Monday 16 July 2018

How Nigeria plays big in $370bn global plastics market

With Indorama-Eleme Petrochemicals churning out the required raw materials in the plastics industry, Nigeria is set to play big in the $370bn global plastics market now in existence, though Nigeria also faces huge risks in the emerging risks in beat pollution especially cancer and other poisons caused by plastics.

This is as a professor of environmental studies and senior research adviser in Shell, Arthur Essaghah, has raised alarm, saying six particular chemicals used in the production of plastics cause canncer and kill over one million sea birds and over 700 organisms per year.

Also, over 150m tonnes of plastics are now sitting in the oceans of the world as wastes, and could overtake the population of fish stock in the oceans by 2050. Packaging is said to cause up to 44 per cent of plastics produced in both the developed and developing worlds.

There were fallouts that seemed to shock students from best science schools in Nigeria that converged at Shell Residential Area in Port Harcourt last week Monday to showcase their inventions at a STEM exhibition (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Nigeria had whittled down to about 15 plastics companies by 2006 when the then Eleme Petrochemicals Limited (EPLC) had become moribund. The entry of Indorama who acquired majority shares and revamped the place caused a boom leading to the emergence of over 350 plastics making companies that easily source their raw materials (polymer, polyproplene, etc) from IEPCL which now has a fertlizer plant. Nigeria also exports polymers these days.

These have boosted the use of plastics in Nigeria, adding to the global market and global beat plastics pollution with Nigeria is leader in Africa and also with highest exposure risk to cancer and other dangers, accoring to experts from various segments of the science field.

Shell and Science

The moderator, one Mr Michael, livened the young audience with his spices on Shell’s love for inventions and sciences with the drive to contribute knowledge to the world.

The event was Shell’s ‘The NXPlorer’ which seeks to identify future scientists and inventors now. The moderator observed that Nigeria must make a point in the world and that Shell is therefore in search of those who could be the next explorers. The company thus decided to look for them in schools in some parts of Nigeria. Some students in those selected schools were being supported to conduct research and present their works at an annual exhibition.

The schools that came for exhibition at the Shell RA on July 9, 2018, which so far worked on a selected innovative scheme include: Arch-Deacon Brown Educational Centre (ABEC) now managed by Ibim Semenitari which showcased a sewage conversion/purification machine; Bloombreed High School run by wife of a former Shell MD which presented a hydro-electric wheel; Brookstone International Secondary School which unveiled an electro-irrigation machine; Bishop Crowther Memorial Secondary School with a mini hydro-electric generator that supplies light too; Jephthah Comprehensive Secondary School which came with a Bio-Gas production system; and Oginigba Comprehensive School which showcased a hydro-electric water filtration machine that also used water to generate electricity.

Some important organisations that graced the STEM exhibition include Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN) and British Council. The slogan on the lips of most persons at the sexhibition is solving tomorrow’s problem, now.

Alarm over beat plastics pollution

The professor, Arthur Essaghah, made earthshattering revelations in his paper that often makes waves at scientific exhibitions and global environment seminars especially where the new threat, plastics, is being reviewed.

He described the Earth as home to humanity where humans were mere guests. He however said humans seem to be bad guests that love to go against every single rule. “It is said that the fight against poverty and drive to create prosperity cannot succeed without a healthy environment”.

Rapid growth, rapid threat

The professor went into history and revealed that plastics were first produced in 1907 but commercial plastics were produced in 1950. Most plastics are not bio-degradable and so take up to 1000 years to decompost. Now, production has grown from 2 million metric tonnes in 1950 to 355 million metric tones in 2016.

This is estimated to grow up to 2000 million metric tonnes by 2050. In fact, plastics in the oceans of the world would grow more than fish stock in the oceans, he said. This is where platics have been implicated in death of fish at sea.

The audience winced when he revealed that 500Bn platics bags are used per year as one million plastic bottles are bought per minute. The packaging industry is $370bn big as packaging alone contributes between 35 and 44 per cent use of plastics; 150m tonnes of platics are right now in the oceans with about 30,000 tonnes per km in the oceans.

Production of plastics has increased from seven per cent to 18, and out of 8.3Bn plastics produced, 6.3Bm or 79 per cent turns into waste and 40 per cet ends up in the oceans. This has been implicated in the poisoning of water and other aquatic resources.

Now, The students were infomed that the following additives during production of plastics were found by scientists to be harmful: Monomers of Polyurethanes (PUR),  (PAN) & PVC are most hazardous. Monomers of PE, PP and polyvinyl acetate (PVA) are least hazardous; Solvents (e.g. methanol, cyclohexane); Initiators (potassium persulfate); Catalysts like ZnO & CuCl2 are toxic; Bisphenol-A (BPA) in water & baby bottles – BPA is an endocrine disruptor; Dioxins in PVC; Phthalates & other plasticizers (in PVC and other plastics) are endocrine disruptors; Styrene in taka-way containers – linked to respiratory/cancer problems; Antimony leachates cause diarrhea, vomiting and stomach ulcers.

Beyond poison

Beyond poison, the expert said beat plastics pollution leads to waste management challenges, thus: 22 per cent  of plastic wastes get to landfills in developing countries; 10 per cent in Africa; up to 60-170m tonnes are left in streets/drains/streams; Lack of plastic waste policy & management systems; Lack of incentives/financial instruments/EPR; Plastics are not separated from other wastes; Weak management institutions & management systems; Sub-standard plastic bags (less than 20mm thick) is the bane of plastic waste problem; Poor collection, collation / sorting; Low plastic recycling; Challenges of recycling.

Handling of plastics is said to be lousy but this ranges from country to country. Less than 10 per cent of plastics waste ends up in dumpsites.

As a way out, the expert recommended many measures from global to community levels. Some of the suggestions include: Develop & enforce policies; Set plastic waste limits, DRSs, EPR; Set targets/incentives for recycling; Subsidies &tax credits for recycling; Ban on plastic bag; Use of bio-based plastics; and building new habits such as buying more of biodegradable plastics, reducing use of plastics, etc.

Source: Business Day 
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