The Nigerian government has called on youths in the country to actively participate in the emerging waste management business in the country.
The Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor who spoke at a webinar on “Youth Response to Plastic Pollution” to commemorate this year’s World Environment Day in Abuja, said great opportunities lie in the waste management business as it offers opportunities to invest in plastic waste collection, transportation, waste exchange and collection centres and plastic recycling plants which are all encouraged by the Ministry of Environment’s Extended Producer Responsibility EPR programme.
She said Wastepreneurs are developing smart & innovative solutions to tackle plastic waste pollution, and the government, the private sector and development partners must invest in the youth and support them as they are part of the solution.
The Minister explained that the Ministry has created an enabling environment to harness the opportunities in plastic waste management in Nigeria through the development of a national policy on solid waste management that supports the principle of circular economy to harmonise the roles of the various stakeholders for sustainable waste management.
She said: “This would also create an enabling environment for waste reduction, sorting at source, reuse, recycling and conversion to energy through incentives, and also provide necessary guidance regarding effective waste management options, technologies and best global environmental practices.”
She however called on youths to respond to the plastic pollution challenge and continue organizing themselves into associations, groups and clubs as a vanguard of change to continually educate the general public and themselves on the negative impacts of plastic pollution and modern management solutions, to quicken their behavioural change from poor to modern waste management practices.
She said: “The Implementation of the Extended Producer Responsibility, EPR programme is a framework of action for a collaborative and partnership approach between Government, Business and the larger society towards achieving a zero waste society in the near future.”
She noted that “this will facilitate waste reduction, making waste a resource, encourages recycling efficiency and effective materials recovery, wealth creation and promotion of green jobs.”
ikeazor said adequate implementation of the programme will assist industry to shift from linear to closed-cycle manufacturing and efficient take-back schemes for remanufacturing and recycling.
She however lamented that the 1.5 million tonnes of plastic wastes generated annually in Nigeria is posing a threat to food safety and quality.
Ikeazor while lamenting that Nigeria was grappling with the challenges of sustainable management of plastic wastes, 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.”
She noted that the problem of plastic pollution in Nigeria was exacerbated by poor waste management habits/behaviour.
The Minister said this 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.
She 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 theme of the 2021 World Environment Day is ‘Reimagine. Recreate. Restore.”