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Environmentalists warn against polluting water bodies with face masks

Environmentalists warn against polluting water bodies with face masks
June 09
00:28 2021

Environmentalists have called for proper management of the impact of COVID-19 on the environment, and expressed concern over the disposal of face masks inside water bodies. 

In the event of world oceans day marked every June 8, the experts said deliberate policies and actions need to be taken to protect the nation’s water bodies from indiscriminate disposal of face masks.

Describing disposable face masks as the next plastic problem, Sylvester Arogundade of the Earth and Environment Initiative, noted that facemasks — if not disposed for recycling correctly — may end up in the environment, freshwater systems, and the oceans.

Arogundade called for the adoption of reusable face masks, saying the disposable masks, made from polypropylene, take at least 450 years to decompose.

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He called for the setting up of ‘mask only’ trash cans for collection and safe disposal of used masks in public places.

“We are calling for standardisation, guidelines, and strict implementation of waste management laws for face masks. We also call for Nigeria to replace disposable masks with reusable face masks like cotton masks. We should begin to consider the development of biodegradable disposal masks,’’ he said.

Ibrahim Choji, chairman of the board of trustees, climate and sustainable development network, called on the federal government to go beyond rhetoric and set in motion the process of banning single-use plastic in Nigeria.

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According to him, while plastic has many valuable uses, Nigeria has become over-reliant on single-use or disposable plastic with severe environmental consequences.

“Dumping plastic bottles, bags, and cups after a single use is projected to result in our oceans holding more litter than fish by 2050, while an estimated 99 percent of all seabirds will have ingested plastic,” he said.

He noted that Nigeria can toe the line of several African countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, and Mauritania that have enacted laws to ban the use, manufacture, and importation of single-use plastic bags.

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This story is published in partnership with Report for the World, a global service program that supports local public interest journalism.

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