Kenya kicks out plastics while Nigeria contemplates what to do.

On Monday August 28, 2017 the Kenyan government banned the use, manufacture, and importation of plastic carrier bags (one time use bags). Offenders are subject to serious fines (up to $38,000) or jail time (up to four years), the toughest in the world.

Rest of the world
With the ban, according the Guardian (UK), Kenya joined more than 40 other countries such as China, France, Rwanda, Australia etc., that have banned, partially banned or taxed single use plastic bags.

The problem
• More than 500 billion disposable plastic bags are used each year;
• A million plastic bottles are purchased every minute around the world;
• We use and throw away the equivalent of our body weight in plastic each year;
• 8 million tons of plastic find their way into our oceans each year;
• It is estimated there are at least 93 million tons of plastic in the oceans.
• We now have “plastic continents,” made up of rubbish from coasts and ships that breaks free and drifts for years before coalescing into a floating island. The most disastrous example is the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch) — an enormous collection of trash that is collected and deposited in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean, an area, according to a 2015 estimate, is about 1.6 million square kilometres. See video here.
• There are now nearly 500 dead zones (lacking dissolved oxygen) covering a total of almost 245,000 square kilometres — an area the size of the UK.
• Nearly all marine species have now come into contact with plastics, which cause the deaths of about 1 million marine birds and 100,000 marine mammals each year. (source: Nathalie Goulet/Arab News)
• We may have more plastics in the oceans than fish by 2050.
• Plastics take between 500-1000 years to break down.
• And they entre the food chain through fish and animals (source: Futurism)

The great North Pacific Garbage Patch, now home to about 93million tons of plastic waste. Credit: Oceancleanup.com

The bothersome statistics from the Pacific Garbage Patch

During this year’s World Environmental Day (WED) celebration on June 5, 2018, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Environment, Alhaji Ibrahim Jibril said that the Federal Government was working on a National policy on plastic waste management and recycling programme to regulate the use and disposal of plastic waste in the country. The Federal Government, according to the Minister, had already built and handed to states a total of 8 recycling plants, with 18 others at various stages of completion. However, some reports  by the international Centre For Investigative Reporting (ICIR) dispute the existence of these recycling plants.

An outcome of our irresponsible plastic disposal behaviour in Durumi district of Abuja. Credit: PDAimages.

What you can do to push back the plastic scourge.Before a national plastic policy goes into effect, Nigerians need to take things into their hands with the following initiatives
Cut down on your use of single-use plastics: You do not always need a bag especially for small items you can conveniently carry by hand.
Always have a reusable shopping bag in your car or at home that you should take along whenever you want to go shopping.
Dispose plastic waste properly. This is where Nigerians are failing woefully. We have a horrible habit of tossing plastic bottles, sweet wraps and plastic bags into the streets. That small tom-tom wrap tossed by the road side can be there for the next 100 years or more Throwing trash especially plastic trash indiscriminately is an irresponsible behaviour that must stop, yes even if there are cleaners by the roadside, it is still irresponsible!
Encourage others to reduce the use of plastics. Some cashiers at supermarkets tend to provide more plastics bags than you require. You can let them know that you do not need as many and they should not give out too many to others. Do not give in to the pressure of more bags!
Support people or organizations helping to push back the plastic scourge.
• Support government policy on plastics whenever it goes into operation.
Create awareness. When next you go shopping, use the opportunity to educate someone on the ills of plastic and the facts in this article can help you to do so!

Tobare is a 400L Environmental Science Student at the Federal University of Petroleum Resources Effurun, Delta State, Nigeria. Email: tobare96@yahoo.com

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