Mitigating Plastic Pollution in Nigeria: A Call to Action

plastic pollution

By Sandra Eguagie

It appears that we have made an unsettling aesthetic choice with the quantity of plastic waste that litter our streets and public areas in Nigeria. Unfortunately, a large amount of plastic trash frequently enters the ecosystem and ends up in both terrestrial and aquatic settings. Quality of life is negatively impacted by this, and made worse by the lack of infrastructure to collect and recycle plastic waste. It is now gradually becoming the norm for the bulk of the population to dispose of plastic garbage recklessly.

The increasing use of plastics and its harmful effects as a result of the waste pollution is not confined to any one nation or continent. And it affects both humans and animals. Countries and different stakeholders all over the world are seeking lasting solution to this plastic pollution and seeking ways to enact a global treaty that will end this pollution and safeguard our common ecosystem. This was the major objective of the Fourth Session of the intergovernmental Negotiating committee which was to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including the Marine Environment (INC-4) held at the Shaw Centre, Ottawa, Canada from April 23-29, 2024. Over 70 participants, including ANEEJ, participated.

INC Chair Luis Vayas Valdivieso, Ecuador, addressed the critical role of advancing negotiations to deliver effective and impactful solutions to address plastic pollution. The Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Ms. Inger Andersen, Executive Secretary of the intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC), Mrs. Jyoti Mathur Filipp, and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, Steven Guilbeault, also delivered opening statements on April 23, 2024, the day of the official opening. They reiterated the meeting’s objective, to produce an international treaty that will put a stop to plastic pollution.

Worthy of note were three thematic side events on Plastic pollution in the marine environment. They were approaches to capacity building, financing and financial mechanisms, and enabling just transition. Discussions on these areas focused on interventions to end plastic pollution, suggestions on different approaches like targeted inclusive approach, awareness and education programme tailored to different stakeholders, addressing the health particularly women’s health, collaborative learning and multi-stakeholder coordination, promotion of data-driven decision making, monitoring progress and adapt approach, ensure viable project frameworks and enable sustainable financing.

With the global treaty likely to be finished at INC-5 in November, there is still a lot of work to be done as delegates get ready. This is because member nations and civil society organizations will have the chance to set the stage for the global treaty’s implementation. Additionally, His Excellency, Ambassador Obiora Nzewuji, the Acting Nigerian High Commissioner to Canada, met with us and other Nigerian observer groups to discuss some of the meeting’s outcomes and to make sure Nigeria is ready for the treaty’s implementation when it is eventually concluded.

Notably, reducing plastic pollution worldwide, and especially in Nigeria, will require more than just signing a global treaty. Before the global treaty on ending plastic pollution is finalized at INC-5, our government must establish proactive measures like bolstering the recycling system, conducting capacity building for waste management involving not only office workers but waste pickers who are out on the streets every day, and launching a massive public awareness campaign that targets every citizen role in the value chain.

In Nigeria, it used to be common to see “steel or piece of iron metals” lying around the country’s streets, but ever since certain recycling factories opened, it’s now rare to find any iron or steel materials lying around. Instead, waste pickers with trucks were seen everywhere, looking for steel to sell to the steel manufacturing factories. If you’re not careful, you may even witness waste pickers breaking into homes in the name of finding iron steel.

While the steel industry is not perfect, we can still learn from it by modifying the process and looking to other nations for technological advancements in recycling to achieve this low-hanging fruit. Every citizen should consider it their duty to dispose of waste properly, and our government must work to draft a roadmap for identifying and analyzing criteria and non-criteria-based approaches with regard to plastic pollution and chemicals of concern in plastic products and product design. This roadmap should focus on the recyclability and reusability of plastic products as well as their uses and applications, as evidenced in the proposed global treaty that will be finalized in Busan, South Korea, in November 2024.

Our message to Nigerians is this: we must stop dumping plastic waste recklessly into drainage systems, water bodies, and on the ground; the sight of these piles of plastic trash dehumanizes our ecosystem. In addition to increasing healthcare costs, living in polluted places results in poor living circumstances and restricted access to clean air and water for residents. Reducing plastic waste helps to protect wildlife and people while also promoting biodiversity.


Eguagie writes from the Africa Network for Environment & Economic Justice, ANEEJ,, 07061770129

Image: Ishan @seefromthesky Unsplash

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