The European Union (EU) is collaborating with the Federal Government and has expressed commitment to tackle the menace of environmental waste in Nigeria.

Following the proclamation of International Zero Waste Day declared by the United Nations General Assembly last December, the EU, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Environment and other stakeholders, marks the 2024 Zero Waste Day with a proclamation of new efforts to reduce the menace.

Speaking in Abuja at the commemoration of this year’s Zero Waste Day tagged: “Beat Waste,” Zissimos Vergos, Deputy Ambassador, European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, said, “This year’s theme “Beat Waste’ underscores the top priority to prevent waste from being created in the first place! The International Day of Zero Waste highlights both the importance of bolstering waste management globally and the need to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns.

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“Every year humanity generates between 2.1 billion and 2.3 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste. However, global waste management services are ill-equipped to handle this, with 2.7 billion people lacking access to solid waste collection and only around 60 per cent of municipal solid waste being managed in controlled facilities.”

Zissimos explained that waste pollution does not only significantly threaten human well-being and economic prosperity, it is part of the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution.

He stressed that without urgent action, annual municipal solid waste generation will hit 3.8 billion tonnes by 2050.

“Recognising this major challenge, the European Union initiated the Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency (GACERE), spearheaded by the EU and UNIDO, with support from the United Nations Environment Programme, and also joined by Nigeria. The initiative fosters international collaboration to address plastic pollution, including in marine environments.

“It is in that vein that we partner with the Federal Ministry of Environment, currently co-chairing the Nigeria Circular Economy Working Group together with UNIDO. The group brings together all strategic stakeholders to boost the implementation of circular economy policies and practices at national and sub-national levels, with a view to inclusive and green growth of the Nigerian economy.

“Our other contributions and achievements include the work on the National Policy on Waste Battery Management of 2021, support to NESREA on the National Environmental (Plastic Waste Control) Regulations of 2023, and last but not least the National Circular Economy Roadmap to be unveiled today,” he added.

Speaking at the event, the Minister of Environment, Balarabe Abbas Lawal, said; “The Federal Ministry of Environment in recognition of these opportunities, is taking proactive measures to promote circular economy principles and practices in the country geared towards achieving the zero waste objectives.

These measures include: Strengthening relevant policies, and institutional and regulatory frameworks to address identified gaps. Enforcing national policies on solid waste management, plastic waste management and battery waste management. Implementation of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programme.

“Developing and implementing a waste-to-wealth entrepreneurship programme for the empowerment of the most vulnerable group in the society. Putting in place a community-based waste management programme that encourages the involvement of local communities in modern waste management practices such as waste sorting, segregation, composting and recycling.

“Raising consumer awareness around sustainable purchasing practices by increasing consumer demand for greener, safer and healthier services and products. We have also announced a ban on single-use plastics in all departments, agencies, programmes and projects of the ministry.

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“These measures are a symbolic demonstration of our commitment to tackle the waste menace in our environment and a warning shot that waste generation and management in our country cannot remain business as usual. However, without the active involvement of the private sector and the general public, we will not reach the success desired.

“The Federal Government is also aware of the several obstacles to the implementation of a circular economy in Nigeria including inadequate policy, legal and regulatory framework, low level of public awareness, economic constraints, and fear of change amongst others. To address these challenges, we have developed a robust circular economy roadmap to successfully guide our transition towards a zero-waste society for immediate implementation.”

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