Lagos residents awoke on January 21, 2024, to the groundbreaking news of the State government’s prohibition of polystyrene (Styrofoam) and other single-use plastics (SUPs). While some were surprised by the decision affecting their beloved “take-away pack,” keen observers applauded the long-overdue move, recognizing the severe environmental impact of polystyrene.
The ban aligns with global concerns about the environmental consequences of plastic waste. According to data from the UN Environment Programme, approximately 400 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated globally each year, with 36% being single-use plastics. The durability of polystyrene and plastic bags is alarming, taking up to 500 years to decompose. In Nigeria, an estimated 32 million tonnes of solid waste are produced annually, contributing to pollution and health risks due to improper disposal.
Lagos State alone generates 870,000 tonnes of plastic waste yearly, resulting in littered roads, gutters, and estates. The ban on SUPs, announced by Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Tokunbo Wahab, specifically targets items with no recyclable potential. It encompasses polystyrene, plastic spoons, microbeads, carrier bags, straws, and disposable cups.
Beyond waste management, there’s a growing call for the implementation of a circular economy, emphasizing sustainable and efficient use and processing of raw materials, especially plastics. Luther Kington Nwobodo, CEO of Zeugnis International Limited, emphasizes the critical role of data in advancing sustainability goals within a circular economy. Drawing from past projects, Luther asserts, “The goal is to analyze and optimize resource flows, minimize waste, and enhance overall environmental and economic efficiency within the context of a circular economy.”
Nwobodo highlights the need for interdisciplinary collaboration and leveraging data for informed decision-making. He states, “I collaborated with sustainability experts and stakeholders to identify key performance indicators aligned with circular economy principles, conducting descriptive analytics to gain insights into historical trends and patterns related to sustainable practices.”
In 2023, a project partnership between the Abuja Environmental Protection Board and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization secured $2.9 million from the Japanese government to support Nigeria’s transition to a circular economy. Oluyomi Banjo, Nigeria National Programme Coordinator, Environment and Energy, UNIDO, emphasized the urgency, stating, “By 2025, Nigeria will be the largest producer of these harmful plastics; that’s why a circular economy is recommended.”
Addressing concerns about Nigeria’s readiness to manage a circular economy, Nwobodo asserts, “I implemented optimization algorithms to achieve a 15% improvement in resource efficiency by identifying and implementing strategies based on data-driven insights.” He encourages more data experts to join the cause, supporting the efficient implementation of the circular economy for sustainable development goals in Nigeria and beyond.