The proposed Plastic Bag (Prohibition) Bill, seeks to prohibit the use, importation and, manufacture of plastic bags for household and commercial purposes. While this is a commendable action, we submit that this plan is still premature and needs to be addressed from several angles.
The widespread adoption and use of plastics in all forms throughout modern society have made goods more affordable, enabled medical advances, improved hygiene, enhanced freshness of food and dramatically reduced food wastage. Its extensive value chains support economic and social development by way of investments, industrial development, entrepreneurship, employment, public revenue, technology and innovation. Undermining the plastics industry or segments of it through a ban or other punitive laws or regulations will have significant adverse impact on this value chain and by extension on society.
We note that certain environmental and social problems especially are often associated with plastics. The disruption of the Marine ecosystem through marine litter have often been attributed to plastics. Plastics are not the problem, but the disposal and management of plastic wastes. Indeed, littered plastics and materials of any kind do not belong in the environment. Littering is a problem that needs to be dealt with by collaborating with educators, industry, governments, councils, private waste management companies, legislators, consumers and all relevant government bodies.
The problems associated with plastic waste is merely a symptom of a deeper social issue across the country, i.e. the absence of effective waste collection and management systems as well as the low level of responsible waste handling practices which applies to all forms of waste including plastics, metals, wood and other materials.
Our approach to this bill is also informed by the learnings we have gleaned from a similar directive issued in Kenya by the National Environmental Management Agency. The learnings are set out below.
Kenya Case Study
The environmental authorities in Kenya banned the use, manufacture and importation of plastic bags for commercial and household packaging. In banning such packaging, they expressly excluded plastic packaging used in an industrial setting for manufacturing purposes.
Manufacturers using plastic packaging for manufacturing purposes were tasked with the collection of post-consumer waste resulting from the use of the packaging. Whilst the legislation was hailed as an important milestone globally due to its intended objective to reduce pollution, it has been plagued with a number of problems that have affected its effectiveness including the following:
• There were no viable alternatives to replace the single-use plastic bags for commercial and household packaging. The Kenyan Government had proposed certain alternatives to plastic bags but unfortunately those alternatives had not been fully tested and neither was there any standard in place to ensure the high quality of these alternatives. As a result of this gap, non-woven polypropylene bags flooded the Kenyan market as an alternative to plastic bags. As of March 31, 2019, the National Environmental Management Authority banned the use of these bags as they were determined to be of low quality. According to a statement issued by NEMA: these “nonwoven bags … cannot be used multiple times but are disposed of after single use. This single-usage of these bags will eventually lead to heavy environmental consequences due to poor disposal practices currently being experienced in the country coupled with the lack of requisite infrastructure to sustainably manage these bags”. This ban remains in place until such a time as the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) gazettes a standard that will inform the quality of non-woven bags needed for the Kenyan market.
• As part of the Kenyan regulations, an extended user responsibility was imposed on manufacturers who used plastic packaging in industrial settings to ensure the traceability of any packaging utilized for their products and to also ensure that such packaging was collected and returned to recycling facilities. Unfortunately, there is no robust infrastructure in place to support the entire cycle of collecting, recycling or reusing of the plastic packaging generated by manufacturers. Two years after the implementation of the ban, the authorities are still looking to set up a scheme which would be effective in the collection, reuse and recycling of industrial plastic packaging.
A progressive approach to the plastic waste challenge should focus on effective control of handling, collection, disposal, segregation, and recycling in order to preserve and enhance the positive value chain impact of plastics, rather than a ban or prohibition which will invariably trigger negative socio-economic consequences and significantly threaten the Manufacturing Sector, already fraught with a lot of challenges.
