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Saving the Environment | THISDAYLIVE

The Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency has recently banned single-use plastics, pet bottles, and other plastics in an effort to save the environment. Chiemelie Ezeobi reports

“We have found out that in Lagos State, plastic pollution is a major problem and it blocks a lot of drains as plastics are not bio de-gradeable. Every single plastic ever made is still on Earth’s surface. They can block drains and be eaten by fishes, which we then eat. The implications for our health are now being recognized.

“We intend to mop up used plastics. We are in discussions with beverage and food alliance companies that make plastic bottles. We cannot stop them but they have a responsibility by government to ensure that these plastics are properly disposed off and now we are enforcing recycling and enforcing putting money in a general treasury to deal with plastic pollution,” the above statement was made by the General Manager
Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), November 2021 at 26th Conference of Parties, COP26 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow (Scotland).

In an interview with THISDAY, she revealed that they “recently launched a program called Waste Exchange and this simply means we are putting a premium on amount of used plastic. What are our goals? We want to clean up all the plastics that have drained down the drains.

” For instance, if plastics are being bought for N5, we intend to buy it for N10 or N15 and youll ask me how is this sustainable, most industries and companies pay environmental development charge, a levy, a tax that is compulsory to be paid to the coffers of Lagos State. We will now be able to use the money of tax payers to pay taxes.

” This money will be used as a premium to attract plastics from every nook and cranny of Lagos State. If you ask me how it will be sustainable, I will tell you. When our off-takers start to pay for what we take from them, the cost starts growing while government subsidies decrease. That way, it becomes a revolving fund”.

Initial Measures
Dr. Fasawe says that the initial measures taken by the current government of Mr. Babajide Sanwoo-Olu include many policies and initiatives in the implementation stage. These have a measurable impact that can be objectively and verifiably measured.

Already, there is a network of hubs in Lagos that encourage people to drop their plastics and offer incentives. Dr. Fasawe stated that the Lagos State Waste Management Authority, LAWMA, is currently actively working to sort waste, biodegradable form degradable, as well as decommissioning landfills so that we can have a more automated landfill.

Walking the Talk in Lagos
Dr. Fasawe’s team has been following the lead of their interview with THISDAY Scotland for many months. While she was critical of the growing use of single-use plastics, plastic pet bottles, polystyrene, and other non-biodegradable trashes in different parts, she also reiterated the need to immediately reverse the trend and encourage reusable or biodegradable plastics that are cost-effective, eco-friendly, and do not cause any environmental nuisances.

The LASEPA boss realized that many conventions and meetings on plastic pollution did not yield any results regarding different recommendations. This was the main reason LASEPA, a leader in environmental conservation, decided to follow its lead and practice what it preaches.

As part of my personal contribution to the campaign to ban single-use plastic by LASEPA, water dispensers will be handed over to all departments and units.

“All the gifts, reusable water bottle, recyclable bag (and the choice of using old newspaper as wrappers), is to advocate for suitable and multiple use alternatives that is cost efficient, friendly and devoid disposal problems,” Fasawe said.

She said that the agency’s idea of giving its staff multiple-use cloth bags, a personalized reusable water bottle, and a personalised water bottle wrapped in old newspaper was not only admirable, but also symbolic of the agency’s fight against plastic pollution.

“The move which was ahead of the UN resolution pledge of 2019 goal to tackle and face out plastic waste by 2030 and advocate for alternate multiple use products and safe our oceans and drainages.

“Its worrisome to note that everyday around 8 million pieces of plastic makes their way into the ocean, with attendant widespread problems affecting the marine environment, threats to ocean health, marine species, food quality and safety, human health, coastal tourism and contribute to global climate change, she lamented.

She said that LASEPA, the police of the environment, is leading the way in launching a ban on pet bottles among its staff to help protect the environment and promote eco-friendly products.

She said that the pilot experiment’s success would encourage other government agencies and agencies to follow suit.

Fasawe also stated that research has shown that, “if plastic production is unabated, the amount of plastics floating in the ocean may likely outweigh all the fish in the sea by the year 2050 as many seabirds and marine mammals die annually due to plastic waste.

“Unhealthy environmental attitudes have a vicious cycle effect on the lives of the people; therefore to bequeath to generations yet unborn, a sustainable environment, every hands must be on deck to protect the mother earth from environmental pollution.”

She recalled the beginning of the journey last year, when LASEPA banned single-use plastics.

“After this, we started sorting our waste, pet bottles, paper waste and vegetal waste and I realised that the pet bottles were filling our dust bins faster than other waste items.

“Thus the need to holistically tackle it, and the provision and placement of water dispensers and paper cups at strategic places within the building, for accessibility, and also satisfy people’s need.

Eco-friendly Mitigation

She also spoke out about the admirable eco-friendly steps her agency took to reduce plastic pollution. These included beach and market clean ups at Sura beach and Oniru beaches, regular town hall meetings with stakeholders, and the engagement of beverage/drink producers to achieve zero plastic waste and proper disposal.

Single- use plastics represent the epitome of a throwaway culture that ends up in landfills, oceans, waterways and causes environmental and health hazards, we collaborated with Cleaners Practitioners Association of Nigeria (CPAN) to advocate for attitudinal change towards recycling, plastic pollution, disposal and also promote reward system through our cash for trash programme at Obalende to encourage willful compliance and self regulation for a desired result,” she revealed.

Long-term Goals

Beyond the gifting of these symbolic items, the long-term goal of the staff is to ensure compliance and encourage them all to advocate recycling and reusable product initiative products in their respective places.

The agency is looking into supplying raw material in the new year. This includes shredded documents/papers that can be used for toiletries or paper manufacturers to make new products. It will also focus on air quality in order to limit the effects of polluted indoor air that is currently affecting elderly and young children.

“This year we are going for air pollution, you must service your car as and when due, your generator must not emit smoke and even for telecom sector, their mast, if they cannot use gas to power their masts, they will have to find a way to ensure that the waste oil is re-used and reused and reused, “the General Manager stated.

At the launch, Mrs. Belinda Odeneye (Permanent Secretary, Office of Environmental Services), Lagos State Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources revealed that her ministry has a Plastic Waste Management Policy and a Recycling Bank within its premises, where people can exchange their plastic trash for money.

She appreciated LASEPA’s advocacy for reusable plastics/products and setting the pace for environmental sustainability for emulation from other Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the state government.

According to her, this move would guarantee good health for citizens and reduce the rate at which some people die from the pollution.

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“Its worrisome to note that everyday around 8 million pieces of plastic makes their way into the ocean, with attendant widespread problems affecting the marine environment….if plastic production is unabated, the amount of plastics floating in the ocean may likely outweigh all the fish in the sea by the year 2050 as many seabirds and marine mammals die annually due to plastic waste”

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