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Used plastic bottles… Environmental hazard, Lagosians albatross

By Bertram Nwannekanma
09 April 2015   |   6:42 am
WITH a population of over 20 million people, producing thousand tons of waste each day, waste disposal in Lagos has remained a big issue to deal with, especially when it piles up on the streets and residential areas.

Used bottles blocking a drainage at Ikosi-Ketu… yesterday.

WITH a population of over 20 million people, producing thousand tons of waste each day, waste disposal in Lagos has remained a big issue to deal with, especially when it piles up on the streets and residential areas.

The situation is made worse by the use of plastic to package water and other beverages in the city and the attitude of residents, who indiscriminately dispose them along the streets, with many of them finding their way into gutters, drains and water-ways.

In the past, officials of the Emergency Flood Abatement Gang (EFAG) under the Lagos Ministry of the Environment had expressed concern over the indiscriminate dumping of objects, including used plastic bottles, into canals and drainages.

The concern was borne out of the large number of used plastic bottles, which they had to remove from the drainages around the metropolis where flood was reported. Such areas then included Lagos Island, Agege, Abule Egba, Bariga, Fadeyi, Ketu, Ilasa, Mushin, Isolo, Oshodi and Okota to mention a few.

The situation was, however, brought under control by the government through a number of initiatives, which included a material incentive to recycle plastic bottles, bags and tin cans. In this initiative, tri-cycles known as “We-cyclers” would go door to door to collect plastic waste.

People in return earn points that could be turned into gifts. The We-cyclers then take the waste to factories that transform them to small plastic balls, which could be used in producing objects like basins and buckets.

However, Lagosians are worried about the efficiency of this effort as the scenario is apparently getting worse everyday. They are apprehensive over the resurgence of heaps of used plastic bottles on the roadsides and verges, particularly in Mushin, Oshodi, Lagos Island, Agege, Abule Egba and other parts of the metropolis.

This recent concern by Lagosians, Mojeeb Ayodele, a Lagos-based environmentalist said, was borne out of the impact of such upsurge of heaps of used plastic bottles on flooding in the metropolis.

According to him, the concern arises from the fact that, so far, it does seem that government is more involved about political campaigns now, without due consideration for this looming environmental hazard, especially with the advent of the rainy season.

Besides, the nuisance, which used plastic bottles at present, constitute to the environment, it has been discovered that hazardous plastic wastes pose far-reaching ecological danger on both land and marine environments.

According to Abah John Abah, a sailor/geologist and public interest commentator on energy and environment, who resides in Lagos, some fishes swallow whole plastics mistaking them for food.

He said: “The marine world is a complex ecosystem. As on land, marine animals feed on themselves and other smaller faunas and floras. These lower lives, the preys and the predators all face the dangers from plastics.

The harmful chemicals slowly seeping into waters affects their health and puts them at risk of extinction thereby creating ecological imbalance.” A resident of Mushin, Lateef Adejare, expressed worries of the increasing number of used plastic bottles on the drainages and lamented that it may precipitate flooding in some flood prone areas in the area.

He, therefore, urged the government to find a solution to the growing number of used plastic bottles within the metropolis before the rainy season finally sets in.

Also, an Environmental Health Officer, Bunmi Odukoya, highlighted that used plastic bottles have also been implicated in the breeding of mosquitoes that spread malaria and other related diseases.

“When burnt, as is common in Lagos, it releases gases such as carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, a deadly gas also emitted by generators.” “The black, acrid smoke, has been suspected as factors in compounding respiratory problems in many people,” he added.

The Managing Director, Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), Mr. Ola Oresanya ha also in the recent past warned against setting plastics, including tyres on fire, saying the gas released into the atmosphere was injurious to human health.