As the world gears up to commemorate World Environment Day, the Wild Africa Fund (WAF) sounds the alarm on the grave consequences of plastic pollution, emphasizing its damaging impact on our oceans and marine wildlife. Festus Iyorah, the Nigeria representative at WAF, highlights the urgent need to address the widespread problem of single-use plastic waste in the country.

World Environment Day serves as a global reminder of the profound impact of human activities on our environment, while inspiring collective action to safeguard the Earth. This year’s theme, “Solutions to Plastic Pollution,” underscores the pressing call to reduce plastic waste and find local remedies to mitigate the detrimental effects of plastic pollution on our environment and wildlife.

Iyorah emphasizes, “Plastic pollution is a huge and widespread problem in Nigeria. Single-use plastic has become an integral part of our daily lives. Regrettably, its continued use and accumulation as waste inflict severe damage on our environment, oceans, and precious marine species, such as sea turtles.”

Alarming statistics from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) reveal that the world produces a staggering 400 million tons of plastic annually, with less than 10 percent being recycled. In Nigeria alone, a massive 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated each year, and a staggering 88 percent of these plastics go unrecycled. Consequently, these pollutants find their way into our waterways, dams, lagoons, and ultimately, the ocean.

Plastic pollution disproportionately affects marine habitats and the delicate aquatic species that call our oceans home. Tragically, hundreds of sea turtles meet their untimely demise every year due to entanglement in plastic waste found in the oceans and on beaches. Mistaking plastic for sea grass, sea turtles consume these hazardous materials, leading to fatal consequences. Without significant human intervention, sea turtles in Nigeria face the imminent risk of extinction.

Peter Knights, OBE, Founder at Wild Africa Fund, suggests that following the remarkable success of countries like Rwanda in reducing plastic usage and eliminating visible plastic pollution, Nigeria has the potential to become a regional leader in curbing plastic consumption and transitioning from indiscriminate dumping to responsible recycling or safe disposal. Achieving this transformation will require political will and active public participation.

The Wild Africa Fund is actively raising awareness about the impact of plastic waste on sea turtles and marine habitats through targeted media messages. Additionally, the organization collaborates with local conservationists, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies to rescue marine life being traded on the streets of Lagos.

In its mission to combat plastic pollution and protect our oceans and marine life, the Wild Africa Fund remains committed to working closely with the Federal Government of Nigeria and state governments. Together, they aim to implement effective strategies for plastic waste management and deploy local solutions that safeguard our environment and preserve the richness of our oceans and marine ecosystems.