Plastics: Nigeria seeks economic benefits through a national policy

Nkechinyere Itodo

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Nigeria has reviewed and validated the draft document of the National Policy on Plastic Life Cycle Management in Nigeria.

Following series of stakeholders’ workshops put together by the Federal Ministry of Environment to deliberate, update, incorporate comments and suggestions from a wide range of participants drawn from relevant industries and sectors, the development of the policy document has been welcomed by stakeholders as a development in the right direction as current global attention is on plastics and associated wastes, especially in marine litter and micro plastics.

At the workshop for the presentation of the draft policy document for review and validation in Abuja, Mrs Ibukun Odusote, the Permanent Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Environment, told the participants that ‘…the plastic industry contribute about 2% of the country’s GDP and employs thousands of Nigerians’. She therefore was of the opinion that ‘efforts must be made to ensure that activities in this sector are carried out in sustainable manner in order to maximize the economic opportunities it presents’.

According to Mrs Odusote who was represented by the Deputy Director Solid Waste Management and Technoloty Division, Mr. Olajide Jacob Oladipo, ‘the National Policy on Plastic Life Cycle Management is intended to among others create maximum economic benefits and minimal environment impacts from the production, use and disposal of plastics.

“The policy will also provide the necessary direction and guidance for sustainable management infrastructures and investment opportunities on alternatives to plastic, as well as plastic waste management in an environmentally sound manner she said.

The Director, Pollution Control and Environmental Health Department of the Ministry, Mr Charles Kanu Ikeah, represented by Mr. Adegbite, disclosed that ‘the broad applicability of plastics to our lives has resulted in generational pollution menace, hence the urgent need to arrest the situation…because the problems associated with the misuse and improper management of plastics on the environment and human health far outweigh their benefits.’

Experts say that plastic is a material consisting of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic compounds that are malleable and so can be molded into solid objects.

They have prevailed over traditional materials such as wood, stone, horn and bone, leaves, leather, metal, glass and ceramics. Its use as kitchenware has offered alternative to glass and ceramic dishes for preservation of flavor and freshness when used to store foods and beverages.

However, concerns are that plastics are currently being discarded in ways that are harmful and potentially hazardous to man and his environment , and this has been due largely to the rapid urbanization and economic growth in different countries including Nigeria which led to increase in the demand, production and consumption of plastics around the globe.

And owing to the low recycling value of the product and the lack of technological support, the recovery rate of plastic wastes remains very low, most of which are washed into the ocean, disposed of in landfills or burnt openly.

These plastic waste problems and adverse effects are especially serious and omnipresent in such Nigerian major cities as Lagos, Kano and Port-Harcourt among others, where economic activities are flourishing and the plastic consumption level is high.

Although governments at various levels in the country have made concerted efforts to address the challenges associated with plastic wastes, such efforts have not been significantly successful due largely to the absence of a National Policy to provide national guidance and direction in the lifecycle management of plastics in Nigeria.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) Nigeria’s partner on the promotion of inclusive and sustainable industrial development, was also an active participant in the development, review and validation of the policy document.

The agency’s Country Representative and Regional Director for West Africa, Mr. Jean Bakole, told stakeholders at the event that ‘We must embrace the concept of circular economy where we try to achieve zero waste, resource efficiency where input materials are efficiently used and we minimize resources exploited for production and cleaner production where environmental considerations become a top priority during manufacturing.’

Mr. Bakole who was represented at the event by UNIDO’s Environment Expert, Mr. Yomi Banjo said that the UN agency partnered with the Federal Ministry of Environment in 2013 on a national workshop to phase out non-biodegradable plastics.

Over fifty manufacturers of various plastics or plastics additive products he said, where attracted to that workshop and were sensitized on the harmful effect of non-biodegradable plastics to the environment and eventually human health.

According to him, the Federal Government should ‘consider social, environment and economic factors in dealing with issues of plastics, preferably through a phase-out approach with continuous sensitization of the people and businesses’. 

UNIDO reaffirmed its continued commitment to providing the needed support for Nigeria towards an inclusive and sustainable industrial development, without compromising the quality of the environment.

Other NGOs, OPS and development partners that participated in the workshop included the Chanja Datti Recycling, Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN), African Development Bank (ADB), ECOWAS among others.

The National Policy on Plastic Life Cycle Management in Nigeria is expected to reflect national aspirations and meet international standards on the lifecycle management of plastics which includes every value-chain component from material identification for production, consumption, all the way to the final disposal. The document, haven been validated will be presented to the Federal Government of Nigeria for final approval and implementation.