Home Opinion Features Lagos ban on styrofoam plastics: Eateries adjusting to environment-protecting law

Lagos ban on styrofoam plastics: Eateries adjusting to environment-protecting law

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When Lagos wielded the big stick on styrofoam and other single-use plastics a few days ago, it deployed one important phrase: with immediate effect. Obviously propelled by the adage that prevention is better than cure, the government announced a ban on the usage and distribution of the items in a tone that sent signals that it really means business.

Interestingly, the historic decision applies to not just one stratum of the Centre of Excellence. Liable are recalcitrant importers, manufacturers, transporters and users of the banned items. This indicates that although it often takes some time for law to mature, from last Sunday that the ban came on stream, the restaurant that sells food in styrofoam and the buyer who collects it and will eventually dispose it somewhere in the state, are as guilty as the producer or distributor. As a matter of fact, in the chain, it is the end users – like the buyers – who often litter the environment with the items after use.

Bearing this in mind, a good number of Lagosians have since become sensitive to anything styrofoam. There was indeed a dramatic scene on Wednesday morning at a restaurant in Arepo, Ogun State – a Lagos border town. A young lady had decided to buy some food she was taking to Lagos where she works. The attendant chose to serve her rice and chicken in the popular while styrofoam plastic but she swiftly rejected the arrangement. The law is not applicable in Ogun. She was going to Lagos where it is. Of course, she did not mind to pay an additional N150 for a re-usable plastic container presented as the alternative. In days ahead, the proximity of Lagos to the likes of Arepo, Ibafo, Mowe, Sango and Ota is likely to breed more similar dramas as the implementation of the law unfolds.

But it is interesting that a good number of restaurants in Lagos are positively responding to the ban. Those that this writer, for instance, checked out in the Ikeja area had no styrofoam packs on display as they used to. They rather sold in the transparent re-usable containers. Among such are the Chicken Republic, Mr Biggs, KFC, Sumptous and The Place around the Ikeja Mall. The survey, however, shows that a lot of awareness must be created among streetside food vendors as many of them are still selling with the forbidden cans across the state. One of them expressed ignorance of the law, saying no one had told her about the restriction. The woman who simply identified herself as Mama Taye hawked food around Olowu Street.

The fact is that with the huge population in Lagos State, the government knows where the shoe pinches when it comes to managing refuse. It gave a picture of this is a statement signed by the Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Tokunbo Wahab, in which the ban was announced. According to Wahab, the decision was reached following the menace that single-use plastics, especially the non-biodegradable styrofoam, were causing on the environment.

He said that most drainage channels in the state were daily clogged up by styrofoams through their indiscriminate distribution and usage despite the regular cleaning and evacuation of the drains with humongous amounts.

Reiterating that the larger chunk of littering across major roads and markets which Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) contends with daily was made up of styrofoams, the Commissioner added that the State Government could not fold its hands and watch the continued desecration of its environment, especially as a coastal city.

Wahab has subsequently directed LAWMA and the Kick Against Indiscipline to commence the implementation of the ban immediately. The commissioner tasked the two agencies to clamp down on all the production companies and distribution outlets for styrofoams in the state to prevent further distribution.

“Our state cannot be held hostage to the economic interests of a few wealthy business owners compared to the millions of Lagosians suffering the consequences of indiscriminate dumping of single-use plastics and other types of waste”, he stated.

According to Wahab, the well-known consequences include climate change, flooding, and diseases like cholera. He thus advised consumers and residents to boycott styrofoam packs and single-use plastics while imbibing the practice of using reusable food containers and water bottles for their food and drinks.

Lasisi is a Lagos-based public affairs analyst

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