By Oladapo Soneye
As the world continues to battle a global disaster of plastic pollution, Nigeria not being left out of the trouble, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), the foremost environmental NGO in Nigeria, is ready to provide practical solutions to this critical menace through simple and adaptable eco-friendly strategies, as it commemorates the World Environment Day (WED) in June 2023.
World Environment Day is the biggest international day for the environment led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and held annually since 1973, it has grown to be the largest global platform for environmental outreach. It is celebrated by millions of people across the world. WED is used to encourage worldwide awareness and action for the protection of the environment. It is usually celebrated on 5th June in over 100 countries.
The theme for 2023 WED is “Solutions to Plastic Pollution”. The United Nations through UNEP is using this theme to make a clarion call on people all over the world to end plastic pollution. It is a day that calls for global solutions to combat plastic pollution.
Around the world, one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute while up to five trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, half of the plastic produced is designed for single use purposes (used just once and thrown away).
NCF joins the rest of the world to mark the 2023 WED through days of activities lined up to educate people and propose practical solutions to plastic pollution. Some of the major proposed activities include School Recycling Initiative; Beach/Community Clean-up; and Upcycling. These would be done with the aim of protecting our environment by limiting the volume of plastics going into our landfills and promoting environmental education among young Nigerians.
At the initial stage, some schools will be adopted in Lagos State for the school recycling initiative. Schools are stakeholders in championing environmental sustainability in their community, they help inspire passion in children and can help reinforce the message of conservation to children. Hands-on activity such as recycling helps drastically reduce the volume of plastics in their community while also building environmentally concerned generation.
There will be provision of giant sorting bins for plastic collection generated both in the school and neighborhood, regular pick-up of recyclables will be done and equivalent amount from the pick-up donated to the schools for purchase of school supplies.
School recycling will inspire students to care about the planet. Students who participate in the recycling activity knowing fully well the benefits and opportunities recycling provide will carry on this habit as adults. Schools will be motivated as the activity will provide little incentive for school supplies.
While on the other hand, Upcycling is the process of transforming waste materials into useful items. The adopted schools will be visited and taught how to transform plastic wastes into useful items. This is a form of empowerment programme for the school children, teachers and volunteers as the items can provide a source of income when sold.
The Beach/ Community Clean-up as an activity is a relatively easy and fun way to help tackle plastic pollution. The most direct impact they have is that they serve as awareness tool about plastic pollution. The more people attend the clean-up, the more environmentally conscious they become, knowing fully well that their plastic waste if not disposed properly ends up in water bodies and causing harm to aquatic wildlife.
According to UNEP report, Nigeria is estimated to generate about 2.5 million tons of plastic waste annually. Meanwhile in Lagos State, plastic accounts for 15% of the total waste generated. The situation is likely to worsen as Nigeria’s population grows, from more than 220 million people now to an expected over 400 million by the end of 2050, and the production/need for plastic is also growing. Plastic wastes such as PET bottles, plastic bags, disposable plates and spoons, straws etc. are found around us, blocking drainage systems, causing flooding during the rainy seasons, and providing good breeding ground for mosquitoes. Plastic debris finds their way from the land into the ocean through activities like urban and storm-water runoff, littering, improper waste management and disposal, industrial activities, construction, and illegal dumping. Marine species ingest or are entangled by plastic debris, which causes severe injuries and death.
“There must be a systemic change to stop the flow of plastic waste ending up in our environment. Out of the 7 billion tons of plastic waste generated globally so far, less than 10% has been recycled. Plastic waste, whether in a river, the ocean or on land can persist in the environment for centuries. Most plastic items are not degradable as they rather break down into smaller particles called microplastics which recent studies have found in human lungs, livers, and kidneys,” Dr. Joseph Onoja, Director General of NCF.
WED is an environmental awareness programme aimed at promoting environmental education, ingenuity, teamwork and general environmental friendliness among children and youths. NCF appeals to corporate organisations and well-meaning Nigerians to join in the fight against this environmental hazard committedly.
June 2, 2023