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Experts harp on waste recycling for a safer, healthier environment

By Guardian Nigeria
02 October 2022   |   6:38 am
The need to keep the environment healthy in order to ensure a healthier and sustainable world resonated at the Dawn Project prize-giving event held in Lagos recently. Themed ‘Recycle for Sustainability: Making a Difference in Our Climate and Our Lives’, the event was organised by the Dawn Project, an environmental conservation organization dedicated to addressing…

L-R: Stanley Evans, collaborator, the Dawn Project; Dr. Pamela Ajayi, convener; a winner in the art category; Desmond Majekodunmi, collaborator; and Angela Emuwa, collaborator, at the Dawn Project prize-giving event themed “Recycle for Sustainability: Making a Difference in Our Climate and Our Lives”, in Lagos.

The need to keep the environment healthy in order to ensure a healthier and sustainable world resonated at the Dawn Project prize-giving event held in Lagos recently.

Themed ‘Recycle for Sustainability: Making a Difference in Our Climate and Our Lives’, the event was organised by the Dawn Project, an environmental conservation organization dedicated to addressing the consequences of climate change through artistic expression to ensure a cleaner and healthier environment for the benefit of all.

The event saw winners, mostly students, emerge in the different categories of the competition, including poetry, prose, art and fashion – all themed around environmental sustainability. The winners went home with assorted prizes, while consolation prizes were also given out to deserving participants.

Speaking at the event, Prof. Akin Abayomi, Lagos State commissioner for health, commended the initiators of the Dawn Project for creating a platform that addresses environmental issues in the society, noting that the project is in tandem with the “One House Agenda” of the Lagos State Government which speaks to a holistic approach to human health.

“We believe that as human beings we cannot be healthy when the environment and the food we eat are not healthy. If the environment is messed up, then we become stressed in a toxic environment,” Abayomi said.

He encouraged the private sector and civil societies to key into the government’s vision and mission for a healthier environment, a healthier lifestyle for citizens and, ultimately, a healthier Lagos.

The Dawn Project, according to Dr. Pamela Ajayi, director at Bridge Clinic and one of the conveners, is focused on arousing Nigerians to “a new consciousness about the environment” by presenting issues of climate change in an interesting way through the creative arts.

Dr. Ajayi said the project started off with first asking people to interpret a poem titled ‘A Plea’, but over time it has taken a different approach, with this year’s competition involving poetry and prose writing, as well as art and fashion using waste materials.

She decried the rising cases of cancer in the country even among young people, noting that environmental pollution caused by emission from vehicles and power-generating sets was a major concern, as well as plastic waste. She said the time has come to deal with these challenges decisively.

“Plastics do not decay or go anywhere beyond the earth. The plastics are broken down into pieces and swallowed by the fishes in the sea. People take this back from the fish they consume. The challenges are huge and that’s why we embarked on projects like this to proffer solutions to the problem and also find a way of mitigating and managing the waste properly,” she said.

Desmond Majekodunmi, environmental activist and founder, LUFASI Park, said that addressing the climate challenge should be everybody’s business. He urged young people to challenge the elders to address the climate situation that is slowly killing people, saying the future belongs to the youth and they should not relent in asking for what belongs to them.

“In order to bring the required change in the society, we have to live in harmony, love and peace with each other. We have to start recycling and to do what all other creatures of the earth are doing, which is living in harmony with nature. We also have to renew our minds and start doing things right,” he said.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the event, Majekodunmi described the environment as “our life support system”, saying that destroying it amounted to destroying life itself.

“You can’t continue damaging that which supports your life. Everything we need to stay alive – the oxygen, the water, the food, medicine – it all comes from a healthy environment. If you now destroy that system, you are going to destroy life,” he said.

Nwamaka Onyemelukwe, director, Public Affairs, Communication and Sustainability, Coca Cola Nigeria Limited, said that numerous challenges facing the society today arise out of mismanagement of waste products, stressing, however, that these challenges can be mitigated by adopting measures that turn waste into wealth.

“Waste is actually valuable. We want people to start looking at all wastes in that direction, not just the PET bottles alone but every packaging in the trash bin can be another material for reuse. If we pay attention to that, we can make a fortune out of waste,” Onyemelukwe said.

“Our young population should understand that recycling is the way to go and it is a lifestyle that we have to create which can give additional means of fortune and revenue drive. We are trying to engage authorities on how to positively educate the populace on how to manage waste to avoid pollution,” she said.

She said the highest point of action should come from communities and must start by a change of lifestyle and behaviour. For instance, she asked consumers to choose drinks in glass bottles over plastic to reduce pollution, especially when in places like restaurants where they would sit down to take the drink.

“But if we choose plastics, let’s compress and drop it at a designated compartment,” she said.

Other speakers, including Kris Camponi, head of PR, British High Commission, Lagos; Ben Lewellyn-Jones, British Deputy High Commissioner; Stanley Evans MBE, collaborator, DAWNProject; and Lucy Onoriode-Okeke, founder, Aqua-Pro Life Foundation, sought solutions towards addressing the climate challenges in the country and the world.

The Dawn Project is committed to raising greater awareness, advocacy and education amongst citizens on the importance of environmental consciousness. Its unique approach to the climate crisis, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13, is through the adoption of art (spoken, written, musical, visual and/or movement) as a means of expressing the issues and seeking creative solutions. The Dawn Project collaborators include Desmond Majekodunmi, Stanley Evans, Angela Emuwa and Pamela Ajayi. It operates in collaboration with Nigeria-British organizations and businesses, including LUSFASI Park, Synlab Nigeria, Just Commercial Vehicles Limited, Curatia Education, British Business Group-Lagos, DoctorsOnAir, and Punch Nigeria Limited.