We recommend the following in order to provide a conclusive solution to the issues raised in the bill
It will be critical to harmonize an already existing policy with the bill. There exists in Nigeria a potentially effective control tool for all waste items, including plastics, called the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Policy which the National Environment Standards Regulation and Enforcement Agency (NESREA) worked very hard with stakeholders to develop and brought into effect in 2014. The EPR policy, which is a global best practice regulatory tool for waste management, mandates every brand owner, importer, manufacturer and dealer to take responsibility for their product lifecycles and implement effective programmes, as individual organizations and collectively as industries, to ensure the recyclability of their packaging materials by design as well as to ensure effective frameworks for the collection/recovery and recycling of such materials at the post-consumer stage. Implementation of the EPR policy has since begun with the Food and Beverage Sector and the Electronics Sector. Building on a PET bottles recycling initiative pioneered by a group of FMCG organizations, endorsed by NESREA and the industry bodies (MAN and AFBTE), the F&B Sector set up the Food & Beverage Recycling Alliance (FBRA) as the sector’s Producer Responsibility Organization.
In order to ensure that the Bill will be relevant we recommend that the bill be structured towards establishing a framework, which supports the responsible disposal, collection, recycle and re-use of plastic packaging. The Bill should also empower the public sector to invest in the necessary infrastructure which supports the responsible disposal, management and re-use of plastic waste. In addition, the Bill should focus on a transition period, which enables such infrastructure to be set up and for the recycling industry to be operational. Such a Policy would set out strategic milestones and timelines accordingly and guide all stakeholders with a focus on challenges that are unique to Nigeria.
More recycling systems need to be established to cater for the rising consumption and waste disposal rate of the Nigerian Population. This is critical as the existing infrastructure is inefficient, and in most cases, people resort to the burning of waste rather than recycling and repurposing, which has led to higher greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Creating these systems will also promote the development of the recycling industry and create jobs within the recycling industry.
We believe that the education and orientation of the Nigerian people on proper waste disposal practices will be necessary as a first step. This would promote a new attitude to general waste, not just plastics, whilst ensuring that further efforts are not counterproductive. Investing in education and awareness also has the potential to create a base of responsible citizens and industry who are interested and supportive of environmentally sustainable practices. The awareness and sensitization exercise will help reduce the incidences of pollution of the environment.
In order to achieve the desired outcome, the Government needs to identify private sector partners with expertise in waste disposal and recycling and to support the plan both by the Government and the private sector to reduce plastic waste to landfill. Producers and importers are not necessarily experts but are committed to a green environment as much as possible using a multi – sectoral, public- private partnerships approach. The bill needs to state clearly the role of the Government in developing the waste management sector, such as providing infrastructure and private sector’s contribution so that the Bill achieves its exact objective of creating a cleaner more sustainable environment that will responsibly manage the use of plastics.
We will like to share some American Business Council member companies’ projects on plastic management which underscores the commitment of private sector and the fact that a private sector-led EPR system, in lieu of tax, is capable of dealing with the plastic waste challenge, if government provides the enabling policies and waste management infrastructure.
Summary of Activities on Waste Management by US Private Sector Manufacturing Companies
Highlights of the FBRA activities
a) Establishment of Recycling Infrastructure: A 12,000-ton capacity plastic bottle-to-fibre recycling facility was inaugurated in Lagos in 2005 under a partnership Programme between Coca-Cola and Alkem Nigeria Limited, owners and operators of the facility. This facility remains in operation and is the largest full process PET bottle recycling facility in Nigeria, aggregating feedstock from collection centres spread across many States. The FBRA is committed to facilitating the establishment of similar facilities across the country, with a focus on bottle-to-bottle recycling in order to achieve a full circular economy. Discussions are at advanced stages with a Nigeria based investor on a 20,000-ton capacity PET bottle recycling facility capable of bottle-to-bottle recycling. Meanwhile, the Alliance is working with Lafarge Cement’s Geocycle Unit as an off-taker for collected plastic materials, which the latter uses as fuel material to augment its energy needs.
b) Waterways Cleanup: Working with the Lagos State Government (Ministry of Transport, Ministry of the Environment, Lagos State Waste Management Authority and Lagos State Waterways Agency), the FBRA has launched a Waterways Cleanup Programme to rid the creeks and other inland waterways of plastic and other wastes and ultimately prevent the flow of such wastes into the ocean. Under the partnership, FBRA has procured and donated six units of fit-for-purpose engine-boats to facilitate the cleanup and evacuation of plastics and other waste from the waterways.
