4 July 2018

Ethiopia: Averting Danger of Waste Pollution

In most urban areas, in addition to global problem with climate change, waste materials that are disposed from factories, industries and individual households are taking the major share in polluting the environment. Such conditions are mainly observed in cities of developing countries including Addis Ababa, due to lack of modern disposal management.

Irresponsible and reckless practices of waste disposal apart from polluting the air, water and soil and causing severe threat to public health, it also distorts the beautification of cities.

Among hazardous wastes that threaten the environment; plastic wastes are the major contributors which constitutes relatively wider portion. Plastics are dangerous for environment in many aspects. Providentially, if properly managed, they could be converted to raw material for the production of other goods.

It is clear that plastics are inexpensive, durable, easy to carry and are attractive. However, if they are not properly removed, they are toxic and worsen environmental pollution.

According to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MEFCC), in Ethiopia, plastics constitute nine up to fourteen percent of cities waste.

The Ministry's Solid and Hazardous Waste Compliance Monitoring Director Girma Gemechu told The Ethiopian Herald that, this in turn posing several harms on the habitant's health and environment image.

More often, people used to burn dry wastes including plastics. And this process will easily release harmful chemicals like methane and carbon dioxide to the air, as to him. These chemicals can gradually defile the purity of air and water as well as soil; which can cause respiratory and respiratory related problems on humans and gradually warm the environment.

In addition to these major problems, plastic wastes can damage the cities drainage channels by closing them and despoil environments beauty. Animals can also eat plastic wastes which cause domino effect on human being, Girma added

According to his explanation, companies investing on the production of bottled water and other users of plastic package products like juices, chocolate, biscuits, plastic bag producers and the likes took the lions share.

The world has not yet reached the state of preventing the usage of plastic products; however some countries are successful in controlling the situation and reducing the danger using different ways. Ranging from setting production guideline in a manner that enables them keep out hazardous inputs to posing restrictions on importation, selling and using of substandard plastic products, countries are taking different measures. In this way, most European countries could be taken as an example, he noted.

The matter is not only an issue of developing countries. Rather, it is also a big concern at international level. This has made this year's theme of the world environment day, 'Beating Plastic Pollution'.

The society is vulnerable to this problem and the government to mitigate the problem is taking different measures. It is striving to modernize the disposal system. There is also an effort to sensitize the society by using media and involving higher officials in cleaning program.

However, Girma underlined that, yet 50 percent of wastes are thrown away in careless way. Thus, MEFCC is working to put additional measures in place. As a result, he noted that new regulation has been developed and awaiting to be ratified by the parliament. When the regulation is ratified, it is expected to alleviate the problems regarding plastic products, he added. The regulation will restrict the importation and production of substandard plastic products that are below 0.03mm, according to the National Environment Policy. It also prevents people from selling and using substandard products.

Not only that, but also it will dictate companies that are engaged in the production of bottled water and those which are using plastic containers for their products: to involve them in recollecting the products after use or to fund government's cleaning efforts.

In addition to this effort, Girma urged all stakeholders such as media and companies that are working on environment to raise people's awareness in this same issue and work together; as 50 percent of such dangers is only alleviated by concerted efforts of the public. He also underscored the importance of plastic bags substituting materials.

Moreover, he emphasized that if plastic wastes could be managed in proper way, they can serve as good input for production of construction material like conduits. Currently, there are two companies, which produce conduits by using plastic wastes and export the input independently. Therefore, he said the society including stakeholders should give due attention for this issue.

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