Working towards a plastic-free Nigeria

The African continent is urbanizing rapidly, and with that reality has come the very urban challenge of dealing with plastic waste. For countries like Nigeria, plastic pollution from multinational brand corporations is having a detrimental impact on the environmental health of citizens. Determined to tackle this pressing issue, GAIA members from Nigeria held a workshop to strategize on how to ensure a future free from plastic pollution in the country. 

The workshop, which took place from the 07 October to 09 October 2020 in Nigeria Lagos, was organized by the Centre for Earth Works (CFEW), Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Green Knowledge Foundation (GKF), Pan African Vision for the Environment (PAVE) and the Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development (SRADev).

The gathering stemmed from the results calculated during the 2019 #BreakFreeFromPlastic Brand Audit. The activity revealed two realisations, firstly that multinational corporations were producing high amounts of non-recyclable materials in Nigeria. Secondly, high volumes of single-use water sachets, produced by Nigerian water brands, were one of the main sources of plastic pollution. While many parts of West Africa face the challenge of not having safe drinking water, our member organizations were determined to take steps to demand that there be an alternative delivery system for this basic human need. 

During the workshop, GAIA members engaged with participants from local government, civil society, the plastic industry as well as the media, where they raised issues around plastic policy and sustainable waste management. One of the issues raised was the need for data on the number of plastic products being manufactured and imported in Nigeria. Furthermore, members raised that there was a need for standard guidelines within the plastic management sector. 

“The effectiveness of plastic management in Nigeria requires an inclusive approach, which should entail the collaboration of different stakeholders at grassroots level including community, religious and political leaders,” said Leslie Adogame, from SRADev.

Members also demanded the urgent need for a single-use plastic ban in Nigeria by the Federal Government, which they propose should take effect from 2021. The groups state that the ban should prohibit styrofoam, microbeads and carrier bags, as it has no economic value or recycling potential.

“My hope is that the plastic crisis in Nigeria would start receiving attention, because of the promising plastic policy being sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Environment,” said Ubrei-Joe Maimoni Mariere, from ERA. 

“I enjoyed our engagement with relevant stakeholders, government and the private sector. I hope that the plastic crisis in Nigeria will be addressed as stakeholders and civil society organizations begin to take action,” said Anthony Akpan, from PAVE. 

Apart from engaging with stakeholders on plastic reduction plans, the meeting also entailed a site visit to a waste picker led recycling centre, as well as a press conference to call for a ban on single-use plastic. 

“A good step has been taken and there is a lot to be done. I am hopeful that Nigeria will realise the impact of plastics in our environment, as we improve our awareness campaigns,” said Okotie Weyinmi, from GKF. 

“For the first time I felt like this was a scary and seemingly impossible subject to address, but we made progress and I was proud to have been part of the process,” said Joy Ogoma Abraham from CFEW.