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Adefolake Adekola: Eradicating Plastic Pollution in Nigeria

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Plastic bags popularly called nylon and plastic bottles are major sources of pollution in Nigeria. Polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene and other polymers are the components of plastics.  United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) defines plastic as a material made from certain types of synthetic polymers. Besides polymers, plastics also contain other substances (e.g. additives) which help achieve the desired properties of the material. Because of the characteristics of plastic, they tend to stay long in the environment {Click here for properties}

Plastic pollution also known as white pollution brings discomfort and inconvenience. Plastics in our environment contribute to soil and water pollution. They contribute to soil pollution as a result of the non-biodegradable nature they have. Plastics last in the environment for 20 to 1000 years. They  breakdown into smaller particles/tiny fragments called microplastics, which are swept into the soil or water and consumed by sea animals.

Several countries have outlawed the use of plastic bags, such as Eritrea, China, Rwanda, Mauritania, Morocco and most recently Kenya etc. While some have placed a fee on the use of plastic bags like: England, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, South Africa etc. It is safe to say that most countries have woken up to the environmental impact of plastic bags and bottles, and are providing alternatives/solutions, but Nigeria is yet to.

Studies show that Kenya uses about 24 million bags a month. That’s high! No wonder the government put a very harsh ban on plastic. England’s plastic bag usage dropped by 85% since 5p (pence) charge was introduced.

In 2014, over 7.6 billion single-use plastic bags were given to customers by major supermarkets in England, that is an average of 140 bags per person. According to one estimate, 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic by 2050. Yearly, it takes about 17 million barrels of oil to produce plastic bottles, that can be enough to fuel a million cars for a year.

Plastic bottles leach when exposed to heat over a long period of time and the chemicals used to produce it leak into the content of the bottle. That’s why it is advised not to leave bottled water in the car.

Some of the chemicals used to produce plastics can be absorbed by the human body example is Bisphenol (BPA). Studies show 93% of the people tested had BPA in their urine, with higher levels found in females. Another chemical element found in PET plastic bottles is Antimony – consumption in small doses can cause dizziness and depression. Large doses can cause nausea, vomiting and death.

Plastic pollution impacts the environment negatively in two ways
I. Visual effect: the sight of plastic bags and bottles on the road, in homes and littered in the environment is an eyesore. It is a nuisance to the environment.

II. Health effect: when some of the compounds of these plastic products find their way into the human or animal body, they cause various health problems such as:
 Gastrointestinal diseases in animals
 Liver dysfunction
 Lungs problem
 Develop cancer and other serious conditions
 Endocrine disruption
 Inhibits the growth of crops
 Phthalates in human body especially infants
 Birth defects, infertility and hormonal imbalance

Fee charge for the use of plastic bags would be a good start for Nigeria. For example, a N50 fee would encourage people to use the ones at their disposal already instead of buying new ones. This fee should be applicable in markets, shopping malls and any place of buying and selling.

Also the promotion of biodegradable bags. Some countries have already adopted the use of these kind of bags, as it can decompose after usage. The ban of plastic bags in particular would encourage people to be innovative. We need to increase our recycling system in Nigeria.

What can we do?
a. Avoid throwing plastic bags and bottles on the road, always put it in a bin. If possible, separate the waste products to enable easy recycling.

b. When at the beach, avoid throwing plastic bags and bottles into the water to avoid sea animals from consuming it.

c. Reduce the amount of plastic bags and bottles in your homes. Throw away the ones you’re not using.

d. Reuse: instead of getting new plastic bags or bottles every time you go shopping, reuse the ones already at home.

e. Inform others: Tell your family and friends the impact of plastic in our environment.

Extra Tip: Reduce your intake of bottled water, boil and filter the tap water at home. It is safer.

Photo Credit: Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime

Adefolake Ayotunde-Salami is a Social Safeguard Consultant on World Bank Assisted Projects. She has a B.Sc, M.Sc and hold numerous certifications. She is also an Independent Consultant for top companies in Nigeria and has work experience in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. She is the author of a book on Amazon and Smashwords titled “Functioning In The Knowledge Of Who You Are” and a website ( where she writes articles based on extensive research. She is a Columnist for Bellanaija, Nigeria's biggest blog.  

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