The Federal, State Governments, parastatal agencies and corporate organisations are now evolving innovative ways of disposing of cellophane wastes due to its non-biogradable nature to mitigate the effect on humans and environments.
A survey by pressmen across the country revealed that many government agencies were adopting various measures to address the dangers associated with the indiscriminate dumping of wastes like cellophane bags.
“Across the six geopolitical zones in the country, people were using cellophane bags for packaging goods, carrying food items from one location to another and for carrying goods.
“People are also using cellophane bags for concealing items purchased or items to be delivered to various locations, as a shopping bag in markets and malls,’’ the survey reveals.
However, the used cellophane bags were being disposed of in bins, drainage channels, on the streets, burnt openly with other wastes, thrown into water bodies, littered on the road and canals, which pose health danger to humans.
According to Wikipaedia, the free encyclopaedia, Cellophane is a thin, transparent sheet made of regenerated cellulose.
“Its low permeability to air, oils, greases, bacteria, and water makes it useful for food packaging.’’
In his reactions, Mr Nosa Aigbedion, the Coordinator, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Lagos Field Office, described the survey on the menace caused by cellophane bags as apt and timely.
According to him, this is coming in the face of increased flooding of several areas as well as the fact that humans have over the years paid a high price for its indiscriminate use and disposal.
“This is visible in the environment and responsible for various illnesses in the country.
“They are disposed of in waste bins to be evacuated by Lagos Waste Management Agency (LAWMA), drainage channels, streets, water bodies, water ways and canals.
“The evacuation of some of these polythene bags indiscriminately disposed of is evacuated by the Lagos State Government or residents associations, but mostly swept away by floods.
“An estimated 90 per cent of cellophane bags used in Lagos State are not properly disposed.
“Due to several factors residents adopt unsafe and unsustainable disposal methods which have adverse overall impacts on human health and the environment.
“The improper disposal of used cellophane bags affected the environment, causing damage to the first and second level aquifer with corresponding effect on the purity of underground water in the state.
“Blockage of drainage channels and filthy streets which prevents the free flow of water leading to flooding.
“Degrading of the natural environment, burning of the plastics and nylon emits very toxic gases that harm the atmosphere and causes severe air pollution.
“Cellophane bags in water bodies pose a serious risk for water creatures and effect the life cycles of fishes and other animals.
“On lands, these bags pose a threat to animals as digestion or inhalation may lead to the death of the animals,’’ Aigbedion said.
To address the problems caused by this unhealthy disposal of cellophane and plastic bags, he said that the agency had over the years put in place several laws and mechanisms to deter illegal disposal of wastes.
The NESREA director said that these were done through promulgation and enforcement of relevant laws, sensitisation and workshops to address the dangers associated with the indiscriminate dumping of wastes.
“One of such law is the National Environmental (Sanitation and Waste Control) Regulations, 2009.
“The purpose of the regulation is the adoption of sustainable and environment friendly practices in environmental sanitation and waste management to minimise pollution.
“The regulation prohibits persons, owners, operators, or passengers from throwing or dropping any litter (which includes polythene bags) on the roads, highways, public space, drainage system or other undesignated places.
“The regulation also states the responsibility of government and service providers to their customers and the fine associated with illegal disposal of this waste,’’ he said.
Aigbedion said that NESREA had commissioned the Waste to Wealth Initiative as a means of addressing the issues created by illegal disposal of wastes and its management and for the overall economic benefit of the country.
“The agency has at different fora encouraged the deployment of environment-friendly waste recycling plants to address the recycling of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste.
“The agency has for several years been organising a strategic and massive flood awareness campaign to educate residents on the dangers inherent in dumping waste (plastics and polythene) into gutters, drainage systems and waterways.
“This awareness creation was carried out in collaboration with the state and local governments for effective participation,’’ he said.
Also, Prof. Prince Mmom of the University of Port Harcourt, advised the Federal Government to formulate a policy prohibiting the use of nylon (cellophane) bags and return to the use of leaves and papers to check flooding.
He told newsmen that nylons or cellophane bags contribute about 50 per cent of the country’s solid wastes.
Mmom, a Professor of Environmental Management and Director, Centre for Disaster Risk Management and Development Studies, said that there was high rate of nylon use in major cities.
He warned that continued deposit of these non-biodegradable materials could result in blockage of the drainage system and canals leading to flood.
“Over the years, government at all levels had struggled with the proper waste disposal methods, which could effectively rid the environment of nylon material wastes, but these have yet to yield much results.
“Waste recycling method was also introduced and nylons were being recycled in some cities, but unfortunately not in large scales,’’ he said.
Mmom urged the government to, as a matter of urgency, invest more in nylon recycling, as part of its major strategies to tackling vagaries of flooding in Nigeria.
“Basically, nylons and cellophane bags came much into our daily activities in the late 80s.
