By Ignatius Chukwu
Businesses are set up to make profit for their owners and walk away. Their only perceived obligation is to pay tax so government could fix the society.
Now, a thinking demands corporate social responsibility (CSR) which many now call an investment. By this, businesses are expected to take up tasks beyond payment of taxes so as to alleviate some ugly situations in a given society. As plastics now fill the world and the Niger Delta parts, a group has called on businesses to help in the war against the menace.
Businesses and industries must join hands to fight against plastics waste pollution now ravaging Nigeria, especially the Niger Delta region.
The call was made as part of awareness project by, Grace Alawa, a university don who also leads a non-governmental organization (NGO) known as Sustainable Actions for Nature (SAN), s its Executive Director.
Alawa is of the department of Animal and Environmental Biology, Rivers State University. Her NGO promotes green spaces and environmental education to inspire people of all faiths in caring for creation.
SAN carried out a study in Bodo in Gokana local council area of Rivers State to find out the impact of plastics waste, and the group’s findings are said to be astonishing.
SAN found that oil spilled into the environment mixes with plastics to pollute the waters that breed fishes and sustain livelihood.
In seeking solution, SAN wants industries and businesses to take up bigger roles in reducing use reduction and boosting recycling processes and machines.
According Alawa, “Industries and businesses bear a substantial responsibility in mitigating plastic pollution. As major contributors to environmental degradation, they must adopt sustainable practices throughout their operations.”
Firstly, she stated, these entities should prioritize reducing their plastic consumption and encourage the use of alternative materials. By implementing eco-friendly packaging and production processes, they can significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste generated.
SAN wants industries and businesses to invest in waste management infrastructure, including recycling facilities and proper waste disposal systems. “Implementing efficient waste management practices can also create employment opportunities, contributing to the local economy and fostering sustainable development.”
In a paper released in Port Harcourt, SAN said a good number of Local businesses have recognized the importance of corporate social responsibility and have adopted various initiatives to combat plastic pollution.
“Several businesses have established recycling programs in collaboration with local communities. By setting up collection centers for plastic waste, these businesses encourage individuals to participate actively in recycling efforts.
“Such initiatives not only reduce plastics waste pollution but also empower communities by providing economic incentives for collecting and recycling plastic waste. These models should be adopted widely to create a long-lasting impact.”
To find long-term solutions to the plastic crisis in the Niger Delta region and beyond, SAN said, collaboration between industries and NGOs is crucial. “NGOs play a pivotal role in raising awareness, conducting research, and advocating for policy changes to address plastic pollution. By partnering with NGOs, industries can leverage their expertise and resources to develop sustainable strategies.”
SAN suggested areas of collaboration, mentioning joint research projects to identify the sources and impacts of plastic pollution in the region. “Together, industries and NGOs can develop innovative solutions, such as designing biodegradable packaging materials and implementing extended producer responsibility programs. Additionally, industries can support NGOs financially or through in-kind contributions, helping them expand their operations and reach.”
SAN also called for international best practices because plastics waste management is a global issue, and several countries have implemented successful practices to tackle the environmental challenge. “By adopting and adapting these practices in our communities, plastics waste management concerns will be effectively addressed.”
SAN said one example of a successful plastics waste management practice is the ‘Plastic Bottle Deposit Scheme’ implemented in Germany. “Under this scheme, consumers pay a small deposit when purchasing beverages in plastic bottles, which is refunded when they return the empty bottles to designated collection points. This approach if adopted can significantly increase recycling rates and reduce littering in our communities.”
Another noteworthy example, SAN revealed, is Taiwan’s waste management system. “Taiwan has implemented strict waste separation policies, including a comprehensive recycling programme. They utilize color-coded bins for different types of waste, making it easier for citizens to sort their waste correctly. Additionally, Taiwan has established recycling centres and waste-to-energy plants, ensuring efficient waste processing.