c) Plastic Waste Collection: FBRA and its member companies have engaged and incentivized waste entrepreneurs, including Recycle Points Limited and Wecyclers Limited, to collect food and beverage plastic waste from dumpsites, homes, hotels/restaurants and other high-volume consumption points.
d) Consumer Education and Mobilization: FBRA frequently organizes community outreach programmes in various low-income neighbourhoods in Lagos to educate consumers on appropriate disposal habits, raise awareness of the environmental and social hazards of indiscriminate disposal of waste and encourage them to collect and sell used plastic bottles and sachets to the collection agents. A comprehensive national awareness programme through the mass media is in plan in collaboration with NESREA.
e) National Standard for Food Grade Recycled PET: Since 2017, the FBRA has championed the advocacy with the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) for the establishment of a policy framework and national standard for food grade recycled PET packaging. These instruments are crucial to enabling the food and beverage companies implement a full circular recycling economy by using PET bottles and other packaging types made from recycled PET, thus scaling up the demand/off-take for used plastics packaging and attracting investors to invest in domestic recycling facilities that will in turn generate jobs and other benefits for society. This will also commoditize plastic waste as a commercial resource and prevent them from ending up in dumpsites or littering the streets, drainage or other waterways.
Procter and Gamble
As a responsible entity, P&G is committed to a sustainable environment and manufacturing practices. Worthy of note is the achievement of Zero Manufacturing Waste-to-Landfill (ZMWtL) status of the Manufacturing site in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. P&G invests in innovative production processes and efficient waste-management processes to deliver sustainable goals.
DOW Chemical Company
In Ghana specifically DOW Chemical a founding member of a sustainable plastics waste management Coalition called the GRIPE (Ghana Recycling Initiative by Private Enterprises) along with seven other global brands work together to improve the plastic waste value chain in Ghana through Projects at every stage of the plastics lifecycle. The project is an improved plastic waste value chain for Ghana that involves:
• Segregation of solid waste from source and diversion of recyclables from landfill, which is a major contributor to marine litter.
• Building of sorting centers where the plastic waste sorting
• Processing center for shredding or other conditioning needed prior to sale.
• Use in the identified 2nd life solutions to close the loop:
• Plastic modified concrete for affordable housing
• Wood-plastic composite for furniture
• Plastic modified bitumen for roads
• Research into and implementation of Segregation and anti-littering campaigns and waste management policy
Virtuous Circle – SA project to demonstrate the circular economy in action.
• Dow, in alignment with the global plastics industry and key association partners, recognizes marine debris and litter as a critical issue and is committed to work collaboratively across the planet to address this global challenge with effective science-based solutions. Recent recognition identified that trying to remove existing debris already in the ocean would be futile without initially identifying and fixing the sources where additional marine debris is flowing in. Dow is actively supporting various initiatives to prevent marine debris.
• For example, last year Dow worked with the Association of Ghana Industries and other stakeholders of the packaging value chain to find a solution and propose solutions to plastics waste management issues in Ghana and counter the introduction of oxo-biodegradables additives as a solution to waste management issues faced by the country.
• To continuously improve sustainability efforts, in 2016 Dow joined the African Marine Waste Network, a network that dedicated to addressing marine waste at a Pan-African level. By joining forces with the African Marine Waste Network, Dow plans to be amongst the leading organizations to address the threat and support waste management initiatives.
• Dow is also collaborating with other stakeholders in Africa, including the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, Plastics SA, the Sustainability Sea Trust organization, providing counsel and intelligence on waste management best practices and how raw materials can play an essential role in meeting sustainability targets.
