October 10, 2017

Reps move to control production, use and disposal of polythene bags


House of Representatives

The House of Representatives on Tuesday resolved to control the manufacture, use and disposal of plastic bags, also known as polythene bags, in the country.

The lawmakers passed the resolution, following their unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Rep. Sergius Ogun (Edo-PDP) at the plenary session.

He said about 50 billion plastic bags were used annually, adding that these polythene bags accounted for over 20 per cent of municipal solid waste across the country.

Ogun said the uncontrolled use of plastic materials and the arbitrary disposal of these materials, particularly shopping bags, portended some dangers to the people and the environment.

The lawmaker said the non-degradable materials that littered the country could linger in the environment for decades without decaying.

He said the plastics eventually became a major cause of obstructed drainages and water channels, which had precipitated flooding in some flood-prone areas.

Ogun said the arbitrary disposal of plastic bags had endangered the ecosystem, while contaminating arable soils.

He said the plastic bags often found their ways into the marine environment and were sometimes ingested by marine animals, thereby choking them.

He said plastic bags gravely disrupted the ecological balance, seeping into water and emitting dioxins into food whenever they were left in a humid environment or heated.

He said most plastic bags were burnt, thereby releasing harmful toxic gases such as methane and carbon dioxide into the air, increasing the level of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in the atmosphere.

He said because of the risks which the polythene bags posed to public health, they should be replaced with biodegradable or fabric materials.

Ogun noted that several African countries like Kenya, Rwanda, Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mauritania and Malawi had adopted measures to reduce the production of plastic bags.

He said in these countries, there was either an outright ban on plastic bags or an imposition of tax as a means of checking carbon emissions emanating from the use of plastic bags, particularly single-use shopping bags.

He stressed that the government should take cognizance of the proliferation of single-use plastic bags in Nigeria and the significant costs of their disposal, litter control and negative environmental impact.

The lawmaker said as a result of the health and environmental risks of the sustained production and use of polythene bags, it was imperative for the country to adopt international best practices on effective control mechanisms.

While supporting the motion, some members said it should be upgraded into a bill.

In his ruling, the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, mandated the Committees on Environment and Habitat and Climate Change to collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Environment on how to regulate the manufacture, use and disposal of plastic bags.

He urged the committees to also look into waste recycling options and report back to the House within six weeks for further legislative action.