Last week, when the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, LASEPA, officially banned single-use plastic among its staff members, it was probably following the footsteps of the 400-staff members of the United Nations Climate Secretariat in Bonn, Germany, who chose to endure the heat instead of enjoying the ozone-depleting, energy-guzzling comfort of air-conditioners.
At Bonn, it was not that the air conditioners in UN climate secretariat were switched off.
“The building simply doesn’t have air-conditioners,” said John Hay, the secretariat spokesman.
The climate secretariat was not fitted with air-conditioners not because the UN does not have money to do so, or that the workers are averse to the comfort air conditioners offer.
The reason is they are aware of the negative impact Chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs, a gas air-conditioners release, have on the environment.
To lead by example, therefore, they refrained from being agents of climate change which they were hired to combat.
A few years ago, Alan Durning, in his book, How Much is Enough: The Consumer Society and the Future of the Earth, gave frightening statistics.
According to Durning, tomatoes, green peppers and some fruits that last only about a week are sold in plastic bags that last more than 100 years as refuse. Durning also records that the world tosses away, at least, 200 billion bottles, cans, plastic cartons, paper and plastic cups each year.
It is understandable, therefore, that LASEPA is decrying the increasing rate of single-use plastics, pet bottles, polystyrene and other non-biodegradable wastes in different parts of the state, and harping on the urgent need to reverse the trend with the encouragement of reusable plastics or biodegradable materials.
It is commendable that LASEPA, like the staff members of the UN Climate Secretariat in Bonn, has appropriately decided that charity begins at home – that a lifestyle of environmental friendliness should begin from its workers, hence the banning of single-use plastic among its staff members.
Waste, especially those created by plastic bottles and other non-degradable trashes, is one of the biggest problems today in our cities. Apart from littering the environment, discarded plastic bottles block the drainage systems which cause unusual flooding whenever it rains.
We call on LASEPA to set in motion a strategy by which this laudable policy can be expanded to include members of the larger society.
As the Permanent Secretary, Office of Environmental Services, Lagos State Ministry of The Environment and Water Resources, Mrs Belinda Odeneye, observed, other ministries, departments and agencies of the state and the Federal Government should emulate this step taken by LASEPA.
It is also heart-warming to know that the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources has a plastic waste management policy in place and a recycling bank for plastic wastes where people can exchange their plastic wastes for money.
Government must adequately fund these laudable projects and initiatives to make for a sustainable environment and improved public health.