In Japan, SAN stated, the ‘Plastic Shopping Bag Charging’ policy has proved successful. “Retailers charge customers for plastic bags, encouraging them to bring reusable bags. This practice has led to a significant reduction in plastic bag consumption and waste.
“International collaborations and partnerships can facilitate knowledge sharing. Nigeria can establish connections with countries renowned for their effective plastic waste management practices, such as Germany, Taiwan, and Japan. Through workshops, seminars, and exchange programmes, stakeholders from the Niger Delta can gain firsthand knowledge about successful practices, policies, and technologies employed by these countries.”
Making further clarification, Alawa said each region has its unique challenges and cultural context. While adapting successful practices, she advised, considerations should be made for local infrastructure, waste generation patterns, socioeconomic factors, and community engagement. “A bottom-up approach that involves the active participation of local communities, educational institutions, and businesses will enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of plastic waste management practices.”
The executive director said SAN, as an organization committed to preserving and protecting the region’s natural resources, “We embarked on this journey to advocate for change and assess the extent of environmental degradation within the Niger-Delta region.
“By witnessing, firsthand, the devastating impact of plastic waste on fragile ecosystems, we hoped to inspire action among community members, local authorities, and other stakeholders. Secondly, our objective was to evaluate the current state of the environment in Bodo city, a community in Gokana local council area of Rivers State. South-south Nigeria.
It also involved examining the severity of plastic pollution and seeking viable solutions to mitigate its detrimental effects.”
SAN in their report examined the significance of World Environment Day, and reviewed the theme for 2023 as; ‘Solutions to Plastic Pollution,’ and said it resonates deeply with the global crisis the nation faced today. “Plastic pollution has emerged as one of the most pressing environmental issues, with devastating consequences for ecosystems and human health. This theme calls upon all of us to come together, brainstorm innovative ideas, and implement practical solutions to curb the proliferation of plastic waste.”
Looking at plastics crisis, SAN observed that plastics pollution has become a significant global environmental issue with far-reaching consequences. “It refers to the accumulation of plastic waste in the environment, particularly in marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Plastic, due to its durability and low cost, has become a widely used material in various industries. However, its disposal and management have posed significant challenges.
“Plastic waste is pervasive and persistent, and it takes hundreds of years to degrade naturally. Consequently, vast amounts of plastic end up in landfills, water bodies, and other natural environments. The primary sources of plastic pollution include inadequate waste management systems, improper disposal of single-use plastics, littering, industrial and commercial activities.
“The Niger Delta region, known for its oil production, faces several challenges related to plastic waste. The lack of efficient waste management infrastructure and limited recycling facilities contribute to the accumulation of plastic debris. Additionally, oil spills in the area exacerbate the problem, as plastic waste combines with petroleum-based pollutants.
“Through our advocacy efforts, we aim to explore sustainable alternatives to plastic use, engage local communities in waste management initiatives, and promote the concept of a circular economy. By fostering collaborations and raising awareness about the impact of plastic pollution, we can pave the way for a cleaner, greener future.”
SAN organized community clean-up exercise in Bodo in collaboration with local volunteers. “This exercise is very necessary, as it not only helps in cleaning up the environment but also create a sense of collective responsibility and action by residents. Information on proper waste segregation, recycling facilities, and local initiatives for managing plastic waste was provided to the participants.”
SAN made a call to action, and urged all relevant stakeholders to join in creating a sustainable future for rural communities. “On this World Environment Day, we, Sustainable Actions for Nature, are calling upon individuals, organizations, and governments to come together and champion the urgent need for a proper plastics management system in rural communities. Plastics waste pollution is wreaking havoc on our environment, affecting the delicate ecosystems that sustain life and threatening the well-being of communities worldwide.
“We invite you to take action today. Together, let’s raise awareness, educate, and empower rural communities to adopt sustainable practices for managing plastic waste. Support initiatives that promote the reduction, reuse, and recycling of plastic, ensuring a circular economy that minimizes the harmful impacts on our planet.
“Let’s safeguard our natural resources, protect wildlife, and improve the quality of life for generations to come.”