Chiemelie Ezeobi reports that to ensure proper plastic waste disposal, the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency has intensified its advocacy for sustainable waste management by instituting a cash reward system in exchange for plastic trash.
Globally, plastic waste management is a critical issue that is needs proper management. According to records, over 300 million metric tons of plastics are produced in the world annually.
For Nigeria some 32 million tonnes of waste are generated per year, of which 2.5 million tonnes are plastic waste. In Lagos alone, 9,000 tonnes of waste are generated daily with about 86 per cent of it plastic, consisting bottles and bags.
Despite that plastics are very suitable for reuse or recycling including production of blocks, new plastics or pallets for lock production, sadly, most of these end up in landfills, sewers, beaches and water bodies, thereby harming the Ecosystem.
These plastic wastes make up a significant proportion of solid wastes and litter the state, thus becoming a highly visible part of the waste stream (PET, Styrofoam and nylon commonly being used for water and beverages, take away plates and cups, carrier bags and others).
The menace of poor management of plastic waste that enters the environment is caused by open dumping, open burning, and disposal in waterways and even on the road.
Inevitably, these waste pose great dangers to the environment. The environmental challenges they pose include ocean and lagoon debris, Ecosystems degradation, drainage clogging and flooding.
Given the dangers posed by the improper disposal of these plastic wastes, the Lagos State government on May 8, 2020 began a plan to put in place policy guidelines backed by appropriate legal framework for plastic utility to ensure a sustainable management of plastic waste.
Creating Value from Waste
On its part, the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) has advocated for proper plastic waste disposal in order to reduce all forms of pollution in the state. To achieve this, they advocated for the waste to wealth initiative to rescue the environment from negative impacts of climate change as residents were rewarded with cash in exchange for recycliable waste/ single use plastics in a campaign tagged "Trash For Cash".
Essentially, the goal is for sustainable plastic waste management to create value from the waste. This will formalise the waste-pickers' sector to improve livelihoods and reduce the pressure on landfill. It will also help the drainage channels and reduce plastic pollution in the marine environment.
As part of such efforts, the agency in collaboration with the Cleaning Practitioners Association of Nigeria (CPAN) held a sensitisation walk/ clean up exercise to mark the year 2021 World Environment Day (WED), with the theme"Ecosystem Restoration".
They jointly called for collective action against indiscriminate disposal of plastics and all other recycliable wastes in the drainages, oceans and other water channels so as to prevent drinking polluted water and eating poisoned sea foods.
General Manager LASEPA, Dr. Dolapo Fasawe, said the "Waste to wealth is a sustainable international initiative, recognised worldwide with the objective of generating less waste, encouraging reusable materials as well as promoting recycling and conversion of waste to new products which translates into income generation and job opportunities for our people."
During the walk, Dr. Fasawe said the choice of Obalende underbridge for the Trash for Cash was as a result of the unfriendly environment and blocked drainages. She therefore emphasised on the need to educate people on the consequences of indiscrimate disposal of plastics, its effects on the environment, benefits of recycling and clean environmental practices to good quality of life.
Enjoining the residents to ensure the state is rid of plastic pollution by applying self-regulation and self-enforcement, she noted that government cannot be everywhere to monitor and supervise their activities.
She said: "Today's exercise was to create public awareness on the need to rescue the environment from unfriendly activities and the need for all to be conscious of actions that affect the existence of life on health. Our objective is to advocate for sustainable solutions to all forms of environmental degradations and reduce the negative effect of climate change on the environment.
"These plastics are treasure raw materials manufacturers are eagerly searching for to recycle into new useful products in exchange for cash rewards. Ironically, somebody's waste is another person's useful material.
"Our cash for trash initiative was to discourage disposal of plastics in the drains, water channels and not end up as foods and water we drink respectively."
To garner support for the campaign, "our offer attractive and paid higher than market values to promote plastic recovery and attitudinal change towards against non-reusable products," she added.
Role of LASEPA
According to the GM, her agency would measure the impact of the exercise through clear drains, absence of wash off plastics and free flow of drainage after rains in order to appraise the exercises.
The LASEPA boss further reiterated the commitment of her agency to protect the land, air and water in the state and insisted that all industries treat their trade effluent before discharging to the environment to avoid further pollution.
She also enjoined the people to cooperate with the government and take responsibility by ensuring plastic wastes are sorted and dropped into the bins that would be strategically placed by the agency, where recyclers would pick them to avoid polluting the environment and the ocean bodies in the state.
Responsibility to Nature
Dr. Tunde Ayeye, the National president of the Cleaning Practitioners Association of Nigeria (CPAN) in his remarks commended the agency on its unrelentless effort to keep the environment safe and healthy for all which is one of the ways to restore the ecosystem.
"Nature has given us the environment and therefore our responsibilities is to take care of it against natural disasters as we have no other comfort zone. The United Nation's Organisation '(UNO) has declared the decade of action for ecosystem restoration and therefore the need for crusade to enlighten our people of the need to protect the earth and work towards tackling of global environmental challenges," he noted.
Adeyeye noted the importance of clean and hygienic environment as key factors in the fight against the COVID 19 and therefore must be upheld even after the pandemic. He further reiterated the commitment of his association's support in the fight against the menace of plastic pollution and urged the people to take responsibility for the care and protection of the environment that nature has bequeathed on us.
According to the LASEPA Spokesperson, Bola Ajao, the peak of the day was the presentation of 13 full bags of plastic by 67 years old Ife Johnson, who has been a picker for 25 years and use the proceed of the trade to support her family.
Noting that plastic recovery is lucrative, she commended the laudable move of the agency as it would encourage her to do more and indirectly keep the environment clean. The grandma also advised other people to join the global business trend, instead of begging or engaging in questionable trades that put them in trouble.