• Friday, July 19, 2024
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Sustainable packaging and the impact on Nigeria’s environmental landscape

Sustainable packaging and the impact on Nigeria’s environmental landscape

June is widely recognised as a month to focus on the environment. It is an opportunity to reflect on how various packaging formats, if not recycled, are bad for the environment, although some are worse than others. For example, glass that ends up in landfills will eventually decompose into smaller and smaller pieces through a process called devitrification. This happens extremely slowly and can take thousands or even millions of years.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), PET takes roughly 500 years to disintegrate, and beverage cartons, mostly made of paper and a small component of plastic and aluminium, take about five years. All stakeholders agree that, despite the varying times for packaging formats to decompose, recycling is important.

Read also: Building a psychologically secure and sound environment

Daily, Nigerians consume, on average, 100 million units of packaging. There is an imminent environmental crisis over packaging format pollution. If not recycled, the longer various packaging formats disintegrate, it could pose a threat to the health of the people, damage vital ecosystems, and undermine the country’s well-being.

This is why the Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance (FBRA), a Nigerian non-profit organisation, was formed to take on the responsibility and drive industry collaboration with the aim of uniting stakeholders in the food and beverage sector to support sustainability and create a circular economy through waste collection and recycling programmes.

The alliance has expanded its membership from four PET-centric companies to 34, now encompassing a wider range of packaging materials like flexible plastics, cartons, glass, and aluminium cans.

This diversification has resulted in a significant increase in collection rates across six waste streams, exceeding 75,000 metric tonnes of recyclables collected in total, according to Agharese Onaghise, the executive director of the Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance (FBRA), detailing FBRA’s remarkable growth since its inception in 2018.

To further deepen sustainability conversations and in commemoration of World Environmental Day, The Greenpreneurs, a Green Economy and Climate Exclusive programme, in partnership with FBRA, recently gathered key industry stakeholders to discuss the importance of sustainability and the circular economy. The event featured key stakeholders from Tetra Pak West Africa, the Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance (FBRA), and Nestle, among others.

While all packaging materials have their downsides, beverage cartons offer a distinct advantage as they are made with less plastic and residual waste and have far less impact on the environment. This advantage is already recognised in countries like Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Senegal, and some other African countries where beverage cartons are the preferred packaging format. This highlights its potential as an eco-friendlier option, translating to a smaller footprint in overflowing landfills, reducing the environmental burden.

Speaking on the importance of sustainability, Clement Sunday, marketing and portfolio director for Tetra Pak West Africa, shared that it is necessary for everyone to be involved in climate change to ensure a sustainable environment for all, while also stating the organisation has increased its environmental footprint, in turn doubling its collection rate.

 “If not recycled, the longer various packaging formats disintegrate, it could pose a threat to the health of the people, damage vital ecosystems, and undermine the country’s well-being.”

“At Tetra Pak, we are working on building the circular economy in Nigeria and helping to close the loop. So, we are working together with our partners, first to raise awareness and let people know that beverage cartons are recyclable.”

“Tetra Pak’s focus is to provide access to safe and nutritious food for billions of people around the planet in a way that protects the planet. The principles of circularity are at the core of its operation, with its value chain approach and partnerships driving this.”

“Circularity is a journey; it is not something one partner can do alone, so we collaborate across the entire value chain. We have partners that can recycle all beverage cartons that are being produced in the country, about 11,000 ns. Together with our biggest partner in Sub-Saharan Africa, Chivita Hollandia, we are already recycling locally. Recently, we signed an investment with a new collector to increase recycling rates of beverage cartons in Nigeria,” he concluded.

Read also: Industry presents roadmap on plastic waste management to Minister of Environment

Also speaking at the programme, Victoria Uwadoka, head corporate communications, public relations, and sustainability at Nestle Nigeria Plc, highlighted how they are committed to promoting a circular economy for PET in Nigeria, thereby increasing collection rates and creating a robust recycling setup.

Sustainability, once a distant concept, has evolved significantly. Today, sustainability paints a broader picture. It acknowledges the interconnectedness of economic growth, social equity, and environmental protection. In Nigeria’s context, this translates to managing waste responsibly while fostering a thriving economy and ensuring a healthy environment for all.

All stakeholders agreed that true development requires a delicate balance. It must not come at the expense of a nation’s environmental well-being. When a country’s environmental resources are depleted, its economic prosperity, social cohesion, and political stability are all at risk.

This emphasises the critical need for sustainable development practices. These practices prioritise long-term environmental health while promoting economic growth and social progress. By protecting our environment, we safeguard the foundation for a secure and prosperous future for all.

 

Yetunde writes from Lagos.