Plastic Bags: Much Ado About Nothing?

Lagos Island will be under water in 12 years and the whole of Lagos will be submerged under water in 31 years due to coastal erosion, this is the projection of the Nigerian Conservation Centre (NCF). Before you start blaming the government (even though rightfully), or saying God forbid, you should know that we are a part of this problem. How?

The average Nigerian home has that plastic bag that contains another plastic bag that contains several other plastic bags in them. The more organized homes have a drawer in the kitchen that is solely for single use plastic bags. Growing up, many never saw these plastic bags as a problem and sadly enough many still don’t realize the damage they cause today.

Around the world, several governments have started sentising its citizens on the harmful effects of single use plastic, many have taken it a step further by banning the production, importation and use of plastic bags. Here in Nigeria, we are still trying to convince citizens not to throw plastic bags, wrappers and bottles out of the window whilst driving. These plastic waste are swept away; either by the rain or by the cleaners paid to sweep the streets. Regardless of how the plastic is swept away; it ends up in the ocean killing our Fishes, it ends up in landfills destroying the earth because plastic cannot be broken down by the soil, or it ends up blocking our drainages and causing floods.

A large population of the citizenry have no idea why we should have conversations about single-use plastic, some do but honestly cannot be bothered because no strict legislation or regulation covers this expressly.

Speaking of strict legislation, did you know that the House of Representatives on the 21st day of May 2019 passed The Plastic Bag (Prohibition) Bill 2018? The Bill sought among many other things to prohibit the use, manufacture and importation of plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging in order to address its harmful impacts to oceans, rivers, lakes, forests, environment, wildlife as well as human beings and also to relieve pressure on landfills and waste management.

According to the bill, any person found guilty of the offences listed above shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding N500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment. It also prescribes a fine of N5 million to companies guilty of the aforementioned offences.

What this means in simple terms is that if this bill is harmonized by both houses and assented to by the president, lots of Nigerians will end up in jail. Jail? For common plastic? This is the typical reaction of many Nigerians but what we do not realize is just how harmful plastic is.

We have become very largely dependent on plastic; from bottled water and soda drinks sold in PET bottles, to take-away and Styrofoam packs from our favourite ‘bukka’ (local restaurants), to the bags we cart away after shopping at supermarkets, down to the straws we use to sip our drinks…Plastic is everywhere. As much as we use it, we do not stop to think of how it is disposed.

They have come become the proverbial Frankenstein Monster, created by man to make life easier for us, or so it seemed, but today it turns around to destroy us. Living on the Island in Lagos used to be a dream nursed by many and a privilege accessible to the top and middle class. Today, it is only a luxury during the dry season as several parts of the Island are constantly plagued with flooding during the rainy season due to the coastal erosion, improper waste management and clogged drainages. The situation isn’t any better on the mainland, some of these communities are not provided with proper waste management tools and are more than happy to throw out their waste while it rains, not knowing that this further aggravates flooding. Predictions by the Nigerian Conservation Centre is that the flooding will get even worse but how ready are we?

How informed is the average Nigerian on the effects of Plastic pollution? What move is the government making to ensure that Nigeria is rid of plastic pollution? Are the companies that are the highest perpetrators of single-use plastic ready to do the right thing by switching to eco-friendly alternatives? Are citizens ready to boycott plastic products and embrace greener choices? Are individuals willing to delve into green businesses in order to provide the Nigerian market with eco-friendly alternatives? If yes, what role will the government play and what incentives will be available so that more people are willing to invest in these business options? What is the fate of The Plastic Bag Prohibition Bill 2018? Will this bill see the light of day or will it be swept away? If it sees the light of day, will enforcement be another issue we have to tackle? Will you be willing to join the fight against plastic pollution in Nigeria?

We can go on and on with these questions, but together we can provide answers and hold the government accountable. As we hold the government responsible, can we at least try to make gradual lifestyle modifications? Switching away from plastic and choosing eco-friendly alternatives? Take the pledge, join us now. Join The Foundation for the Elimination of Single Use Plastic as we together fight against Plastic Pollution in Nigeria.

Article by article, post by post, one way or another, we will spread the word about plastic pollution and the effects of single-use plastic in Nigeria. Follow us on all social media platforms @esupnow.

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