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Nigeria Recycles Only 12% Of Plastic Wastes

*Generates 2.5 million tonnes annually * Recyclers attribute low rate to power failure

By George George Idowu

The United Nations once stated that plastic waste in Nigeria has been on the increase due to increase in consumption of plastic based foods and drinks by citizens across the country.

A study revealed that all over the world, Nigeria is ranked ninth for plastic pollution with an estimated 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste generated annually and less than 12% of the waste got recycled.

Similarly, the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) said that the consumption of plastics in Nigeria jumped by 116.26 percent within a period of 15 years to 1.25 million tons.

UNIDO’s Country Representative and Regional Officer for West fric, Jean Bakole, revealed that Nigeria being the most populated nation in this part of the world, with the largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the nation’s plastic waste problem is on the increase.

This, according to Bakole, is based on the increase consumption from 578,000 tonnes of plastics in 2007 to about 1, 250,000 tonnes today.

Therefore, the per capita plastic consumption has grown by 5% annually from 4kg to 6.5kg. It is estimated that each citizen woulkd consume about 7kg of plastic per year.

Over the years up till the moment, mismanagement of plastic waste by Nigerians was not only contaminating the ecosystem, but was also being released into the marine environment, thereby polluting it and threathening biodiversity and negatively impacting the blue economy. Mismanaged plastic and ineffective waste management is also a source of greehouse gas (GHG) emissions.

A study by Scientific African revealed that in spite of the enormous physiological and toxicological are scanty dataeffects of plastic pollution, there is regarded are scanty data on the occurence, distribution and potential effects of plasic pollution in various environmental matrices in Africa in terms of population size. Nigeria a prime consumer of plastic and consequent contributor to global plastic pollution.

The study noted that globally, Nigeria is ranked ninth for plastic pollution with an estimated 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste generated annually and less than 12% recycled.

Consequently, Lagos State, one of the most populated states in the country announced the ban on the usage and distribution of styrofoam food packs and other single use plastics across the state with immediacte effect.

However, NatureNews findings into the activities of recyclers showed that recylers in the country recycled waste such as metals, iron, textile, tires, papers, glass and even used electronic gadgets.

Waste pickers harvets recyclables from post consumers, sort them accordingly and generates materials that are not mingle with dirt.

This process adds huge value in the recyling process as it reduces the cost of washing and guarantee better washing materils free from contaminants.

The collected recyclabes are further processed at collection and sorting centres, and recyling plants.

Thereafter, the recyclabe items are sold to manufacturing companies that use these items as raw materials for production of a wide range of items including but not limited to polyester fibre, carpets, cartons,hangers, pegs, craft papers, aluminium products, tyres, and others.

The Executive Assistant of Impulse Recycling Company at the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, who simply identified herself as God’s Favour, explained that her company recycle only Polythene Terapthalate (PET), plastic bottles used for carbonated drinks and energy drinks.

According to her, the recycling company sourced waste materials from waste pickers and paid for waste items collected from pickers.

God’s Favour further explained that after sourcing for waste materials, the second stage is to separate the waste, wash and grind them into a form of cornflakes before selling it to companies that use them in producing something else.

She said that recyclers used to cross different types of man-made hurdles placed before them.

For example, she said, ” Road regulators use to harass and embarass us whenever we are transporting our product from one place to another. Due to non-availability of regular electricity and hike in the cost of petrol and diesel; we have stopped production for now.

All these and more challenges we face in this business are the reason why recylers cannot recycle significant percentage of the waste being generated by Nigerians.

The plant manager of Chanja Datti Recycling Co. Ltd in Giri facility, Abuja, Engr. Hamz Sani Bala also mentioned similar challenges earlier mentioned by God’s Favour.

In addition, he added lack of drinkable water for people who are working within and around the recyling plant. On the plant of non-available of constant electricity to run the plant, Bala said ”we spent a lot.”

According to him, the recycling company have three plaaaants. One is in Area 1, the second in Akure, capital of Ondo State, and third where he was interviewed on challenges confronting recyclers in the country.

”What we are doing here is baling of compressed waste products, which is flaked production. It means getting plastics and shredding them into pieces, clean and wash them and get them ready for the next stage of production.

Hamza added that his company have partners who come to pick the bale of compressed waste and the flakes for further production that could include the production of fabrics and even bottles again. The bales and flakes are sold in tonnes, he declared.

In spite of the number of recyclers in the country, they are able to recycle a fragment of waste being generated by the people everyday. It was observed during the findings that the recyclers are ready to recycle more waste but the challenges reventing tjem from working optimally.

Some of the issues that give recylers challenges which did not give them opportunity to recycle more of the waste being generated on daily basis by Nigerians is inadequate infrastructure and resources.

Our findings showed that this responsible for improper waste management, leading to litteribg, illegal dumping where plastic waste accumulated for months without bein evacuated. We find out that there is a limited production framework to regulate and reduce plastic pollution in the country.

Thus, production of plastics continues to increase which overwhelms waste management systems and exacerbates pollution levels.

Importantly, there is a lack of political will from the industry stakeholders to implement stricter regulations on plastic production and use.

The truth about recycling in the country is the fact that Nigeria is yet to fully tap into the waste to wealth initiative as it ought to be.

Producing companies such as those that produced bottled water, soft and alcoholic drinks have a responsibility to take proactive measures to reduce their plastic footprint through reducing the amount of plastic used in their products and packaging to mitigate the environment impacts of plastic waste and promoting sustainable consumption habits.

An environmentalist, Michael Ogundele said these manufacturing companies have a role in educating consumers about the environment impacts of plastic waste and promoting sustainable consumption habits.

This can involve raising awareness about plastic waste reduction and offering incentives for eco-friendly behaviours.


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