Beating Plastic Pollution in Emerging Markets

Beating Plastic Pollution in Emerging Markets

The last few years have witnessed a heightened awareness of the rising consequences of plastic pollution on the environment globally, which leaves no exception to African cities. Over 8 million tons of plastic are reported to be disposed annually in the ocean, breaking down into microplastics that are invisible to the human eye. These micro particles are also created with the wearing out of tyres on the abrasive surfaces of roads. Can you imagine where the tiny fibers of plastic go? Generally, they get washed off by the rain into the ocean and become food for fishes – the same fishes we eat.

The effect of plastics pollution in Africa occurs in different forms – it pollutes that air and water on land and directly affects human lives, through diseases such as cholera, malaria, and diarrhea.

Despite significant levels of dedication, investment and clean ups, it has been difficult to keep up with the pace of plastic pollution. At this rate, the United Nations estimates that by 2050, the ocean will be home to more plastic than fishes. Considering the 8 million tons of plastics in the ocean yearly, it is a possibility that almost 90% of seabirds would end up eating plastic when they reach out for food. This is a crisis that urgently demands that innovators, industries and governments develop universal solutions that prevent plastic from becoming a waste in the first place. This is especially required in emerging markets with no structures in place to encourage recycling. The environmental utility firm, Visionscape Group is one of the pioneer companies working with developing cities like Lagos to nip the issue in the bud.

Much like developing countries in Asia – Indonesia and Thailand, Lagos is experiencing a rapid growth in population and industry and lack the resources to properly manage their waste and recyclable materials. To solve this problem, the company is tackling a fundamental issue that is yet to receive adequate attention – the lack of waste management infrastructure. Visionscape is moving Lagos in the right direction by adopting land-based systems to recycling and creating a market for recycled plastic. This involves the implementation of facilities, such as the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) to collect, sort and process plastic waste and a Tyre Recycling plant to process tyre waste into valuable products like crumb rubber.

Director at Visionscape Group, Adeniyi Makanjuola said “Providing adequate infrastructure to meet the waste management demand of the world’s growing population is likely to remain one of the most significant challenges for emerging markets. For instance, in one of our focus markets Lagos State Nigeria, a population of over 22 million, generating an estimated 15,000 tonnes of waste daily, Visionscape identifies infrastructure gaps and the strategies to bridge those gaps. A sound infrastructure plan will tackle waste surplus and maximise efficiency levels to support recovery over landfill disposal.”

The Materials Recovery Facility is being built in the Landfill and Eco Park which is currently being constructed by Visionscape in Epe, a city in the northern part of the Lagos State. With the MRF, it will be easier to turn waste into vital materials for the manufacturing supply chain. The Visionscape strategy is to support and invest in local content and engage organisations in plans to demonstrate the economic benefit of returning plastic to the manufacturing and supply chain and keeping them out of the ocean.

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