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Lagos plastic ban divides opinion

Plastic waste in Lagos, Nigeria.   -  
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A recently announced ban on Styrofoam and single-use plastics in Lagos, Nigeria, is dividing opinion on the city's streets.

In Nigeria's largest city, plastic waste clogs the gutters and waterways. 

The city of more than 20 million people has a major problem with waste and pollution, leading the authorities to announce an immediate ban on Styrofoam and single-use plastics on January 21. 

On Thursday, officials announced there would be an extension of three weeks before the ban's enforcement to give distributors and producers time to source reusable options. 

Sustainable alternatives

While the ban has been welcomed by some, others worry about its impact on business costs.

Traders like Angela Uloma are concerned about the increased costs of sourcing more sustainable alternatives.

"[Authorities] were supposed to bring out waste bins, so that anybody that uses the takeaway plates will throw it in the bin," says Uloma. "Because [Styrofoam] is the cheapest for people to use."

Lagos officials have said that traders and distributors who fail to follow the ban could face heavy fines, or the closure of their business premises. 

Some believe the ban is needed but remain sceptical as to how the city will manage to enforce the legislation.

It will also require the numerous fast food producers to move to more sustainable products.

“The Styrofoam packs are the main issue with Nigeria’s waste problem, always blocking the pipes and the drainages," says Glamour Adah, a digital marketer. "I prefer the reusable packs because once you buy one, you’re using it for the next three days."


Some people argue this habit of throwing litter onto the streets means people in the city need to be more informed and educated.

Realtor Thelma Anu says: “It’s good but those are not the only thing clogging the waterways, we have a lot of like if you look around me, we have plastic bottles, we have wraps and you know all sort of rubbish clogging the waterways. So, I don’t think the ban is going to solve the problem, other measures should be put in place to like prevent people clogging the waterways.”

Desmond Majekodunmi, environmental campaigner and chairman for the Lekki State Urban Forest and Animal Shelter Initiative supports the new law.

“It’s long overdue and because they waited for so long, it’s become more urgent, it’s a terrible health hazard," says Majekodunmi. "But it has to be backed with an intensive grassroots awareness campaign and I believe that government should be more concerned in being able to persuade people not to want to do it, than to have to force the people.”

Majekodunmi too believes more should be done to win over public opinion so that people want to clean up the city.

“We have to really re-programme ourselves that the kind of waste that we are throwing away now is bad and dangerous and terrible stuff," he says. "And you know, it’s time for a whole rethink, not just for Nigerians globally, globally, humanity generally has to really, really rethink their whole relationship with nature.”

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