#Feature: The Plastic bottle Crisis is as Dangerous as Climate Change


Many families have been vehemently ejected from their homes as a result of the severity of the flood, due to the rain which continually graced us with its heavy downpour. While some residents are compelled to stay indoors against their volition, others who have to leave their houses in order to provide for their families, wade through the pool of water reaching them at waist level.

More than 20% of the municipal waste generated in Nigeria are from nylons and plastic which are littered everywhere and indiscriminately dumped in gutters, canals, drainages, and the streets. Over 3 billion of PET bottles are produced in Nigeria every year, with the population estimated at 170 million, the tons of waste produced daily remains a big issue to deal with. These polymer wastes end up blocking the flow of water in drainages thereby causing flooding. Unlike organic waste, waste plastics and nylons are non-biodegradable and pose grave nuisance to the society.

Most plastic bottles used in making consumer products are made from Polyethylene Terephthalate commonly known as PET or PETE. This chemical compound is moulded into plastic bottles for packaging food, beverages and personal health care. Research has revealed that reusing bottles made of PET can actually be dangerous. Over time PET breaks down and leaches into the beverage when the bottles were reused. The toxin DEHA was also discovered in the water sample from reused water bottles. It has been shown that DEHA causes liver problems, and is suspected to cause cancer in humans. Therefore, it is advisable to recycle these bottles without reusing them.

Environmentalists have voiced their concerns over the far reaching ecological danger, plastic waste poses across the nation aside from flooding. There are also risks associated with consuming sea foods from rivers and water bodies that are clogged with polymer waste. When these plastics are broken down into tiny bits, the fishes can actually swallow them and plastics emit toxins such as dioxins which is a direct source of carcinogenic particles. Hence, the fishes and sea foods we consumed could be contaminated and it explains why there is a teeming rate of cancer cases among teenagers and youths today.

Although the government has been promoting a Green campaign to sensitize the public about the recycling – the process of converting materials that otherwise would be considered waste, into new products. This practice ensures there is little or no negative impact on the society, however this campaign is yet to fully yield any sustainable result.

In Nigeria today, we still export the locally recycled plastics to China where they are changed into new plastics, which people reimport into the country. Most companies that manufacture plastics here buy them preformed and the Pet bottles are produced from tiny bottles in form of test tubes. When they are imported, what we do is blow them up into plastic bottles with the aid of a machine.

Major drinks brands produce the greatest numbers of plastic bottles. Coca-Cola produces more than 100 billion disposable plastic bottles annually.  As part of the measures to effectively tackle this crisis, the manufacturing companies should be held accountable by increasing the recycled content of their plastic bottles. Also shifting to a circular economy whereby plastic bottles are recycled will help to close the loop, and disengage plastics production from fossil fuel consumption.

Torinmo Salau




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