Enugu, June 30, 2019 Some stakeholders in the South-East have called on state governments to evolve a more scientific approach in the management of disused plastics, nylon and other non-biodegradable wastes.
The stakeholders comprising environmentalists and government officials spoke in separate interviews on a News Agency of Nigeria national survey topic on “Management: Going beyond enforcing laws on disused plastics, nylon and objects”.
In Anambra, Dr Anthony Okoye, an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Management, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, described indiscriminate disposal of disused plastics as harmful to human life and sustainable environment.
“Plastics are naturally non-biodegradable. This means that it does not return to the environment on time.
“It takes centuries for a plastic material to break down as soil.
“They flow into the farms and pile up in the soil causing reduction in agricultural productivity,” Okoye said.
The environmentalist called on the government to strengthen the Anambra State Waste Management Agency (ASWAMA) to enable it to embark on scientific waste management including waste recycling.
Okoye, who was a former Managing Director of ASWAMA, said that private firms lacked the capacity to effectively tackle the menace of disused plastics.
According to him, private firms can only recycle about two per cent of the plastic waste generated in the state.
He advised that the law establishing ASWAMA should be effectively enforced.
He however, decried the plan to ban the use of plastics, saying Nigeria was not ripe for the ban because there was no alternative to plastic packaging yet.
Chief Chima Ezeribe, the Chairman of ZEC Industries, an Anambra-based indigenous firm that specialises in recycling used plastics for the production of hair attachment, said that his company had initiated strategic means of collecting disused plastics from designated points across the state.
Ezeribe said that plastic waste constituted great harm to the environment because of its non-biodegradability, hence should be disposed of more systematically.
Mr Mike Okonkwo, the Commissioner for Environment in the state, said that steps were being taken to strengthen the operations of ASWAMA.
Okonkwo also said that the Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra would soon be reactivated to enforce environmental laws in the state.
In Abia, Mr Michael Kalu, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry, Abia State College of Health Sciences and Management Technology, Aba, expressed concern over improper disposal of disused plastics and polythene products in the state.
Kalu rated waste management in Abia low, accusing the state environmental protection agency of performing below average.
The lecturer urged the state government and the agency to initiate pragmatic approach to rid the streets of non-biodegradable wastes through recycling.
He said that he was aware of a policy by past administrations in the state to convert waste to wealth but regretted that the plan did not see the light of the day.
Mr Henry Chukwu, a lecturer at the Abia Polytechnic, Aba, said that plastics, polythene and other non-bio degradable wastes posed serious health hazards to man and the environment.
He frowned at the fact that there was no clear-cut government policy on waste management in Abia.
He, therefore, charged the state government to evolve proper waste management policy that could help to eliminate the menace caused by disused plastics and polythene.
They decried the general poor refuse situation in Abia, saying that the state had yet to have a recycling plant or registered private waste management operators to handle the phenomenon.
Delphine Chioma, the Public Relations Officer of Abia State Environmental Protection Agency, declined comments on the efforts of the agency in handling disused plastics and sundry other non-biodegradable wastes in the state.
However, Mr Ikechukwu Ukaegbu, the Director of Pollution and Environmental Health, Ministry of Environment in Abia, said the state government was making plans to build a recycling plant to check the menace of disused plastics.
He said that the strategy was part of the state government’s efforts to create a cleaner and healthier environment.
“We need to reuse, recycle and reduce waste to beat pollution. In the absence of recycling, we preach re-use and reduction of waste,” he said.
Ukaegbu said that government would also explore other means of transforming waste to wealth or energy.
“I have seen some documents indicating that there is a tendency that the state government will move in the direction of recycling. Abia government is willing to explore recycling,” he said.
He said that indiscriminate waste disposal posed a major problem to the government and that non-biodegradable components were affecting the biodiversity adversely.
In Imo, Mr Jeff Nwaoha, the immediate past General Manager of Imo Environmental Transformational Commission, said although there was no recycling plant in Imo, the state had been effective in its waste management approach.
Nwaoha said that the state had a lot of registered waste managers, working in synergy with the commission on waste management.
He said that the state government had put in place effective policy to protect the environment from abuse.
Dr Okey Nwachukwu, a Director in the state Ministry of Environment, said that the government involved the citizenry in waste management through the compulsory monthly sanitation.
He said that the ministry had designated some points as dumpsites, adding that the people were also educated on proper waste disposal.
NAN recalls that Gov. Emeka Ihedioha of Imo said during the 2019 World Environment Day celebration that he would set up a recycling plant that would not only convert waste to wealth but also help to keep the environment clean.
In Ebonyi, Mr Clement Onwe, an official of the state Ministry of Environment, said that the state government had established a waste recycling plant at Umuoghara in Ezza North Local Government Area of the state.
Onwe described the mega pulverization plant as a commendable step in the process of ensuring sustainable and efficient waste management in the state.
He said that the urban renewal initiative of Gov. Dave Umahi-led administration was designed to address environmental issues in the state.
The environmental official said that the ministry had also developed strategies to ensure proper waste disposal in Abakaliki, the state capital, to ensure a healthy environment.
He however, called for appropriate legislation to control the disposal of disused plastic materials to protect the environment.
In Enugu State, the Programme Manager, Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre, (CIRDOC), Mrs Virginia Obianyo says there is no known waste management policy in Enugu State.
The programme manager said that if such policy existed in the state it had not impacted on the waste sector.
She said that it would be safe to say that the state government was doing waste disposal and not waste management.
She said that the state government could be commended on its efforts to dispose wastes generated in the state.
Obianyo however said that it was necessary to install waste recycling plants in order to utilize wastes generated in the state for economic purposes.
She said that disused plastics, nylon and polythene bags block drainages, thereby, causing erosion.
Obianyo said that scavengers who sorted disused plastics at dump sites and use them for other purposes had been helpful in ridding the environment of such hazardous materials.
In Enugu State, a former member of the taskforce on waste management in the state said that government had concluded plans to take advantage of the volume of refuse generated in the state to provide natural manure for agricultural purposes.
The taskforce was put in place to complement efforts of the Enugu State Waste Management Agency (ESWAMA) in waste disposal.
The former government official, who pleaded anonymity said that government planned to create a central dumpsite, which would serve as sorting point for scavengers.
According to him, after the scavengers had sorted out the nylons, irons, plastics and other items of value to them, overtime, the leftover waste would decompose into natural manure, which the state government hoped to package and distribute to farmers.
He said that there was also a plan by the state government to bring investors who could convert plastics, nylons and other non-biodegradable waste to electricity.
Meanwhile, a resident of the state, Mrs Chinelo Onyia urged state governments to introduce the separation of perishable and nonperishable items in different refuse bags by residents.
Onyia said that it would help scavengers in sorting needed items rather than littering the environment in search of their products.
“I have already introduced it in my estate, though it is not yet effective. I want to invite the state waste management agency, ESWAMA to use it as a pilot study for the state,’’ she said.