“Prior to this time our items were being packaged with biodegradable materials like papers and leaves.
“But recently, attention has been shifted to cellophane and cellophane cannot naturally decompose and could stay as long as one can imagine, constituting nuisance on the drains,’’ he said.
In her remarks, Dr Olutoyin Mejiuni, an Associate Professor at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, cautioned against the ban of cellophane, saying it could endanger the livelihoods of the citizens and have some economic implications.
Mejiuni urged the governments to focus more on effective waste management strategies because of the economic implications and threat to the livelihoods of citizens that ban of plastic and cellophane bags could engender.
“This way, the country may retain the economic and social benefits of the manufacture and sale of plastic bags and also reap the economic benefits of effective waste management, “ Mejiuni said.
Also, Nasiru Surundi, the Sole Administrator, Borno State Environmental Protection Agency (BOSEPA), told newsmen that his agency was evacuating quantum of waste in the metropolis on daily basis.
Surundi expressed concern over indiscriminate dumping of waste on the streets in spite of the provision of designated refuse disposal centres in the metropolis.
According to him, the state government had expended over N600 million on the procurement of environmental sanitation vehicles and equipment to enhance collection and disposal of waste.
In Edo, the Commissioner for Environment, Mr Reginald Ogun, said that the menace posed by indiscriminate use and disposal of cellophane bags led to the blockage of drainage channels, flooding and unclean environment.
“The state government has introduced waste recycling and sensitisation to create awareness,’’ he said.
The commissioner said that awareness was created by the state government for people to learn how to dispose of cellophane bags properly, rather than littering the environment with the products.
Ogun said that the state government would prosecute anyone who violates the law against indiscriminate waste disposal.
“There are enabling laws backing every government policy and prevention of indiscriminate disposal of cellophane bags is no exemption.
“The state government is giving enough warning to the people through sensitisation, and after this, we will move to the next phase according to law, which is prosecution.’’
In Bauchi, Alhaji Muazu Dallari, the Director, Environmental Sanitation, Bauchi State Environmental Protection Agency (BASEPA), said that burning of cellophane bags was one of the factors responsible for global warming and other climatic challenges.
Dallari said that such bags could pose health challenges as they contained sulphur and carbon monoxide; when burnt within our surrounding, they emitted gas that can trigger respiratory diseases.
He said that his agency had provided 84 temporary dumping sites within the state to check the practice of dumping or destroying waste in the public.
On its part, the Borno Government said it had established a recycling plant to control the menace of cellophane bags and enhance effective waste management.
Alhaji Mala Garba, the Permanent Secretary, Borno Ministry of Environment, told newsmen that the plant was set up in Maiduguri and had commenced operation.
He explained that the 10 metric tonnes capacity plant was designed to recycle cellophane bags, polythene, plastics and solid wastes.
Garba added that the ministry had engaged youth volunteers to collect cellophane and other wastes littering the environment, adding that the government was providing a token to motivate them.
A nutritionist and biochemist, Dr Ochuko Erikainure, called for environmental legislative measures to curtail illicit disposal of cellophanes and other undegradable wastes in the country.
Erukainure, also a senior research officer at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO), Oshodi, Lagos, said that most times cellophanes were not disposed properly by people which litter the streets and block the drains.
“Blockage of the drainage channels can lead to the spread of communicable diseases and also cause air pollution such as cholera, dysentery, diarrhoea, among others.
“Polluted air can lead to lung diseases such as asthma and also affect the ecosystem which have effect on the agricultural produces.
“Consumption of fishes and animals exposed to cellophanes (ingested) can lead to ingestion of plasticisers, which is toxic to humans and linked to various forms of cancers,” he said.
Erukainure said that over 90 per cent of most daily tasks involve the use of cellophanes, especially for packaging and food preparations such as moinmoin.
“The usage of cellophanes in food packaging and cooking can lead to leaching of plasticisers into the food which causes ingestion to the consumers,” he said.
Erukainure urged governments at all levels to set up standard recycling plants to evacuate cellophanes and waste materials by waste disposal agencies or locating thrash collectors into different communities.
“Government can convert the waste materials into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials.
“Governments should also sensitise people on the danger of illicit disposal of cellophanes on the environment and its health implications.
In Umuahia, Mr Ikechi Mbonu, the Director, Pollution and Environmental Health, Abia Ministry of Health, told newsmen that recycling of cellophane bags and other non-biodegradable wastes would soon commence in the state.
Mbonu said that many local and foreign companies were coming to negotiate for waste management in Umuahia and Aba.
He regretted that the Federal Government’s pilot scheme on recycling of waste had failed in Abia, because Phoenix Environmental Services, which won the contract, could not deliver on the job.
Mbonu said that currently a private waste management firm was negotiating with the state government to manage the waste from cellophane bags.
