In recent years, the amount of plastic in the environment has become a global concern. With the world population approaching eight billion, more and more plastic and plastic-derived products are being used and discarded. An estimated 367 million tonnes (367 billion kg) of plastic were produced in 2020 alone – about 12 tonnes (12,000kg) of plastic waste produced every second that year.
With about 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, Nigeria ranks ninth globally among countries with the highest contributions to plastic pollution. Unfortunately, over 88% of the plastic waste generated in Nigeria is not recycled. Instead, much of it ends up in water bodies – rivers, lakes, drains, lagoons and the ocean.
Waste comes in sizes ranging from macroplastic (pieces larger than 25 millimetres in diameter) to nanoplastic (less than 1,000 nanometers). It takes various forms, such as polyethylene terephthalate (used for food packaging, beverages, and personal care products), polyvinyl chloride (used in plumbing pipes, flooring, and clothing) and polystyrene (used for food packaging, laboratory materials, toys and computer housing).
Studies globally have demonstrated the adverse impacts of plastic waste on the environment. For example, it can cause intestinal damage when ingested by fishes and turtles.
Microplastic particles (less than 5mm long) have been shown to be potential vectors of disease agents. Plastic has been reported in cooking salt, stool and drinking water (tap, bottled, and sachet), with potential risks to human health.
Sustaining life in water and on land is among the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This makes it necessary to have a clear idea of where the plastic pollution is coming from, what harm it is causing and what the authorities can do about it.
Plastic waste in Nigeria
We conducted a systematic review of academic studies on plastic pollution in the environment in Nigeria. There were relatively few. As at 30 May 2021 there were only 26 such studies in Nigeria, compared to 62 peer-reviewed studies on the Arctic Ocean. Between 1987 and September 2020, there were 59 studies on the African aquatic environment.
We looked for the main sources and types of plastic waste in Nigeria and their biological effects. We identified big research gaps but were able to make some recommendations.
The studies indicate that water sachets and shopping bags are the major constituents of plastic waste in Nigeria. Educational institutions, markets and households are among the major routes. They are indirect routes of entry of plastic waste, particularly into water bodies in Nigeria.
The sources of plastic waste included tyre wear, cigarette butts and electronic waste (mobile phone components, electronics, electrical appliances). Others were fishing ropes, biosolids, cosmetics, clothing, food packs, and cellphone bags. Microplastic particles were found in some insects, snails and fish sampled from water bodies as well as in table salt (mostly in Southern Nigeria).
Further research is needed to establish holistic evidence of plastic pollution from all sources across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria.
We also need to know more about its effect on agricultural soils, air, plants, animals, drinking water and human health as well as the socio-economic and psycho-social impact.
Despite these gaps, the evidence for land-based sources indirectly polluting water bodies and the oceans is a concern.
With increasing evidence of climate change in Nigeria, such as floods, the chances for transfer of plastic waste from indirect sources into the aquatic environment are higher.
The low level of recycling – less than 12% – and inadequate waste collection pose a huge threat to plastic pollution management in Nigeria.
Some African countries have taken steps to curb plastic waste discarded into the environment. They are gradually eliminating or banning single-use plastics. They have also made producers more responsible through buy-back programmes.
Education about plastic pollution management should start at the elementary level and continue into adulthood.
The informal sector also has a role in curbing plastic waste in the environment. Policies and incentives, backed by robust enforcement, should target plastic producing companies to encourage polymer replacement and recycling.
Researchers need up-to-date facilities and funds to evaluate plastic footprint and the risk to animals and humans. They should explore trans-disciplinary approaches to curbing plastic pollution, including using innovative technologies.
Author: Temitope O. Sogbanmu Lecturer I, Ecotoxicology and Conservation Unit, Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, University of Lagos for the conservation Africa.
Here is the inspiring story of some Nigerian women who are turning waste into wealth under a waste-to-wealth programme initiated by the American University of Nigeria in Yola, Adamawa state. Where you see trash, Aishatu Muhammed sees treasure. She is part of a group in the northeastern Nigerian city of Yola that has trained more…”
Where you see trash, Aishatu Muhammed sees treasure. She is part of a group in the northeastern Nigerian city of Yola that has trained more than 300 women to recycle plastic waste into mats, bags and other colourful accessories, Reuters reported.
The Waste to Wealth program was started in 2012 by the American University of Nigeria.
Also now called Waste-to-Wealth and Yola EcoSentials (YES), the programme produces beautiful handicraft.
A sales exhibition by the women held on November 4 last year at the university.
Items exhibited include laptop bags, jotters, table mats, handbags, key holders, decorative bowls, penholders, mats, baskets, and purses.
This job has really helped me. Now I can pay my children’s school fees, I can buy food for my family and also help my relatives through this job.”
