Beating Plastic Menace


The international community, last Tuesday, celebrated the World Environment Day, a day set aside by the United Nations in 1974, to draw attention to the need to protect and improve the human environment. The celebration provides humanity with an opportunity to broaden the basis for an enlightened opinion and responsible conduct by individuals, civil society groups, enterprises and communities in preserving and enhancing the health of the environment.
In his message to mark the 2018 World Environment Day, with the theme, “Beat Plastic Pollution”, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres said, “the message is simple: reject single-use plastic. Refuse what you can’t re-use. Together, we can chart a path to a cleaner, greener world.”
The key message is that humanity must take concrete action to curb the menace of plastic pollution, and help clean up the environment.
This concern follows a recent study which raised the alarm that only 14 per cent of plastics used in packaging is collected for recycling globally, and this results in a yearly loss of between $80billion and $120billion to the world economy. More worrisome is the revelation that we throw away enough plastics to recycle the earth four times every year, and much of that waste doesn’t make it into a landfill, but instead ends up in oceans where it is responsible for killing one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals annually, with a lifespan of up to 1,000 years before it fully disintegrates.
Further statistics show that 500 billion plastic bags are used around the world; 13 million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean; 17 million barrels of oil are used on plastic production; and 83 per cent of tap water is found to contain plastic particles as pollutants.
This revelation is, indeed, alarming and dangerous to the environment, particularly given that its negative impact on the ocean, which constitutes the lungs of our planet, and provides most of the oxygen we breathe, is huge. It is disturbing that Nigeria, a la Rivers State, share a significant portion of this statistics, and the burden, therefrom.
This is why we see the theme for this year’s Environment Day as a call to action. Nigerians, and indeed, Rivers people, need to come together to combat one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. The theme invites us to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our wildlife and our health.
We agree that while plastic has many valuable uses, we have become over-reliant on single-use or disposable plastic – with severe environmental consequences.
It is against this backdrop that we seek an enabling legislation that would ensure a healthy and sustainable environment anchored on the principle of the 3Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle – to protect human health and environment. We also urge all Nigerians to reduce their use of plastic and rubber materials to help win the fight against plastic pollution, while major producers of fast-moving goods put in place recycling programmes that could effectively ensure and guarantee a healthy, friendly environment.
It is important that the government takes policy and legal steps to reduce plastic pollution; prioritise climate smart agriculture and reforestation; support and mobilise resources for renewable energy use; implements the two per cent per year energy efficiency target in the Paris Climate Change Agreement; and increases allocations to fund environmental challenges in the country.
Indeed, this year’s theme, “Beat Plastic Pollution” is apt because it feeds on the long-held view that some Nigerians engineer the nation’s environmental challenges, through poor disposal of solid waste, including plastics, into waterways and drainages, thereby precipitating perennial flooding in some parts of the country.
In fact, the recent prediction by Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) that 35 out of 36 states of the federation and 380 local government areas in the country are expected to be flooded this year, brings to fore the need to remind citizens and indeed Rivers people to begin to exhibit environmental-friendly conducts and practices by ensuring that they apply the 3Rs in efforts to support the state government’s vision towards achieving cleaner and greener environment for posterity.
By so doing, Rivers people would have aligned with Goals 14 and 15 of the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development which essentially focus on protecting under-water and on-land ecosystems necessary for the good of our health and the integrity of our environment.