A heap of plastic bags near a water source. Image Credit: greennigeria.wordpress.com
By Taye Obateru
As seen in the analysis on Nigeria, despite increasing concerns on the menace of plastic bags to the environment, the country is yet to ban its use. Pronouncements by government officials on plans to place a ban have not been translated into concrete action.
Nigerians are, however, divided on whether plastic bags should be banned or not according to opinions sampled by this blog. While many agree that plastic bags pose a threat to the environment, they differ on the manner in which the menace should be handled.
A mixed perspective
A civil engineer, Clement Dusa said the ban was overdue in view of the problem plastic bags are causing for the environment. “We can all see how the environment is defaced by plastic bags; everywhere you go, plastic bags litter the streets and they end up blocking drainages and causing flooding. So I think it should be banned. I remember that at a time, what we knew were paper bags; we should be thinking of returning to the era of paper bags because being biodegradable, they are easier to manage and won’t pose as much threat to the environment as plastic bags.”
An undergraduate, Joshua Oluwatobi, supported his position noting that the negative impact of plastic bags on the environment and on animals call for their ban. He said the stagnant water resulting from blocked drainages contribute to the breeding of mosquitoes thereby worsening the malaria problem in the country. He suggested alternative methods of packaging should be adopted to keep those dependent on plastic bags in business.
Clement Apetan, a teacher, in supporting the ban, argued that using plastic bags had more disadvantages than advantages. According to him, “I know people say it is cheap, durable and convenient to carry around, but should this be at the expense of our environmental wellbeing? Mere looking around our major streets and how plastic bags cover everywhere says it all. Just look down at the rivers or streams whenever you walk or drive over a bridge and see how plastic bags are clogging the water ways. We don’t need to be told that it is time to do something about the situation before it gets worse and creates more problems.”
He believed that introducing affordable alternatives to plastic bags in addition to more enlightenment on proper disposal and recycling of plastic bags should be considered. He said persuasion and enlightenment would work better than coercion adding “making people to appreciate and understand the danger posed by the plastic bags to us as humans and to the environment would, to me, achieve better results.”
For his part, Victor Chinedu, a trader, viewed it differently, arguing that no legislation banning plastic bags would work without providing an alternative because “people are used to it.”
He added: “You and I know that sachet water is very popular among Nigerians because it is an affordable source of drinking water. If you now say you’re banning plastic bags, what alternative would be provided that will still be affordable? Rather than talking about a ban, why don’t we talk about checking the indiscriminate way people throw plastic bags around so that they will no longer pose a threat to the environment?”
To Christiana Emmanuel, a restaurant owner, the plastic bags should not be banned because they provide a source of livelihood for a lot of Nigerians. She said rather than a ban, “plastic bags can be made recyclable so that they can be re-used”. She added that changing to plastic bags that are biodegradable would remove the threat of the ones currently in use to aquatic life.
Lawyer and human rights activist, Iliya Sanda said any legislation banning the use of plastic bags without making the people to appreciate its rationale would not be effective. “People will either resist or violate any such legislation if they don’t believe that it is reasonable. Don’t forget that the livelihood and businesses of a lot of people are tied to these plastic bags; bread sellers, food vendors, sachet water sellers and many others. So if you ban the plastic bags, what would they do? Do you know how many people survive on sachet water business alone?
“My take is that the current efforts to produce biodegradable plastic bags should be intensified so that they can replace the non-biodegradable ones currently in use. The people have a right to survive and they will not give up their source of income easily unless you provide an alternative. We should learn from other countries that have banned plastic bags but which has not been very effective because of smuggling.”
With these contrasting opinions, will Nigeria ban plastic bags? Only time can tell.