Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Environment Ministry Proposal to Tackle Unemployment, Waste Disposal

Water industry already employs thousands of Nigerian in indirect jobs

A proposed plan to deal with rubbish from the water packaging industry in Nigeria is to remove hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste from Nigerian streets and employ hundreds of young jobless people.

Funmilayo Oyeyipo, Deputy Director for Environmental Health and Sanitation, who spoke of the proposal, has called in a "buyback" mechanism to deal with debris from the water packaging industry "constituting [a] menace to the environment."

According to the proposal by the environment ministry and accepted by the Association of Table Water Producers of Nigeria, producers will encourage young unemployed people to scavenge for empty plastic bottles and sachets in return for "a token," said Oyeyipo.

"The more they pick, the more money they make," she explained.

With more than 30,000 water packaging factories in the country, nearly 100 million used sachets and plastic bottles are dumped on Nigerian streets every day.

Oyeyipo suggested the buyback mechanism would help producers deal with their waste at their own expense and they would be "delighted that their empties [are] not constituting nuisance to the environment."

She said dealing with the tonnes of garbage is "of no cost to the ministry at all, except those manufacturing" packaged water.

The Association of Table Water Producers of Nigeria, ATWAP, which accounts for over 9,000 producers of packaged water, has welcomed the proposal for nationwide adoption, citing an ongoing collaboration with Lagos state government.

The arrangement encourages members of the association to ensure their waste is gathered on land donated by Lagos government and incinerated, said Ubi Ubi, head of ATWAP.

"Scavengers come around, pick them and go to the site and the Lagos government pays a token, and it is being recycled," he explained.

"No, not necessarily" will we pay

But it is uncertain whether members will pay to keep streets clear of discarded sachets and plastic bottles.

The president of the ATWAP Ubi Ubi said it was "not necessarily" when questioned whether members of the 9,000-strong association would fit the bill.

He suggested government may have to contribute in payment.

He said both ATWAP and the environment ministry were still talking on the proposal.

"When that time comes, we are both to sit down and work out the appropriate modalities," he told Daily Trust.

"It may require making a monthly or yearly contribution towards that and the government also paying.

"It is all for the benefit of the environment, so the entire responsibility may not be shifted to one sector."

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