The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) has urged federal and state governments to phase out the use of non-degradable plastics in the country.
Dr Muhtari Aminu-Kano, the Director General, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), canvassed this position in Lagos.
He suggested gradual phasing out of non- degradable plastics through legislation or penalty fees for its use.
Such legislations and policies should make plastic use unattractive and also change the attitude of Nigerians toward lower demands to save the environment.
“There are countries such as Rwanda that have banned single use plastics but you do not need to even go the whole hug and ban, look at the example in England.
“In England, what they did was to add five pence to the cost of plastics, so, if you go to a shop instead of giving you a free plastic, they will tell you that if you take any plastic bag, you have to pay five pence and within two years that cut down the use of plastics in shops by 85 per cent,’’ he said.
Aminu-Kano disclosed that tougher measures were being adopted in England as it planned to increase the surcharge from five to 10 pence and urged the federal government to do same to reduce plastic use.
“We are addicted to its use and as it is with all other addictions, we need to be weaned away from it somehow.
“The government has a big role to play in terms of not just legislation or policy but in terms of enforcing existing legislations and policies on waste management,’’ he said.
The NCF director-general said in the interim plastic should be handled like most other wastes by adopting the 5Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse and repurpose.
“We can repurpose plastics for other uses as well as to refuse them when not necessary or needed.’’
Aminu-Kano, who described plastics as toxic to humans, fishes and animals, alerted that the materials had found their ways into seas and oceans to pollute them.
“Part of the reasons is that plastic is also toxic and dangerous because when it degrades, some of the gas it emits or when you heat it up, some of the chemicals that come out are toxic to animals and to human beings.
“And we are eating it a lot because whatever plastic you use even as far as in Maiduguri and the Northern borders end up in the ocean because it is taken away by rivers.
“It goes to River Niger or Benue, it comes down here (Lagos), the tiny particles are taken by air and swirled around and they go all over.
“So, the seas are in big trouble. The UN estimates that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. And even now when plastic degrades the tiny particles are already forming larger fractions in some of the animals that are in the ocean.
“And when we eat them, we are eating them together with those plastics which are going into our bodies,’’ Aminu-Kano said.