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Single Use Plastic Ban In Nigeria: civil society groups support Government’s efforts

In Nigeria, the recent global call for single-use plastic ban has resuscitated the interest of civil society groups who have persisted in campaigns to reduce plastic waste pollution.

View of Disposed Single Use Plastics at Okpoko Water Side In Onitsha, Nigeria. Image By Vera Ezenwa.

This came as the result of the shortcomings of the single-use plastic ban by the National Assembly in 2019, even when a fine of 500 thousand Naira (approximately £900) or 3 years jail term, is attached to stores or shops found selling them, and 5 million Naira fine (approximately £9000) for manufacturers.

It has become obvious that the situation may be solved by civil society groups whose efforts might seem like a viable solution to this environmental disaster with different strategies to combat the menace.

Materials groups wish to ban include plastic microbeads, Styrofoam, and carrier bags. Research from local recycling businesses show that Lagos alone, with a population of around 16 million people, produces 13 - 15,000 tonnes of waste per day.

Civil society groups under the aegis of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternative, advised the federal government in 2019 to initiate the proposed ban on single use plastic from 2021 instead of 2028.

The National Policy on Plastic Waste Management was approved in October 2020 to oversee the general direction for management of resources of plastic waste. Lagos state has been a forerunner supporting efforts to ensure the policy strives.

The Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA} has suggested solutions to eradicate single-use plastic in Nigeria more seriously than the federal government, in support of the UN target to phase out plastic pollution by 2030.

LASEPA, via General Manager Mrs Dolapo Fasawe, proposed presenting its staff with ‘’multiple use cloth bags, personalised reusable water bottle, wrapped in old newspapers was not only laudable but symbolic in the agency’s fight against plastic pollution.

“I will be handing over water dispensers as well as some reusable items to all the departments and units as my personal contribution to this campaign on the ban of single-use of plastic by LASEPA.
“All the gifts; reusable water bottles, recyclable multiple use cloth bag, and the choice of using old newspaper as wrappers is to advocate for suitable and multiple use alternatives that are cost-efficient, friendly and devoid of disposal problems.”

In an effort to save the ecosystem from pollution, LASEPA soft-pedalled, choosing stakeholders engagement over the threat of fines suggested by federal legislation. ‘’Town hall meetings with relevant stakeholders and engagement of beverage/drink manufacturers to achieve zero plastic waste and proper disposal of waste ‘’ added Ms Fasawe.

To ensure proper implementation, the agency worked with the Practitioners Association of Nigeria (CPAN) in a quest to influence a change of attitudes towards plastic disposal, pollution and recycling; and to introduce programmes such as cash-for-trash & wilful compliance over fines - a programme that encourages people to take their plastic waste to the agency in exchange for money.

View of Improperly Disposed Single Use Plastics at Ekeakpara, Aba, Nigeria. Image by Chimerenka Tochi.

On March 6th, 2023, civil society groups reiterated their call for early implementation of the ban as a result of the increased harm the delay is causing in society. Effects such as flooding caused in part by blocked drains on Lagos and neighbouring islands caused by improper disposal and poor recycling culture of plastic waste.

The group urged the federal government to ban single-use plastic starting from 2024, adding that plastic spoons, plastic straws, plastic non-reusable cups with intentions to achieve zero waste principles with major concern on their lack of recycling or economic values to its’ list.

A major challenge to the implementation of the ban is the lack of information to users of these products who contribute so much to street littering. Women at Onitsha Main Market were completely unaware of the ban. Street vendors and their customers appear to have no idea what words such as ‘Styrofoam’ and ‘microbeads’ refer to.

‘’Plastic is mainly carbon and chemical based, however, there is a huge knowledge gap in understanding the toxic chemical component in Nigeria. These hazardous substances are easily transferred into the food chain and other environmental media’’ said the organisation’s stakeholders.

The group, which comprises of different organisations with a similar concern like Lekeh Development Foundation (LDF), Community Action Against Plastic Waste (CAPws), Policy Alert, the Community Development Advocacy Foundation (CODAF) Centre for Earth Works (CFEW), Pan African Vision FOR THE Environment (PAVE) Green Knowledge Foundation (GKF), Sustainable Environmental Development Initiative (SEDI), Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), advised the government to reconsider use of the municipal waste incinerator and chemical recycling such as waste-to-energy technology as results-oriented solutions’’ according to The Guardian (2023).


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