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Plastic air pollution in Nigeria: whose job is it to wash up the mess?

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Take a stroll or drive by means of the streets of most Nigerian cities, and you will note plastic waste all over the place. The nation’s rivers, lakes and ocean are additionally filled with discarded plastic. Nigeria is estimated to generate about 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste annually. Plastic accounts for 15% of the whole waste generated in Lagos State.

The state of affairs is prone to worsen as Nigeria’s inhabitants grows, from greater than 220 million folks now to an anticipated 401 million by the tip of 2050.

The manufacturing of plastic is rising too. Dangote Refinery, the most important petrochemical refinery in Africa, is beginning operations in Nigeria within the first quarter of 2023. Apart from refining gas, the plant may even produce plastic products.

Who ought to clear up?

The query arises as to who’s liable for cleansing up the plastic waste within the Nigerian surroundings.

Some argue that the onus is on authorities to make and implement policies and regulations. Others argue that residents must take duty within the spirit of environmental citizenship.

However what concerning the producers, who, too typically, take no duty when the plastic they produce find yourself as waste within the surroundings?

In a recent article, I explored how corporations can scale back plastic waste in Nigeria in the event that they settle for all the weather of company social duty. Doing so additionally promotes sustainable growth. The UN defines this as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. So company social duty advantages the businesses too.

Dimensions of company social duty

Corporate social responsibility is the concept that an organization ought to play a constructive position in the neighborhood and take into account the environmental and social impacts of enterprise selections.

Because the mid-Fifties, a lot of the world’s main enterprise organisations have come to agree that corporations have financial, authorized, moral and philanthropic or discretionary obligations.

Financial duty is a dedication to creating earnings, working effectively and being aggressive. Specializing in this alone can result in environmental issues except it considers the long run. A method for financial duty and environmental sustainability to satisfy is by assigning an financial worth to waste.

Obligation signifies that an organization should adjust to authorities legal guidelines and laws. These ought to embody guidelines that defend the surroundings.

Moral duty means being honest, in accordance with societal expectations. For instance, it means an organization doing its justifiable share to forestall and clear up waste.

Philanthropic duty is one thing further an organization can do to make the world a greater place. Many corporations become involved in volunteering, empowerment and assist of revolutionary programmes to assist folks. An instance can be coordinating voluntary group motion to wash up waste.

Long run options

In Nigeria, most corporations give attention to the philanthropic dimension of company social duty. For instance, they organise voluntary cleanup campaigns in communities, and advocate for correct disposal of waste. However it is a short-term resolution. As big quantities of plastic waste proceed to be deposited within the surroundings.

Corporations additionally are likely to practise “green-washing” – claiming that their merchandise are environmentally pleasant or have environmental advantages.

These responses ignore the financial, moral and authorized dimensions of company social duty with regard to the surroundings.

I recommend that if all dimensions are practised correctly, the actions of the Nigerian plastics business gained’t be a risk. As a substitute they’ll conform with a few of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: combating local weather change; defending marine animals; sustainable surroundings; and partnerships.

Plastic worth chain

Policymakers, producers, producers, multinational corporations and different stakeholders should work collectively to fight plastic air pollution in Nigeria.

This begins with assigning a financial worth to plastic at every stage of its life cycle, together with sorting, assortment, and recycling. Disposal practices, monitoring and enforcement, in addition to price administration, shouldn’t be neglected.

Producers, producers and multinational corporations also needs to scale back plastic waste as a part of their manufacturing processes. The regulators ought to maintain them accountable to eradicate plastic waste within the surroundings. This coverage is called “prolonged producer duty”.

The idea has already been applied in some developed international locations, together with Germany. It has introduced enhancements within the reuse and recycling financial system.

Learn extra: African digital innovators are turning plastic waste into value — but there are gaps

Nigeria adopted the extended producer responsibility coverage by means of its Nationwide Environmental Requirements and Laws Enforcement Company in 2014. But it surely has not but been totally applied in all Nigerian states. Therefore, reflecting the present state of plastic waste air pollution.

If corporations in Nigeria’s plastic and packaging business can work collectively to realize a excessive normal of environmental sustainability, we are able to rightly say they’re practising company social duty.