• In addition, Dow P&SP’s team work relentlessly with all members of the value chain to promote the sustainable aspects of plastics packaging and how our innovative solutions can help achieve greater sustainable results:
• For example, Dow worked with one of Ghana’s leading manufacturers of flexible packaging products in West Africa; to develop a down gauged 55-micron collation shrink film, an anomaly in a market dominated by 80-micron films. With Dow’s solution, the company was able to reduce the overall formulation cost, whilst maintaining stiffness, puncture and holding force properties -even though it was the very first time such kind of film was ever converted in the region. In Egypt, Dow introduced our latest precision packaging resin called INNATE™ to create a tailored solution, which would meet the brand owner’s technical specifications, but also deliver against cost criteria imposed by the convertor. Ultimately, Dow managed to achieve an output increase of up to 20% – hence reducing energy and resource waste, as well as required performance criteria such as high pallet stability and enhanced free fall drop test, which surpassed the customer’s expectations.
• Another example of Dow’s commitment to sustainability is the development of new technology that facilitates package recycling: a 100% PE Stand-Up Pouch. By making a stand-up pouch from several different layers of polyethylene instead of a lamination of polyester and polyethylene, the resulting pouch, suitable for non-barrier applications, can be recycled along with other polyethylene films such as shopping bags, stretch film, and collation shrink bundling film (such as used for wrapping cases of bottled water).
• The Dow team also promotes another sustainable solution in the market called RETAIN™ – a compatibilizer, barrier film where converters can recycle up to 100% of their scrap. As a result, the cost of the upgraded scrap will be at least 15% less than the cost of virgin polyethylene, all of which can be achieved without sacrificing optical or mechanical performance.
At Kimberly-Clark is motivated by our vision to lead the world in essentials for a better life. This vision inspires efforts to improve lives they touch with their products and programs. They recognize the risks associated with post-consumer waste and single-use plastics, and acknowledge that plastics are ending up in waterways and oceans. As a global leader whose products used by one quarter of the world’s population every day, they are committed to playing our part in addressing this multifaceted issue.
Kimberly-Clark believes that plastic in waterways and the environment in general is preventable if there are appropriate systems in place to ensure that the collection and processing of plastics enables them to be recycled back into new products or materials. This and sustainable product and packaging innovation are key to their efforts to incorporate more circular principles, thereby addressing the issues of post-consumer waste and single-use plastics. They understand the value of materials in their product categories and seek secondary, beneficial uses of these materials from source to shelf – and beyond.
Key programs focus include:
– Utilizing materials efficiently in product and packaging design and manufacturing.
– Diverting manufacturing and postconsumer waste from low value outlets (landfill) to higher value, beneficial uses.
– Improving consumer education related to disposal and recycling options.
– Finding innovative ways to enable value networks that are mutually beneficial to them and their partners.
– Researching material and technology innovations to help them deploy more circular business models.
As part of our Sustainability 2022 Programme, we have introduced a goal to extend our zero waste mindset across the value chain and deliver innovation to help keep product and packaging material out of landfills.
Summary of Our Position
It is the duty of Industry to provide clear, substantiated, scientific data to assure stakeholders products offered meet their requirements for end-of-life disposal options.
We believe that Nigeria needs to adopt an integrated solution, which includes the following;
• Set up a public private sector working group with the relevant House Committee to design the framework and properly articulate the issues of Plastics raised in the Bill and to propose alternative solutions to sustainable plastic waste management as opposed to an outright ban
• Initiate Consumer recycling awareness programs.
• Initiate and execute anti-littering campaigns to drive the change in behavior which causes the littering today.
• Eventual transition from landfill and picking systems to zero landfill as landfills are a major contributor to marine litter.
• Researching material and technology innovations to help us deploy more circular business models.
• Government needs to adopt and adapt best practices from developed and developing markets on the effective approach to plastics collection and recycling. A multipronged approach is required and not achieved through promulgation alone. Some best practices that the government can replicate to drive progress include 7-year tax holiday approved by the Ghanaian government (corporate income tax at 1% only) for investors setting up industries. Ethiopia is also offering tax rebates to companies based on volume of plastics they collect and recycle.
We believe that regulations that enable the acceleration of full circular economy, such as the EPR policy, and encourage the recycling/reuse of these materials is a far more effective approach to managing the challenges of plastic waste pollution in Nigeria. A ban or tax on plastic bags or other forms of plastic packaging is not progressive and will ultimately be counterproductive.