Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said that Nigeria well placed to lead Africa and indeed the rest of the world in ending the menace of plastic pollution.
Osinbajo, who stated this in a speech to mark the 2018 World Environment Day at the State House, Abuja, pointed out that the country already have a good number of effective initiatives which ‘‘we are considering as we develop policies.’’
Besides, he emphasised that in order to control the proliferation of plastic sachets, Nigeria must go back to major producers of fast moving goods, with a view to putting in place recycling programmes that could effectively ensure environmentally friendly options for packaging.
The federal government, according to the Vice President, was also collaborating with state governments to establish plastic waste recycling plants, under the community-based waste management programme in the ministry.
He noted that two plants have been completed in Ilorin, Kwara State, one in Lokoja, Kogi State, while work on another is ongoing in Karu Local Government Area of Nasarawa State.
He said, “In addition, two privately run programmes Bola Jari (means waste to wealth) in Gombe State and Leda Jari (means converting nylon bags to wealth) in Kano State.
‘‘Coca-Cola has committed to collecting and recycling the equivalent of all the drink containers it shifts each year, including 110 billion plastic bottles. Consumer-goods giants such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble, have also begun to use more recycled plastics.
We expect that these consumer giants will make and fulfil these same pledges here in Nigeria and also partner with governments, including States and Local Governments, to ensure that we maintain the critical balance between economic growth and a safe and liveable environment,’’ Osinbajo said.
These initiatives are encouraged and supported by government.
He recalled that the last few decades have shown that on account of damage to the environment, there are no guarantees that we can hand over a liveable place to generations after us. That reality unfolds daily, as we observe the consequences of climate change, and the environmental abuses that cause it.
He then called on members of the public to reflect on what to do with plastic pollution, an environmental epidemic, created daily, relentlessly, by consumption habits that favour the one-off use of plastics; plastic bags, plastic bottles, disposable cups, sweet wrappers, and toys, “most of which we are told, will take between 500 to 1,000 years to degrade.”
He said that current researches show that plastics that have not been burnt or recycled, could be in excess of 4.5 billion tons, adding that much of that has ended up in the ocean, becoming almost impossible to retrieve.
Worse still, Osinbajo noted that salt and sunlight cause plastics to break into smaller pieces, micro-plastics which end up being eaten by fish and other marine creatures, and this may even find their way into our meals.
The Vice President said that Nigeria has tried to remain ahead of the curve in planning, policy and reform, noting that the Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with critical stakeholders, have developed a national strategy for the phasing out of non-bio gradable plastics.
Osinbajo, further said that the ministry was also developing a national plastic waste recycling programme, involving the establishment of plastic waste recycling plants across the country in partnership with State Governments.
A total of eight plants have already been completed and handed over to States while 18 others are at various stages of completion, he added.