Tackling ocean plastic pollution with key infrastructure
Ninety percent of plastic wastes polluting the oceans are from ten rivers in Africa and Asia, showing the need for more innovative solutions targeted at emerging markets. One way to look at the consequences of ocean plastics in emerging markets is from the Niger River, West Africa’s main river which flows through five countries before meeting the Atlantic Ocean. The Niger River, with its lush ecosystem, is one of the ten rivers faced with extensive plastic pollution that leads to water contamination across the world.
What emerging markets across Africa and Asia have in common, is the lack of an effective waste management procedure. There is also the problem of environmental literacy and awareness, as many people are ignorant that plastic pollution is an issue to begin with. Consequently, people dispose plastic materials, such as bottles, at the most minimum convenience. This indiscriminate behavior allows plastic to flow into the rivers, then into the sea leading to water contamination that affects animal and human health.
Tackling ocean plastic pollution requires strategies that stop plastic waste before it enters the oceans. Currently, there are no effective tools available to collect and clean up plastic waste once they enter the ocean, therefore, prevention is the key action needed to deal with ocean plastic pollution and its impact. If these problems are to be fixed, the first thing is to focus on the waste infrastructure in emerging markets.
Lagos generates over 13,000 tons of municipal waste daily, with plastic accounting for two-thirds of all recyclable material collected. The pervasive problems of lack of infrastructure for the effective management of waste and improper disposal habits cause most plastic waste to end up in our oceans.
Visionscape Sanitation Solutions CEO, John Irvine is tasked with leading infrastructural development projects across emerging markets. As part of parent company, Visionscape Group’s, commitment to social impact investments, its business strategy is deeply rooted in building a sustainable business that does good. “We aggressively push our recycling initiatives and efforts throughout our operations and as a Group has made significant global investments in assets and infrastructure that converts those materials into renewable resources from polymer manufacturing to waste to energy projects,” Irvine stated.
The company began the construction of an engineered landfill and Eco Park in Epe, Lagos about 18 months ago. The Eco Park, the first of its kind in West Africa, will feature several facilities including a materials recovery facility for processing several types of waste. The on-site materials recovery facility will integrate the informal waste miners (scavengers) into the system to continue with waste segregation activities under better working conditions. A tyre recycling facility, for sustainable waste management, that allows end-of-life tyres to be turned in to crumb rubber and used for cement in the construction industry and other manufacturing processes, such as safety mats for children’s playgrounds and more.
Visionscape is taking significant steps to reduce plastic waste in Lagos, Nigeria, along with with environmental literacy programs on recycling, and communicating in-depth knowledge on the plastics pollution problem. An International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) study indicated that invisible plastic particles from tyres are a major source of ocean pollution. They contribute up to 30% of ‘plastic soup’ and, in many developing countries, are the biggest source of ocean plastic pollution.
The group operates a closed loop system with subsidiaries in the UK, Northern Ireland, Belgium, and the Middle East. With a growing world population and continuous increase in plastic presence in key products, reducing ocean pollution is key to sustaining both sea and human life. A change in attitude towards plastic is necessary and countries must embrace and implement policies and infrastructure that mitigates the plastic problem.