The Minister of State for Environment, Barr. Sharon Ikeazor has commended the youth for their active engagement in upcycling of solid waste especially plastic pollution.
She gave the commendation during a youth consultation webinar on plastic pollution with the theme ‘Youth response to plastic pollution’ organised today by the Federal Ministry of Environment as part of activities to mark the 2021 World Environment Day themed ‘Ecosystem restoration.’
Ikeazor pointed out that the large volume of solid wastes, particularly plastic wastes generated in the country provided opportunities for the vibrant and large youth population to engage in job and income generating activities.
The activities, according to her, are in the 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/facilities, setting up cooperative societies, resource recovery and export, etc.
“Consequent to the above, I am asking our youth to respond to the plastic pollution challenge and continue organizing themselves into associations/groups/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 our behavioral change from poor to modern waste management practices; Act as pressure group and demand for the necessary political will and legislative change to control plastic pollution and its eventual elimination.
“Actively participate and invest in plastic waste collection/transportation/waste exchange and collection centres and plastic recycling plants by participating in the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programme of the ministry,” she said.
Ikeazor said the ministry had created an enabling environment to harness the opportunities in plastic waste management in the country to assist the youth to effectively respond to the challenge through creation of programmes and enabling policies, adding there is no doubt Nigeria will achieve sound management of plastic wastes and achieve its dreams of plastic pollution free environment sooner than expected if everyone worked together as youths, with each contributing his or her quota.
In his remarks, the ministry’s director of pollution control, Mr. Charles Ikeah, described plastic pollution as one of the most pressing global environmental problems facing mankind at present, affecting land and marine environment, saying Nigeria generates about 1.5 million tonnes of plastic wastes every year and less than 10 per cent is recycled.
He explained that the national policy on solid waste management passed along with the national policy on plastic waste management aims to help the nation tackle the challenge of poor waste management habits/behaviours to achieve a waste free society.
In a presentation on eliminating plastic pollution-youth action, a youth speaker, Doyinsola Ogunye, stressed the need for sustained advocacy by the youth for a behavioral change, adding the most pressing challenge for sustained advocacy is funding as recycling advocacy is capital intensive.
In her presentation on ‘Plastic pollution: Opportunities for local economies’, the World Bank representative for the West and Central Africa Region, Özgül Calicioglu, said the bank was supporting in creating markets for plastic circularity and improved solid waste management in Nigeria, with special focus on Lagos State under its PROBLUE programme.
He explained that the initiative have four main components which consists of policy and institution; private sector; addressing COVID challenges; and communication and partnerships.
Speaking on opportunities for youths in plastic pollution, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation’s (UNIDO) representative, Mr Oluyomi Banjo, said the organization was in talks with the ministry of environment on operationalising the policy on plastic waste management with a look at the value chain hoping the youths would be actively involved.
The environment expert said the development of operational guidelines would mainstream the higher percentage of the population made up of youths in the drive to achieve a pollution-free Nigeria.