“We are working towards doing the right thing, so whenever we see plastic bags we pick them up; it has become a valuable thing now. Because of us there are few plastic bags in the streets compared to how it was before. The program has really helped.”
The bags sell for between N1000 to and N12,000, depending on size and quality.
The programme coordinator, Raymond Obindu said: “We’ve seen a single woman alone, make over 1.5 to 2 million Naira alone because she was extremely good; she has bought a land, she’s got a computer, she has trained her children in school, so we’ve seen the economic benefits the women are having so the money spreads that way.”
Obindu also said that the essence of AUN’s Waste-to-Wealth initiative is to change lives and clean up the environment.
“Plastic and other waste litter the environment; they don’t degrade or decompose. This exhibition is to say that these things can also create income.”
Women in Yola have been trying to revamp their economy after the seven-year campaign by Boko Haram militants disrupted their lives.
Source: Osun defender
# BYOB—Bring your own (grocery) bags. If you need to buy some new ones, look for bags that are cotton or hemp. Or make bags of old T-shirts, cheesecloth or any leftover fabric.
# Avoid soda bottles by making your own carbonated drinks. There are plenty of carbonators available, add your favorite flavors and juices into the carbonated water and that’s it. More…
# Abstain from microbeads. Check the labels of exfoliating products like face scrubs and your toothpaste and make sure they don’t list ingredients like polyethylene and polypropylene.
# Make your own homemade nontoxic cleansers and exfoliators. (See: http://www.rodalewellness.com/living/diy-skin-care) More…
Three months after two of the largest supermarket chains banned plastic grocery bags, an estimated 1.5 billion bags have been prevented from use, the Australian Associated Press reported, citing the National Retail Association.
Overall, the bans introduced by Coles and Woolworths last summer resulted in an 80 percent reduction in the country’s overall use of the single-use item, the retail group revealed.
“Indeed, some retailers are reporting reduction rates as high as 90 per cent,” National Retail Association’s David Stout told the news service.
Initially, some customers felt “bag rage” about having to BYO-bag or fork over 15 Australian cents (11 cents) to buy a reusable one. Woolworths execs blamed slumping sales on “customers adjusting” to the plastic bag ban. Coles even briefly backed down on the bag ban and caught a lot of flak from environmentally conscious shoppers for giving away reusable plastic bags.
But the good news is that it seems most Aussies haven’t found it too hard to adjust to the change—and that’s fantastic for our landfills, oceans and the greater environment, which have become dumping grounds for our plastic waste.
Stout applauded the progress but shared hopes that the Australian government will get behind a nationwide ban. New South Wales, the nation’s most populous state, is the only state that has not legislated to phase out single-use plastic bags.
There has been a growing movement to ban or tax these bags. Around the world, at least 32 countries have bans in place, according to reusable bag company ReuseThisBag.
“We’re still seeing a lot of small to medium bags being used, especially in the food category, and whilst I get some comfort that the majors have done this voluntarily I think there still needs to be a ban in place,” he told the Australian Associated Press.
“For business, for the environment, for the consumer and of course even for councils which have to work to remove these things from landfills, there’s a multitude of benefits on a whole to doing this.”
We know our oceans and coastlines are choking on plastic. We’ve all seen plastic bottles, food wrappers and plastic bags polluting beaches, and been horrified by the stories of marine creatures like seabirds and whales starving when their stomachs become packed full of plastic. More…
We know that the massive amount of plastic that’s continually dumped into our oceans can end up in the stomachs of marine species (and ultimately on our plates), but why would they want to eat it?
Well, new research suggests that fish are not just accidentally gobbling up our plastic trash—they could be actively seeking it out because they like how the debris smells and are confusing it for their natural prey. More…
Plastic pollution is suffocating the ocean and the animals that call it home. Researchers estimate there are now more than 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean and the number grows every day. This pollution is ravaging our marine ecosystems, entangling and choking wildlife such as seabirds, dolphins, fish and turtles. Plastic never biodegrades, it only spreads and it’s now polluting every part of the ocean—from beaches, reefs and deep ocean trenches to the frigid waters of the Arctic. More…
Costa Rica wants to become the world’s first country to achieve a comprehensive national strategy to eliminate single-use plastics by 2021.
The Central American nation intends to replace these wasteful, ocean-clogging items—such as plastic store bags, straws, coffee stirrers, containers and plastic cutlery—for biodegradable or water-soluble alternatives, or products made of renewable materials (think plant starches). More…
Timber rots, cement crumbles, metal corrodes: plastics are there for ever. By 2050 there could be 12 billion tonnes in the world’s landfills.
US scientists have calculated yet another item on the human shopping list that makes up the modern world: plastics. They have estimated the mass of all the plastic bottles, bags, cups, toys, instruments and fabrics ever produced and tracked its whereabouts, as yet another index of the phenomenal change to the face of the planet made by recent human advance. More…