Recycling and Planting Trees: A Panacea to Environmental Sustainability in Nigeria By Michael Lelecy Yahaya

Developing countries in the world include Nigeria rely heavily on their environment and natural resources for sustainable development. Due to man-made activities such as mining, exploitation, manufacturing and production, these natural resources have been depleted without replenishment, and the environment has been polluted with wastes across cities and communities. This has posed a threat to the ecosystems and wildlife, public health and caused climate change.

According to experts, the world is heading towards a catastrophic two degrees Celsius increase in temperature because of climate change and greenhouse gases. Fossil fuels are ever diminishing while global energy demand is expected to have increased by 50% in 2030. As the world’s population continues to grow, the production of waste will drastically increase. Despite the policies and regulations in Nigeria, there is still an inefficient waste management system. For us to have a sustainable environment where resources can be conserved and reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide, the possible way to achieve this is through recycling and planting trees.

Recycling of waste into new products and generate electricity

Recycling is the process of recovery and reprocessing of waste into new products in process plants. There are several benefits of recycling wastes in the environment. These include reduction of waste into the seas and landfills, reduction of carbon dioxide emissions to combat climate change, conservation of natural resources, and prevention of environmental pollution, jobs creation, protecting the ecosystems and wildlife, and improving living standards. Wastes such as paper, cans, wood, plastics, metals and glass littered in the environment have polluted air, lands, cities, communities and water. This has caused environmental degradation and endangered public health. There is a lack of clean water in communities and cities due to wastes. These wastes should be recovered, reprocessed and recycled. DGrade, a company in Dubai, turns recycled plastic bottles into textiles and clothing. This system of recycling should be promoted in Nigeria to turn our plastic bottles causing environmental degradation into new products.

Waste-to-Energy power plants will provide electricity to those that don’t have access to grid electricity especially in rural areas in Nigeria. According to World Bank, “About 85 million Nigerians don’t have access to grid electricity. This represents 43% of the country’s population and makes Nigeria the country with the largest energy access deficit in the world.” These energy power plants could be built in areas that lack access to electricity. This model is so efficient in Sweden. According to a report, “Sweden has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 2.2 million tonnes a year by converting its waste into energy. Between 1990 and 2006, carbon dioxide emissions went down by 34%, and greenhouse gas emissions are projected to fall by 76% by 2020, compared to levels in 1990.” The Nigerian Government should build energy power plants to its waste to electricity to power millions of homes in remote areas.

By 2050, it has been projected that we will have almost 10 billion people to feed. According to a report, “the world is using up over 100 billion tonnes of natural resources per year for the first time while global recycling of raw materials has fallen. Global use of materials is projected to rise to 170-184 billion tonnes by mid-century.” This is due to an increase in population, human activities, and failure to conserve global resources through recycling. Recycling of waste and planting of trees will enable the world to conserve global resources and protect the environment.

The United Nation’s International Resources Panel has projected that resource use per person will be 71 per cent higher than today in 2050. This projection requires drastic action to conserve global resources through recycling. For the world to achieve sustainable development, prevent environmental pollution and conserve global resources, the recycling industry should be given a top priority. Developing countries across the world should implement recycling policies with strict compliance. The world should increase the use of recycled resources. This will enable us to feed almost 10 billion people as projected by 2050.

At Ferrato Industries Limited, we have been able to recycle our wastes into new products through our recycling system and competent professionals with experience in recycling. This has enabled us to comply with the National Environmental Standards Regulations and Enforcement Agency (Establishment) Act 2007 (NESREAA) and the 33 Regulations made by the Minister of Environment under section 1 of Federal Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Regulations (1991). This section makes it an obligation for industries to identify solid hazardous wastes which are dangerous to public health and the environment and to research the possibility of their recycling. Based on my experience in recycling at Feratto Industries Limited, I find this process more sustainable and environmentally-friendly than disposing of waste into the seas and landfills. Companies should adopt an efficient recycling system to reduce wastes in the environment.

Promote planting trees to protect the ecosystems.
Afforestation simply means planting trees to establish a forest. It has been proven that trees do reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide, protect the environment and provide other economic benefits. Trees have two essential economic benefits, food and oxygen. During photosynthesis, humans need trees to absorb the carbon dioxide they breathe out and produce oxygen, they breathe in. Trees need carbon dioxide to flourish and live while humans need oxygen to survive. Returning our forests will be of great benefit to human survival.

According to the UNFCCC Lima Hub, “6.3 gigatons (billion tons) of carbon dioxide emissions reductions have already been reported over the past six years from forests in Brazil, Ecuador, Malaysia and Colombia alone under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).” This is equivalent to more than the annual emissions of the United States. It has been proven that trees do reduce carbon dioxide emissions thus tackling climate disasters, preserve soil and water, and support wildlife. Trees are used in the building industry to provide timber and furniture. We should also promote environmental sustainability through the planting of trees.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.” We should return our forests. If we should plant billion of trees, more annual needs of people would be met, and plant & animal species wouldn’t go into extinction. One million animal and plant species are the risks of extinction, United Nations report.

Nigeria and the rest of the developing countries should promote the recycling industry and planting trees to prevent climate change and conserve their natural resources. Conserving existing natural resources through recycling and planting trees will protect the ecosystems that provide the basic services for human existence. With recycling and trees, Nigeria can reduce greenhouse gas emissions unconditionally by 20% by 2030 as pledged.

Michael Lelecy Yahaya is a Mechanical Engineer and an Environmental Sustainability Enthusiast with experience in recycling and process plant.

Recycling and Planting Trees: A Panacea to Environmental Sustainability in Nigeria By Michael Lelecy Yahaya



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