Used plastics, nylon as Nigeria’s environmental albatross
With eight million metric tones of plastic entering world water bodies yearly, plastic bottles have become the world most mismanaged waste. Experts said only one percent of that figure ever floats ashore for possible picking, leaving about 99 per cent never found.
According to Biofina, plastic bottle spends 450 years in the ocean, before decomposition, while it can even take some bottles 1000 years to biodegrade.
Given these numbers, it is evident that the ocean hides is already storing wastes for us and for generation unborn.
In Nigeria, the situation is made worse by the use of plastic to package water, food and other beverages. So worrisome is the attitude of residents, who indiscriminately dispose them with many of them finding their way into gutters, drains and water ways.
The population estimated at over 170 million producing thousand tons of waste each day, waste disposal remains a big issue to deal with, especially when it piles up on the streets and residential areas.
A Lagos-based environmentalist, Folarin Dayo, expressed concerns on the impact of such upsurge of heaps of used plastic bottles on flooding in the metropolis. According to him, apart from the nuisance that plastic bottles constitute, it has been discovered that hazardous plastic wastes pose far-reaching ecological danger on both land and marine environments.
Speaking on its nuisance, the Founder of Friends of the Environment (FOTE), a non-governmental organization, Mrs. Joanna Maduka, said the existence of a petrochemical company that produces plastic of different kinds has contributed to the wide spread of the menace in the society. However, she stated that Nigeria must start to think about finding an alternative to the use of plastics as the whole world is beginning to move away from its use because of the environmental problem it poses as well as their being impervious to easy degradation.
Maduka explained that the way Nigerians disposes used plastic materials is unhealthy and seemingly unregulated, whereas in other places provisions are made for bins where citizens could easily drop their used-plastic materials. According to her, plastic waste collection is a type of thing that could give young people employment opportunities.
“Provision should be made for dustbins in all different areas, which they can pick up and supply to the providers of different materials like waters and oil and so on. But right now the whole environment is an eyesore just like the rest of our waste because our waste too is not been properly treated.”
“Bauchi state is a good place to emulate; they have a good recycling plants, where they manage their waste and so the environment is so clean. There’s no indiscriminate spread of plastic materials and that is the same thing other states can do. Lets have recycling plants that could recycle plastic. In fact there was a time when we use to have plants that recycle bottle but I don’t know if it does exist anymore,” she said.
The environmentalist noted that, even cellophane papers are part of the nuisance because of their non-biodegradable nature, as they tend to last in the soil for about hundred years. She therefore suggested that bottled water sellers, who distribute their products far and wide, must fashion out ways to control the bottles.
“Unless regulatory authorities are going to stop them from producing bottled water and now tell them that your water must come in glass bottle and that will mean a lot of bottles been produced which are far better than plastics because we can easily replace them and reuse. All used plastic packaging materials including plastic bottles must be taken to the dump area where government can easily collect them along with the rest of our waste.”
She urged government to encourage more people to set up more recycling plants, where the materials could be recycled and sometimes reproduced into some other things like handbags.
“People must learn to make use of the dustbin to dispose off their bottled materials as they do to other waste materials. They must be taught the proper ways of disposing waste, especially during the raining season when drainages are blocked. The cellophane papers that also find their ways into the seas, lagoons and streams are even dangerous to animals in these places; fishes feed on them and so it is even risky for aquatic animals in their ecosystem,” she stated.
For a sailor/geologist, Abah John Abah, some fishes mistake plastic bottles for food and swallow them. “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,” he said. A resident of Mushin, Lateef Adejare, expressed worry over the increasing number of used plastic bottles on the drainages and stressed 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, said that used plastic bottles are indirectly responsible for 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 and acrid smoke, has been suspected as factors in compounding respiratory problems in many people,” he added.
Apart from that, Director Scuba Lagos and Lagos Jet Ski Riders Club, Mr Houssam Azem, said plastic polythene bags pose a great danger to divers as some of them cover their faces at the bottom of the ocean.
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