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1.5 million tonnes plastic waste threatening food quality, human health, others

The 1.5 million tonnes of plastic wastes generated annually in Nigeria is posing a threat to food safety and quality, the Federal Government said on Friday.

The Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, who disclosed this at a webinar on Youth Response to Plastic Pollution, said Nigeria was grappling with the challenges of sustainable management of plastic wastes.

She said, “Plastic pollution is presently one of the most pressing global environmental problems facing mankind, affecting land and marine environment.

“It also threatens ocean health, food safety and quality, human health, coastal tourism, and contributes to climate change. In Nigeria, about 1.5 million tonnes of plastic wastes are generated every year and less than 10 per cent is recycled.”

Ikeazor noted that the problem of plastic pollution in Nigeria was exacerbated by poor waste management habits/behaviour.

This, she said, was due to a lack of sustained awareness of the environmental and health risks of plastic pollution, opportunities in modern waste management practices, unskilled waste collection workforce, recycling infrastructure, etc.

The minister said there was an urgent need to explore all opportunities to address the plastic pollution challenges across the country.

She stated that the youths which account for more than half of Nigeria’s population of over 200 million people had a critical role to play.

Ikeazor said, “The large volume of solid wastes, particularly plastic wastes generated in the country provides opportunities for our vibrant and large youth population to engage in job and income generating activities.

“These are in areas of waste collection, sorting/segregation and supply to waste recycling facilities, setting up and running of micro and small scale waste to wealth businesses, setting up cooperative societies, resource recovery and export, etc.”

The minister stated that to assist the youth to effectively respond to the above challenge, the Federal Ministry of Environment had created an environment to harness the opportunities in plastic waste management in Nigeria.

She said this was through the development of a national policy on solid waste management that supports the principle of circular economy.

This policy, according to her, harmonised the roles of the various stakeholders for sustainable waste management, created a conducive environment for waste reduction, sorting at source, re-use, recycling and conversion to energy through incentives, among others.

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