• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Earth Day 2024: Moving towards a plastic-free Nigeria

Earth Day 2024: Moving towards a plastic-free Nigeria

By Ben Ugbana

As we celebrate World Earth Day 2024, the theme of “Planet versus Plastics” resonates deeply in our collective consciousness, because we all see the effects of plastic waste all around us.

Today therefore serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need to address the detrimental impact of plastic pollution on our environment and pave the way for a sustainable future.

Plastic pollution has become a global crisis, and Nigeria is not left out.

Read also: World Earth Day: Environmentalists advocate an end to plastic wastes

Nigeria generates up to 32 million tonnes of solid waste per year. Of that number, an estimated 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated annually, and plastic accounts for 15 percent of the total waste generated in Lagos State alone, the commercial capital of the country.

This is not to say that the recycling industry isn’t doing enough, but a 2023 report revealed that only about 20 to 30 percent of the total solid waste generated in Nigeria is being collected and managed correctly. The remaining 70 percent or so, is either dumped in unauthorised places or burned, contributing to pollution and health risks among inhabitants.

The proliferation of plastics has truly reached alarming levels, infiltrating every corner of our country, from the deepest oceans in Lagos to the highest peaks in Taraba, posing a significant threat to wildlife, ecosystems, and human health.

Water sachets, water bottles, polythene bags, take-away food packs, combs, straws, coffee cups, disposable cutlery and children toys among others, are some of the plastics we use in our day-to-day activities, and they end up in the landfills without degrading for many years.

While plastics have undoubtedly brought convenience to our lives, their long-lasting environmental footprint far outweighs any short-term benefits.

The problem is enormous. From single-use plastics clogging our dump sites to microplastics contaminating our waterways, the repercussions of this addiction are far-reaching and irreparable. The particles of these plastics end up getting into our systems and causing a series of ailments in children and elderly people alike.

Read also: World Earth Day: Niger Delta communities decry food insecurity

Kudos to the governments of Lagos State and Oyo States, who both recently banned the production and consumption of single-use plastics in their respective states. It was a step in the right direction. So far, the number of plastics in dump sites has reduced.

However, transitioning to a plastic-free country requires a multifaceted approach. It demands collaboration among governments, businesses, communities, and individuals.

While legislation must be enacted to restrict the production and consumption of single-use plastics, incentivizing the use of biodegradable alternatives, and holding polluters accountable for their actions would go a longer way.

Secondly, businesses play a pivotal role in driving sustainable practices across industries. Hence, embracing eco-friendly packaging solutions, implementing recycling programs, and adopting circular economy models are crucial steps towards reducing plastic waste and minimising environmental harm.

Consumers, too, hold significant power through their purchasing decisions. By opting for plastic-free alternatives, supporting sustainable brands, and advocating for change, individuals can contribute to the global movement towards a cleaner, greener planet.

Fourthly, education and awareness are key drivers of change. Empowering communities with knowledge about the environmental impact of plastics and providing them with practical solutions can inspire meaningful action at the grassroots level.

By fostering a culture of environmental stewardship and pushing the right narrative across platforms, we can cultivate a more sustainable mindset that transcends generations.

Finally, in commemoration of Earth Day 2024, let’s all be encouraged to seize the opportunity to catalyse meaningful change and embark on a journey towards a plastic-free Nigeria. Combating pollution is the business of everyone. Together, we can manage waste pollution in general and plastics specifically. The time to act is now!

Ugbana is a Lagos-based media professional and environment enthusiast whose startup, PlanetPulse Nigeria, is fostering a stronger sense of environmental responsibility among youth in Nigeria.