Ecobank staff removing plastic bottles. Credit: Ibile

•Targets 4m plastic bottles by 2020

By UCHE CHRIS

Given the success recorded in the first phase of the project to remove plastic bottles from the Lagos environment which saw 2 million being collected for possible recycling, the Pan Africa Bank, Ecobank Nigeria, has projected to double the figure by next year. The initiative, which is part of its Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, is providing two broad benefits of safe environment and job creation.

Recent global studies show the use of plastics – both nylon and bottles – has become one of the worse environment challenges facing the earth as it affects marine life as well as the soil. The danger from plastics comes from its non decomposing nature as it could last for as long as 50 years on the soil or in the water.

According to research, its danger to aquatic culture is that fish can ingest it and their chemical effect can also threaten the health of humans who eat the fish.

In Nigeria, especially in urban industrial areas, plastic pollution has become the greatest problem of environmental degradation, which is defying immediate solution as a result of the low level of public awareness of its danger and absence of recycling facilities to eliminate them.

It was this concern for the future of the environment that led the bank to embark on this journey with LASEPA and Ministry of the Environment to decongest Lagos and other cities of plastics, which are non-biodegradable materials that could last for ages.

According to the bank, when the project initiated in 2017, we started by decongesting and removing 150,000 plastic bottles. In 2018, we concentrated on the waterways and this year, we made commitment to recycle four million plastic bottles.

As part of measures to reduce pollution of the environment, Ecobank Nigeria said it has successfully removed over two million plastic bottles in exchange for cash from the street of Lagos.

The campaign which started in May targets to remove at least 4 million bottles from the environment being part of the bank’s environmental sustainability campaign. Ecobank had in May informed Lagos residents to exchange plastic bottles for cash at designated location across the state.

Tagged, “Cash for Plastic” initiative which operates through some appointed vendors it pays N300 per kilogramme of plastic bottles and your income depends on the capacity and ability to collect the bottles. One of the vendors disclosed to BusinessHallmark on the condition of anonymity that they pay their collectors N20,000 per month for not less than 5kg of bottles daily.

Commenting on the initiative and success achieved so far, the managing director, Ecobank Nigeria, Mr. Patrick Akinwuntan, stated that Ecobank was committed to supporting the sustenance of the environment by assisting in the removal of all non-biodegradable elements as part of the universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

“So far we have succeeded in removing over two million bottles from the streets of Lagos. We hope to get to the 4 million target we set for ourselves within the next few months. We are grateful to our partners who have been consistent in their push to achieve this target.

“I use this opportunity to renew the call on residents to take their used plastics to the Lagos sewage treatment plant in Amuwo Odofin and get cash instantly. Plastic waste is seriously affecting our food, oceans, harming marine life and threatening our food chain. As a responsible corporate organisation, we will do all it takes to check the trend to ensure a safer living environment,” he stated.

Further, Akinwuntan reiterated that “the initiative was part of a deliberate policy of the bank to support environmental sustainability for all. Our sustainability activities are part of the universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The idea for this is to support the removal of non-biodegradable materials from the environment to support healthy and safe living.”

Also speaking, Biyi Olagbami, executive director and chief risk officer of Ecobank Nigeria, who is also the coordinator of the “Cash for Plastic” initiative reiterated that Ecobank was optimistic that the projects would go a long way to improving the life of residents by supporting the removal of plastic that usually clog the water channels and cause flooding part of Lagos.

“We appreciate the response we are getting from residents and we hope to sustain this effort in assisting to clean our environment initiative to other major cities in Nigeria in the future,” he stated.

In a statement on Monday, the bank said that to mark its 2019 Sustainability Week, Ecobank Nigeria asked residents of Lagos State to submit used plastic materials like soft drink and water bottles to designated collection points to exchange them for cash. The locations included Ecobank branches in Ikorodu, Ojuelegba, Ketu, Allen, Ahmadu Bello Way on Victoria Island and the Lagos sewage treatment plant in Amuwo Odofin .

He said,“Our sustainability activities are part of the universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The idea for this is to support the removal of non-biodegradable materials from the environment to support healthy and safe living.

“Our target is to remove at least four million used plastic bottles from the streets and drains of Lagos through this initiative.”

“Plastic waste is seriously affecting our food, oceans, harming marine life and threatening our food chain. As a responsible corporate organisation, we will do all it takes to check the trend to ensure a safer living environment. This is an opportunity for Lagos residents to make money by taking used plastics to any of our collection centres in exchange for cash.”

Also speaking, Assistant Director, Ministry of Environment, Lagos State, Mr. Lasisi Adedoyin, observed that the initiative would go a long way in improving the environment. While explaining the various efforts of Lagos State government to ensure a safer environment, he urged other corporate organisations to emulate Ecobank.

He called on residents to avail themselves the opportunities provided by the bank and its partners to earn quick cash through collection of used plastics.