WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF PLASTIC POLLUTION?
Indiscriminate disposal, poor management, and the unregulated use of plastic are fueling a pollution crisis in Nigeria. The effects of plastic in Nigeria have negative environmental and health implications. The increasing use of plastics is evident in the unsighted heaps of plastic waste that are recurring sights in major cities. In some areas, these heaps have taken over major roads.
The negative impacts of aesthetics appear to be the least of the negative effect of plastic waste in Nigeria. For most, management and plastic waste involves the burning of the same. Poor management systems such as the burning of plastics portend negative public health implications for the country. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified dioxin as one of the chemical substances released from the burning of plastic waste. Dioxin has been linked to cancer, damage to the immune system, hormonal imbalance, and other reproductive and developmental problems.
Plastic waste also negatively impacts Nigeria’s environment. This poses danger to the soil, water, and air. When burnt, plastic waste releases harmful toxins. These toxins when left in the atmosphere impact the air quality negatively. Also, when such toxins seep into the soil, they can lead to groundwater contamination which can affect the quality of drinking water.
A law on plastic waste will soon come into force in Nigeria. The new legislation was recently approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). Initiated by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Environment, this national policy aims at improving plastic waste management in the most populous country on the African continent. Among other things, the new legislation should encourage the development of a circular economy around plastic waste. “In the past, the standard procedure was to produce, use and dispose of it. We cannot continue to do that, knowing that plastics are very suitable for recycling or reuse. Plastic can be recycled to produce blocks, new plastics, or pallets for lock production,” says Muhammad Mahmood, Nigeria’s Federal Minister of the Environment.
Nigeria generates some 32 million tonnes of waste per year, including about 200,000 tonnes of plastic waste according to a 2018 report by the World Economic Forum. The country’s disposal, recycling, and waste management system is very inefficient, dealing with both plastic and non-plastic waste, most of which (70%) ends up in landfills, sewers, beaches and water bodies. In an effort to improve plastic waste recycling in this case, the Nigerian Ministry of Environment has already built plastic recycling plants throughout the country, says Muhammad Mahmood. The official adds that these facilities will serve as a pilot project after the new regulations come into force.
Nigeria’s plastic waste law is also expected to bolster financial institutions that already support many recycling projects in the country. This is the case of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) which granted (in September 2020) a loan of US$39 million to Engee PET Manufacturing Company Nigeria for the construction of a continuous polymerization PET resin plant in Ogun State, in southwestern Nigeria. The facility, which is expected to be fully operational within 2 years, will draw more than 20% of its raw material from local plastic waste, thus helping to structure the recycling industry in Nigeria