By Akanimo Sampson
AKWA Ibom State Government has warned that Nigeria is on the edge of a plastic disaster and is accordingly pressing for a workable law that will put an end to the impending calamity.
The state’s Deputy Governor, Moses Ekpo who made the call while speaking at this year’s World Environment Day celebration organised by the state Ministry of Environment in conjunction with the Local Government Service Commission and the Nigerian Environmental Society in Uyo, the state capital, says the prevalent threat of plastic pollution is arising from its indiscriminate dumping on the environment..
According to Ekpo, ‘’the theme for this year’s celebration: Beat Plastic Pollution is quite appropriate and timely in view of the emerging trend in the proliferation of plastic waste and its concomitant dangers to our environment’’.
Continuing, he said the theme was the boldest attempt aimed at tackling the great threat posed to the world environment by the evolution of plastics, pointing out that it was also a credible window of opportunity to brainstorm about possible alternatives to the use of plastics in all its forms.
Worried by the looming environmental disaster the deputy governor insisted, ‘’there is need to propose a legislative framework that will outlaw all forms of indiscriminate disposal of plastic and other wastes in unauthorised places’’.
The state government is currently engaging all sectoral stakeholders like supermarket and shop operators and market traders to see the need to switch from the use of plastic shopping bags to the use of recycled paper and bio-degradable bags in order to free the Akwa Ibom environment of the toxic pollution from the plastic wastes.
In the interim, the state Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources is to collaborate effectively with the Local Government system to ensure citizen’s compliance with environmental laws at the grassroots.
In the mean time, since large-scale production of the synthetic materials began in the early 1950s, humans have created 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics. Most of it now, according to a study, resides in landfills or the natural environment.
The study was however, led by a team of scientists from the University of Georgia, the University of California, Santa Barbara and Sea Education Association. It is regarded as the first global analysis of the production, use and fate of all plastics ever made.
The researchers found that by 2015, humans had generated 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics, 6.3 billion tons of which had already become waste. Of that waste total, only nine percent was recycled, 12 percent was incinerated and 79 percent accumulated in landfills or the natural environment.
It is being projected that if current trends continue, roughly 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050, 32 years time.
Environmental rights activists are saying that with plastic pollution, everything suffers: tourism, recreation, business, the health of humans, animals, fish and birds. The financial damage continuously being inflicted is inestimable.
For those who know better, plastic is a material made to last forever, yet 33 percent of all plastic – water bottles, bags and straws – are used just once and thrown away. Plastic cannot biodegrade; it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces.
Toxic chemicals leach out of plastic and are found in the blood and tissue of nearly all of us. Exposure to them is linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments.
For ecosystems like that of the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s main oil and gas region, widespread destruction of mangroves elsewhere has resulted in the loss of some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems.
As a side effect, this has greatly increased shoreline hazards and beach erosion rates. The greatest benefit of mangroves is their ability to reduce storm surge. This benefit is long-term and requires no maintenance. The 1999 super typhoon, Orissa, killed over 10,000 people in India drowning many with its powerful storm surge. This number could have been lower if the mangroves had been retained. Mangroves are lost because of clearing for development, logging, and shrimp farming. ENDS