Mbonu said that the company, which was already operating in Ukwa Local Government Area of the state, had given an assurance that it had the capacity to recycle cellophane bags into asphalt for road construction.
He also said that the state Environmental Protection Agency had commenced the process of house-to-house collection and sorting of waste in the two major cities of Aba and Umuahia.
According to him, it is expected that the environmental pollution caused by the rampant use and indiscriminate dumping of cellophane bags in the state will be permanently solved with the planned sorting and recycling of the waste.
Similarly, the Enugu State Government said that it would tackle the menace of cellophane bags and the non-bio-degradable wastes through two programmes, which had reached advanced stage.
The Commissioner for Environment and Mineral Resources, Amb. Fidel Ayogu, told newsmen that the first was the deployment of a bio-degradable cellophane bags.
‘’I have proposed a bill to stop the present environmental injurious and non-biodegradable cellophane to the Enugu State House of Assembly.
“The bill, when passed and signed into law, the injurious and non-biodegradable cellophane will not be used anywhere in the state.
“Everybody, especially traders and households, will all be using the new bio-degradable nylon or cellophane bags,’’ he said.
Ayogu said that the second step in tackling the menace of non-biodegradable cellophane was the recent Waste to Wealth and Electricity Generation proposal from a company to the state government.
He said that the company’s proposal to partner with the state government to turn waste to wealth and electricity as well as fertiliser was extensively discussed in the recent state executive council meeting.
“The Serene Green Field and Portland Waste to Energy proposal is to partner with Enugu State Government in the management, waste disposal and ultimately to grow the waste and management so that we can produce power and fertiliser from it.”
In Akure, Mr Ayo Mesuleya, the General Manager, Ondo State Waste Management Authority, enjoined people to cultivate the habit of proper disposal of cellophane bags to avoid littering the environment.
Mesuleya told newsmen that since cellophane bags were being used for packaging of different items including food was non-degradable, its improper disposal could harm the environment.
To ensure proper disposal of cellophane bags, he said that the state government had provided a recycling plant on Igbatoro Road where the bags were being converted for better use.
“In some areas, cellophane bags litter the environment and this can be nauseating at times; but we are doing our best to correct this by removing them through our street sweepers and other workmen deployed across the state.
“We also have enlightenment programmes on radio and television on the dangers associated with indiscriminate dumping of cellophane bags on the streets.
“Our buyback programme also exists where people bring in used cellophane bags in exchange for small amounts of money as a form of encouragement,” he said.
In Osun, the state Commissioner for Environment, Mr Idowu Korede, said that the state government was partnering with stakeholders in the environment sector to ensure proper disposal of cellophane materials.
Korede said that government had engaged the services of scavengers, who now go round every nook and cranny of the state to gather cellophane materials for recycling.
He said that the state was also working with factories and other companies involved in the use of cellophane bags for recycling purposes.
Korede said that recycling of cellophane materials was also generating revenue for the state government.
According to him, the state government has a recycling plant in Osogbo where cellophane materials are being converted to end products to minimise environmental hazard.
Also, Alhaji Abdulganiyu Oyeladun, the General Manager, Osun Waste Management Agency (OWMA), told newsmen that wastes, irrespective of their nature, were being managed well in the state by the agency.
Oyeladun said the state government had made provision for proper disposal and management of cellophane materials and other wastes in the state.
He said that OWMA, as a government agency, carries out daily clearing of wastes on the highways.
Oyeladun added that the state government was also involved in a Private Sector Participation (PSP) waste managers initiative.
In Abeokuta, the General Manager of Ogun Environmental Protection Agency, Mrs Funmilayo Kuti, said that the state government had continued to take steps to tackle the menace, including the compulsory monthly environmental sanitation across the state and enforcing the use of waste baskets in public buses and taxis.
She said that the state government had embarked on regular clearing of the drainage channels and also engaged the services of over 2,090 street sweepers across the state to maintain a clean environment.
Kuti said that the state government recently signed an agreement with some development partners on waste-to-energy project.
She said a study had already been done and shown that turning of municipal wastes to energy would be feasible in the state.
In Ibadan, Mr Adeleke Ajani, the South-West Zonal Director of NESREA, said that the agency was working collaboratively with the Oyo State Government to recycle plastic and cellophane wastes under the extended producer responsibility programme of the agency.
“We encourage companies and producers of these products to manage their wastes by making sure that they register with the agency.
“We also encourage a buyback kind of programme so that if you have cellophane, you can exchange them for products.
“This will serve as incentives to manage waste, make the environment sustainable and cleaner, and we hope companies will key into it as stakeholders in the preservation of the environment.
“Recyclers and scavengers also have their roles and responsibilities; scavengers are trained on sorting and segregation of wastes from the dumpsites and households to capture the waste from source,” Ajani said.