Act now to make Rivers State and the world free of plastic pollution!
With 13 million tonnes of plastic entering the ocean yearly, this year's world Environment Day tagged "Beat Plastic Pollution - if you can't reuse it, refuse it’’ is apt and timely for our local situation. Our creeks, rivers and the ocean are the major receptors of plastics. The Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) uses this opportunity to admonish the federal and state government to make waste management a top priority on their governance agenda, as we have no alternative.
CEHRD decries open dump and burning of plastics, which is a common practice in Nigeria. The local plastic waste management is rudimentary and uncoordinated. Our cities lack incinerators for plastic burning or reuse and recycle management regimes. In Nigeria, very little has been done to manage plastics!
CEHRD insists that there are low-tech, pro-people ways and schemes to curtail plastic waste. This could include but not limited to tax imposition' reduce, reuse and recycle culture, and regulatory bound amongst others.
The Rivers state Government's policy to take used tires off the streets is commendable. However, it is an incomplete approach. The Rivers State Government at the moment has no plastic recycling plant neither is it in partnership with one. Beside used tires, within Rivers state, there are different forms of plastic that serve different purposes. For example, there are plastic bags, bottles, pens, keg, and daily appliances amongst others that lace our streets, homes and public centres. As such, a holistic approach is necessary. There is need for a deliberate policy to comprehensively manage plastic in the State. For a start, the Rivers state waste Management Agency (RIWAMA) has a major role to play. First, massive enlightenment on the need to reduce plastic use, reuse plastic or recycle it. At the crude level, plastic reuse is practiced. For example, petty traders use plastic bottles to sell oil, local drinks, and for liquid storage. The plastic management life cycle currently ends partly at the reuse level because there is neither a policy nor mainstream education on the need to recycle. Worse still, there are no recycling Plants.
This should be followed by hands-on waste sorting education. This will only be sustainable if RIWAMA has plastic collection and recycling centres in the State. Receptacles should be provided at designated collection centres across the State including public places such as markets —not just in Port Harcourt. People should be educated on the benefits of waste sorting and recycling —to the environment, individuals and the State. While these sensitization and awareness creation is ongoing, the Rivers State House of Assembly has a role to develop legislation that will ensure effective and sustainable plastic management.
The Rivers State Government should, as a matter of urgency, initiate policies that will compel industries that package with plastics to embed end-of-life-cycle principle in their production processes —they should be concerned with the fate of their packaging plastic when it is disposed by the end user. Producers of bottle and sachet waters should provide compensatory schemes that would get the empty plastic bottles and sachets back to them. For example, if a deposit scheme rewards anyone who returns 100 empty water sachets with a bag or two bags of sachet water it will be hard to see useless sachet bags on our streets.
It is only when stringent actions as highlighted above are taken that we can contribute to global efforts to reduce the impacts of plastic on our oceans and general environment. If we succeed in reduce plastic usage and reuse, the quantity of plastic that enters the ocean will be reduced. if we recycle our plastic, we will have no plastic entering the ocean. Ultimately, we would have collectively beaten plastic pollution; refreshed our ocean to produce more fishes and undertake ecosystem balance. These local efforts will have magnified global effects, while placing Rivers State in particular and Nigeria in general amongst global plastic environment sensitive areas.
As a responsive organization, CEHRD will continue to engage critical stakeholders to engender sustainable waste management in Nigeria. For example, CEHRD has established and inaugurated environment clubs in selected schools across Rivers State. Club members are taught and trained in appropriate waste disposal methods including plastics. The environment is the mother of all rights including the right to life, and thus a battered environment is the abattoir of all rights