Lagos is one of the most crowded cities in the world, with over 20 million people in it, and discarded plastic on the streets makes it even more so. One day, Nigerian artist Adeyemi Emmanuel despaired of the sight and began collecting some plastic bottles and bags in his backpack…but he wasn’t picking them up to put them in garbage cans! He had far grander plans for the plastic debris that makes up 20% of the total solid waste in the country.
In November 2019, Adeyemi Emmanuel launched a line of fashionable bags made with plastic waste. In February 2020, Reuters journalist Nneka Chile broke the story.
There’s so much plastic littering Lagos, NIMASA is afraid that there might be too much entering the sea due to poor waste infrastructure. This has prompted it to launch a plan to tackle the marine litter as the city’s waterways lead into the Gulf of Guinea.
Nigeria really needs to ensure that all of its plastic waste doesn’t end up in dumps and waterways, as it is now the ninth country in the world for pollution of marine environments. Plastic pollution in Nigeria has become such a challenge; lawmakers are drafting a bill to outlaw plastic production to stop the worsening plastic waste problem.
Informal collectors like Adeyemi Emmanuel are key to the city’s sustainability future as he creates an improbable but profitable side gig collecting plastic waste to be upcycled into fashionable bags. They can’t singlehandedly stop the problem, though.
Nigeria needs a more formal recycling infrastructure because all of its plastic waste, instead of being collected and recycled, is buried in landfills. But Adeyemi Emmanuel, and others like him who are raising awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution, are saving the world one sustainable solution at a time.
Plastic pollution causes severe ecological problems. In Nigeria, over 60 million plastic water bags are disposed of daily. They are indiscriminately dumped on the roadside, under bridges, and in drains. Many Nigerians do not know about the potential health risks of plastic pollution, but the cultural influence of artists means that art and fashion can be used successfully to raise awareness in Nigerian cities.
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Adeyemi Emmanuel found one way to make an impact through fashion. New projects to recycle Nigeria’s plastic waste crop up all the time, but Adeyemi Emmanuel’s is one of the most beautiful ones we have seen. The used plastic, now made into beautiful bags, will cost buyers between 8,000 and 30,000 nairas. The handcrafted, upcycled bags are all available for sale on his Instagram account, which has 10.2K followers.
We need more Nigerians raising awareness via art as Adeyemi Emmanuel gets the conversation started. He’s shown us that plastic doesn’t need to be discarded. You can keep using it creatively, so it doesn’t end up as solid waste!
Adeyemi Emmanuel is running plastic pollution out of town. Can you say the same?