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HOW RETAIL STORES ARE CONTRIBUTING TO PLASTIC POLLUTION
Plastic pollution has become a major environmental issue for many countries around the world in recent years. Nigeria is not an exception as many states in Nigeria continue to grapple with the same issue of flooding every year, which can be attributed to clogged waterways amongst other factors. According to a report by the World Bank, Nigeria generates about 2.5 million tons of plastic waste annually, ranking ninth among the countries with the highest contributions to plastic pollution
Individuals' indiscriminate waste disposal culture and a lack of proper waste management infrastructure certainly contribute to the problem, however, one of the major sources of plastic waste in Nigeria is the retail industry, which includes supermarkets, shopping malls, kiosks and other outlets that sell goods and
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services to consumers. The retail industry relies on a lot of plastic materials for packaging, displaying, and transporting their products.
The most harmful type of plastics are single-use plastics which include plastic bags, bottles, wrappers etc. Despite offering convenience to retail stores due to their cost-effectiveness and ease of use, they pose a significant threat to the environment because they have a short lifespan and are frequently discarded after just one use. This results in an alarming accumulation of non-biodegradable waste in landfills and the environment, causing long-term harm to ecosystems, wildlife, and human health.
In this blog post, we will explore how retail stores in Nigeria are contributing to plastic pollution and the impact of plastic pollution on the environment.
Single-use plastic packaging:
One of the primary ways retail stores contribute to plastic pollution is through their reliance on single-use plastic packaging. From food products to household items, a significant portion of products sold in retail stores are packaged in single-use plastic materials. This leads to a massive accumulation of plastic waste in landfills, water bodies, and the environment.
Plastic shopping bags:
Plastic shopping bags are ubiquitous in retail stores across Nigeria. These bags are lightweight, inexpensive, and convenient, making them the go-to choice for packaging purchases. However, the widespread use of plastic bags has severe environmental consequences. They are non-biodegradable, hard to recycle and can persist in the environment for hundreds of years. Improper disposal of these bags often results in littering, clogging drainage systems, and polluting rivers and oceans.
Limited recycling infrastructure:
Nigeria faces significant challenges when it comes to recycling plastic waste. Many retail stores lack proper recollection and recycling infrastructure, making it difficult to manage and recycle the plastic waste generated on their premises. As a result, a significant amount of plastic waste is improperly disposed of, hence, exacerbating the plastic pollution problem.
Lack of Retailer Awareness: Retailers themselves play a significant role in contributing to plastic pollution due to a lack of awareness. Many businesses in the retail sector do not understand the environmental implications of excessive plastic usage, leading to a continued reliance on plastic materials for servicing their customers. Retailers need to become more informed about the negative impacts of plastics and explore viable alternatives for a more sustainable shopping experience for their customers.
The impact of single-use plastics on the environment
Studies have shown that the useful lifespan of single-use plastic bags is between 8-12 minutes. However, when disposed of inappropriately, single-use plastic bags have far-reaching negative impacts on the environment:
Single-use plastics in general take at least 500 years to break down and during this time, they release harmful chemicals into the soil and water. In the ocean and other bodies of water, plastic bags can persist for even longer and continue to harm marine life.
As single-use plastic bags degrade, they break down into smaller pieces called microplastics, which can be ingested by marine life. These microplastics have been found to be present in the food, hence causing health-related risks.
Through the entire process of production, transportation and disposal of single-use plastic bags, greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere which is responsible for air pollution.
The long-term effects of single-use plastic on the environment are severe and far-reaching. The retail industry in Nigeria plays a significant role in the burgeoning plastic problem due to their reliance on single-use plastic packaging, the widespread use of plastic shopping bags, excessive packaging practices, limited recycling infrastructure, inadequate waste management, and the demand for plastic-packaged products. Addressing these issues requires a multi-faceted approach involving collaboration between retailers, government agencies, and consumers. By recognizing the environmental consequences of plastic pollution and working towards sustainable alternatives, retail stores can significantly contribute to reducing plastic waste and preserving Nigeria's natural environment for future generations.

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