By Amusa Temitope Victor
The 12th goal of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is about Sustainable Production and Consumption. It is likewise referred to as Responsible Production and Consumption which means that the word Sustainable can be relatively juxtaposed with Responsible. For this article, I will use both interchangeably.
Generally speaking, consumption and production are key drivers of the global economy. The consumption of naturally existing resources has continued to have devastating effects on our planet.
Industrialization and booming socio-economic growth over the last century have taken their toll on the planet, especially in the areas of environmental degradation premised on pollution and human activities which pose tremendous risk to systems that have hitherto guaranteed human existence.
Responsible consumption and production are about obtaining more value from less depletion of resources. It is about clearly separating economic growth from its resulting adverse environmental effects, heightening conservation of resources, and promoting sustainable lifestyles.
As the emerging world transition towards zero-waste and green economies, sustainable consumption and production can imminently contribute to a great extent to alleviating poverty and promoting development amongst global populations.
A lot of steps are involved in the manufacturing of a product before it gets to retail stores where it is purchased. The safety and efficacy of such products are tested by regulatory agencies saddled with the responsibility of ensuring compliance to standards, quality, and delivering public trust on manufactured products.
For example, before bottles of beverages get to the end consumer in Nigeria, a safety and quality test is conducted by National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and necessary approval is given to the product that complies with the set quality gazette deemed satisfactory for such class of product. Also, the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) is another regulatory agency of the government in Nigeria responsible for standards in manufacturing.
Manufacturers in the fast-moving consumer goods space understand the competitive terrain and know that certification by SON goes a long way to help bolster market penetration. So, they work hard to ensure products are manufactured in compliance with very high standards and brandish the SONCAP certification as a worthy achievement that even positions them to export their product to other countries.
Another regulatory agency is the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) which is saddled with the responsibility of quality assessment of products and services, developing and issuance of guidelines/standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure that products are of good quality, and work tirelessly to ensure manufacturers deliver satisfaction to consumers.
Despite the commendable efforts of these agencies, none of them is responsible for scrutinizing the end-of-life product plan or perhaps sustainability roadmap for manufactured products.
Packaging is a major function in the manufacturing of products and takes a huge part of the production budget because it promotes product marketability and largely influences consumer perspectives about the product.
One of the core objectives of packaging is to deliver the product safely at the different stages, the choice of plastics as the most used materials for packaging is therefore not far-fetched. Not only is plastic versatile, lightweight, and durable it is also cost-effective.
Producers have a responsibility beyond product manufacturing, hence the need to have a well-detailed plan for what happens to their product packaging after consumption or perhaps comes to its end life.
The recent proliferation of plastic packaging is indeed at crisis levels. There are huge concerns about what becomes of these products at their end-of-life. According to Statista; Nigeria contributes an average of 1 million tons to global ocean plastics annually, this causes devastating plastic pollution not only to water sources but also constitutes grievous environmental pollution.
Arguably, plastic packaging is recyclable, but it is shocking to know that recycling rates in Nigeria, like every other developing country, are at an abysmal low of about 7% out of the estimated 3 million tons annually produced in the sub-saharan Africa country.
Recyclability can be made easy through the implementation of circularity in the design of plastic packaging. Producers must adapt and embrace responsible practices that benefit consumers, the environment, and the planet.
Adopting circular designs in packaging solutions for FMCG will further advance sustainability efforts & set a clear roadmap for states to transition from linear to circular economy.
Regulatory functions of stakeholders must include ratifying packaging designs to fight plastic pollution, mitigate climate change and advance sustainable development.
Transparent plastic bottles have high recyclability rates compared to colored plastic bottles, this is due to industry-wide acceptability and versatility as collectors earn more for collecting transparent plastic bottles.
Packaging beverages in pigmented plastic bottles will hitherto add to the plastic pollution burden of the country, except manufacturers are compelled to implement take-back schemes that directly return the produced bottles to their manufacturing lines- since pigmented bottles have limited use in other related industrial facilities.
Regulatory agencies like SON and FCCPC must as a matter of urgency, ensure public and environmental interest have sustainability units that scrutinize product packaging designs to ensure that it complies with circular design standards. Producers likewise have a level of responsibility not only to deliver quality products but to ensure their products foster a sustainable planet while making life on land and underwater worth living.
Consumers must take active steps at being responsible by buying products that put into consideration sustainable living, and as such ensure a high recyclability rate for their packaging waste.
Closing with the beautiful rhyme from an anonymous philosopher- “Being Bold is one thing, being Fearless is another, every Yo comes Fresh, being 7 feet up the hill, or even grabbing a Malt down the road looks good, perhaps storming the party in a commando style shows intense energy, but summarily being transparent is the best way to go Green”.
Amusa Temitope Victor is an Environmentalist, Social Entrepreneur, and Impact Techie. He is the CTO at WasteBazaar Ltd. He can be reached on :firstname.lastname@example.org