measures to combat it are overdue

A key theme to This year The United Nations Environment Assembly in Kenya is plastic pollution. It will come back to a theme of World Environment Day 2018. the evidence because the prevalence and consequences of plastic pollution have accumulated and the assembly must take action on this issue.

Individuals, communities, businesses and governments all have a role to play in reducing plastic pollution in their environment.

World Environment Day 2018 gave some countries much-needed momentum to launch or evaluate their initiatives to tackle plastic pollution. An example is Indiawhich has pledged to outlaw and eliminate all single-use plastics in all Indian states by 2022. Many Indian states took part in this initiative and a nationwide ban on most single-use plastics is due to take effect from July 1, 2022.

Unfortunately, Nigeria has done little in this regard. Compared to others Developing countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzaniaits plastic pollution commitments are well below average.

Plastic pollution thrives in Nigeria

Lagos, the Nigerian megacity of nearly 16 million peopleproduces between 13,000 and 15,000 tonnes of waste per day, including 2,250 tonnes of plasticaccording to a local recycling company.

Nigerian legislators took into consideration a bill in 2019 to ban the use of plastic bags. The bill is still in limbo. It has yet to be read further and has not been enacted into law. Therefore, plastic bags are used indiscriminately in Nigeria.

Evidence of the harm it does mounts.

My research group published the first empirical observation freshwater microplastics in Nigeria. We used snails from the Osun River in southwestern Nigeria as biological indicators of plastic pollution. The snails in the river had consumed polythene plastic bags, which were common along the banks.

We have also found plastic polymers such as polyester, polypropylene, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, styrene-ethylene butylene styrene and chlorinated polyethylene in the Osun and Ogun rivers. The plastic polymers recorded in our study are traceable to different sources such as textiles, cookie wrappers, automotive tire cords, bottle caps and drinking straws. We also saw larger objects in the rivers, such as tires, plastic bags and plastic bottles. Studies indicate that these plastics could affect the the story of lifesurvival, growth and development of insect larvae in adults.

Our studies on plastic pollution in Nigeria, especially freshwater and Marine environments, have recorded plastics in fish too.

Read more: Why microplastics found in Nigeria’s fresh waters raise a red flag

Effects of plastics

When the animals ingest plastics, it blocks the intestine and trachea and reduces their physiological shape. Aquatic animals can also become entangled in plastics, resulting in malnutrition and death.

Plastics degrade the aesthetic value of Nigerian landscapes and water systems. This compromises cultural ecosystem services such as ecotourism.

Read more: Lagos beaches have a microplastic pollution problem

Plastic pollution has become such a serious problem in Nigeria that it has practically become a sign of human activity or visiting a place. People who visit beaches, river banks, parks and waterfalls frequently discard their plastic bottles carelessly, despite the dangers these plastics pose to the environment.

In one case, plastic bottles were found at a natural site where a rare insect of ecological importance was found.

Our studies show that plastic can affect the water holding capacity of drains, river channels and reservoirs. This tracks flooding of adjacent lands and loss of biodiversity and livelihoods.

Loss of natural sites to plastic pollution also means people are not getting the health benefits of outdoor activity.

Read more: Nigerian river snails carry more microplastics than Rhine snails

Action to end plastic pollution in Nigeria

Tackling plastic pollution in Nigeria will require action on multiple fronts.

The first step will be to address the poor waste management practices prevalent in the country.

Additionally, businesses will have to stop providing free plastic bags. These bags are often discarded after one use.

Read more: Kenya should focus on recycling, not banning plastic bags

To discourage this practice, governments should levy high fees on every plastic bag shoppers get in malls and markets. Paying for a bag might discourage people from throwing them away after just one use. paper bags, used in Uganda, should be encouraged. Since the packaging is the primary cause of plastic pollution in the environment, the Nigerian government must launch a campaign and crack down on plastic bags and bottles in the country. The public should be educated on the three Rs: reduce, recycle and reuse plastics.

Water sachets and bottles have proliferated in Nigeria due to the lack of potable water in many households. The government must educate the public about the dangers of throwing sachets and bottles of water into the environment. And it must guarantee access to drinking water.

Whatever strategy the government employs, it will be ineffective unless the long-awaited “Plastic Pollution Bill” is passed by Nigerian lawmakers and quickly signed into law.

Citizens and leaders have a responsibility to bequeath an environment of which future Nigerians can be proud. Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and other countries have taken steps to protect their environment from more plastic pollution. Nigeria can no longer afford to wait.

Bryce K. Locke