Lagos State Takes Bold Step: Bans Styrofoam and Single-Use Plastics to Promote Environmental Sustainability

The Lagos State Government has implemented a ban on the distribution and use of polystyrene (Styrofoam) and other single-use plastics within its jurisdiction. This commendable decision takes into account the detrimental impact of polystyrene on the environment. To truly enhance liveability, health, and the overall environment in the state, it is crucial for the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration to rigorously enforce this ban.

It is imperative that other states, the Federal Government, and the Federal Capital Territory swiftly follow Lagos’s example. The Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Tokunbo Wahab, has boldly addressed climate change concerns by emphasizing that the campaign against environmental vandalism will commence with the prohibition of polystyrene (commonly known as Styrofoam), microbeads, carrier bags, plastic spoons, straws, and disposable cups due to their lack of recyclable potential.

The current situation in Lagos is challenging, with poor hygiene behaviors and indiscriminate waste disposal habits among residents. Reports indicate that Lagos generates 870,000 tonnes of plastic, incurring an annual cost of N7 billion for waste management. Used plastics are unsightly, littering roads, gutters, and estates. Drainage networks often become clogged due to the careless disposal of non-biodegradable items, and despite the efforts of the Lagos State Waste Management Authority, roads and markets remain cluttered.

One concern, however, is the lack of adequate notice before the ban, which is typically considered best global practice when implementing significant policies that affect businesses.

The environmental impact of plastics is daunting, with approximately 400 million tonnes of plastic waste generated globally each year, and 36 percent of that being single-use plastics. Furthermore, 96 percent of single-use plastics are produced from fossil fuels. Polystyrene and plastic bags take 500 years to decompose, contributing to the pollution of oceans and endangering marine life. The health risks associated with polystyrene, containing toxic petrochemical compounds like benzene and styrene, are significant, affecting both humans and the ecosystem.

In the face of the devastating effects of climate change, the world is increasingly prioritizing environmental sustainability. Nigeria must not lag behind in safeguarding its ecology. As of 2021, Nigeria joined the top 10 countries releasing the most plastic waste into the ocean, and the World Bank predicts that Nigeria might become the largest plastic waste producer by 2025.

Nigerians must adopt habits that protect the environment, and local, state, and federal governments should actively raise awareness and incentivize environmentally friendly practices. Taking inspiration from countries like Taiwan, Kenya, Rwanda, and Canada, Nigeria has the opportunity to explore local, natural, and healthy alternatives to polystyrene and single-use plastics in food packaging. Viable alternatives such as paper, leaves, cans, bio-plastics, and glass bottles should be considered.

To achieve a sustainable environment and alleviate the strain on the climate, it is essential for the state, local, and federal governments to involve citizens in the enforcement of the plastic ban.