeholders in the plastic packaging and waste management value-chain to ensure that challenges in the waste management ecosystem are converted to viable economic opportunities for Nigeria’s teeming population.

Commenting on its recycling strategy, David Drew, sustainability director for The Coca-Cola Company Africa, said the beverage giant plans to achieve a world without waste by ensuring recyclability of plastic bottles, reduction of plastic in secondary packaging, reduction of weight of bottles and building collection points for proper waste disposal and sorting.

Over the years, the Coca-Cola System in Nigeria, as part of its World Without Waste ambitions, has invested both directly and indirectly in initiatives that drive a circular economy for plastics; from investments in recycling banks to empowering recyclers to expand their collection capacity and geographic footprints.

NBC’s drive for a cleaner and healthier Nigeria has over time been applauded by stakeholders, with other organisations in the manufacturing sector urged to emulate its ambitious commitment to rid the environment of plastic waste and prioritize the lifecycle of their packaging materials in their production processes.

If anything, NBC’s environmental interventions over the years have shown that its waste recycling model is more than just a response to an environmental crisis. It is a strategic imperative that prioritizes self-regulation and corporate accountability above and beyond regulatory compliance.

Above all, it is a pointer that organizations must take responsibility, not only in supporting the communities where they operate, but also in championing proactive initiatives that address the impact of their operations on their immediate environment.

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