By Olaide Akinyanmi
Researchers estimate that more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the early 1950s — UN Environment
OVER the years, attention has been continuously drawn to the adverse effects of our misuse and improper disposal of plastic products (nylons, bottles etc.) within our immediate environment and around the world.
These adverse effects range from blocked drainage systems to plastics products littering gutters, roads and the ocean invariably leading to a degradation of the environment and thus contamination of our food, water and soil.
It also poses a huge health threat for humans and much more the death of aquatic animals, terrestrial animals and amphibians thus contributing to the extinction of some endangered species. The world, therefore, needs to do more to curtail the effects and damages done so far as. The United Nations, UN, estimates our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.
We can admit that plastics products have proved to be very valuable and useful; they are oftentimes used for storage, innovative packaging and as components of many technological products. They have also been described as “versatile, hygienic, lightweight, flexible and highly durable”. However, our poor disposal culture and addiction to single uses have caused major problems.
As remarked by Annie Leonard, Proponent of Sustainability, “There is no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere,” meaning that if waste is not properly disposed or recycled we or someone else must face the consequences now or in the nearest future. It can be likened to shoving a plate of food underneath the bed to hide it, you have only succeeded in putting it away without solving the main problem.
The food will get spoilt, cause a stench, could lead to ill health and require more energy to dispose than if it had been done properly in the first place.
According to the United Nations Environment, “researchers estimate that more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastics have been produced since the early 1950s. It is likewise interesting to note that about 60 per cent of that plastic has ended up in either a landfill or the natural environment.”
This is a very disturbing amount of trash because it takes plastics more than 400 years to decompose; it can take up to 1000 years for plastic bags to decompose while plastic bottles can take 450 years or more. These figures raise many questions; why reproduce more plastic products if they have a very long lifespan? Why not consider the sustainability benefit of plastics, why indiscriminately throw plastic products away, why single-uses, and who is to blame for this phenomenon?
So far, the government of about 59 countries around the world, 24 of them in Africa including Kenya, Botswana, Burkina Faso and Cameroon have put regulations (taxes, total and partial bans) in place to reduce the effects of plastics pollution.
On May 21, 2019, the National Assembly kick-started the process of passing a bill to ban the use and manufacture of plastic bags in the country a move that may see Nigeria becoming one of the countries to place a full ban on plastic bags. This will also mean that Nigeria will be joining other countries like France, Kenya, Gabon, Cameroon and Bangladesh among others in the world that have placed a total ban plastics bags.
A very important discussion on the subject of plastic pollution is who to blame; the government, the manufacturer, the end-users or maybe the inventor. While we may be tempted to blame one or two each group has a role to play: The government must pass effective curbing regulations, put realistic and practical implementation plans, provide infrastructure and create an enabling environment for players to access alternative options.
The manufacturer (B2B businesses) must find sustainable methods to adopt in the production of plastic products and form partnerships towards a more responsible production and disposal and recycling practice. The end-users (individuals, businesses) must embrace a better and responsible plastics usage and disposal culture, they must educate each other and use alternatives as much possible.
Individuals can also make it their responsibility to educate themselves and spread the word about the dangers and effects of plastics pollution in their communities and, if possible, organize sensitization and clean up exercises in their communities. They must also take part in efforts that have been established to reduce plastics pollution; volunteer, contribute time and funds to reputable organizations (like Recycle Points and Wecyclers) and support government bans and levies.
Unreserved commitment towards peace, unity is necessary for Nigeria — ICRP(Opens in a new browser tab)
We cannot stop telling the story of plastics pollution, we must continue to raise awareness and join our voices to this cause; everyone is welcome to the party. The least you can do is “Reduce”, “Reuse” and “Recycle”.