As discussions on climate change, its causes and effects deepen, beverage company, Coca-Cola Nigeria, has admitted to the series of damages plastic pollution is causing to the environment.

Speaking on Sunday, at a programme organised in Lagos by THE DAWN PROJECT, the Director of Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability, Coca-Cola Nigeria, Nwamaka Onyemelukwe, noted that there was need for the public to think and act in line with converting plastic wastes income generation, that is, converting ‘waste to wealth.’

At the programme, themed, ‘Recycle for Sustainability; Making a difference in our climate and our lives,’ Onyemelukwe noted that there was a time when the company was only packaging beverages in glass bottles, noting that evolution had however changed that status quo and shifted to the demand to more portable packaging.

Said noted the Coca-Cola company, decades ago, only produced beverages in glass and also in PET packaging, where consumers bought, left their change and came back for it when they returned bottles.

But, “the world has evolved, we are all consumers,” she said, adding “sometimes, innovation comes with demands. Consumers demanded better convenience; you want to enjoy your beverage on the go.”

“In 2005, when pollution came to the bare, where cold water and beverages were now packaged in an on-the-go pack or one way packaging, where you just consume and you toss it away, that came with plastic pollution and the consequences of environmental issues that we are all facing.

“At the Coca-Cola company, we recognise that this is going to cost us issues with the planet; it’s going to affect our daily lives,”  she said.

Speaking on what the company has been doing and what the public can do, she said, “In 2018 precisely, the Coca-Cola company took a decision and we gave an open commitment that we must help collect 100 per cent of every packaging we put in the market. And that, we can’t do alone, we have to do it together.

“Our aspiration is to ensure that it (plastic) does not go to the environment, gutters, drainages and the sea.

“Over the last 10 years in Nigeria, we have been leading behavioural change. We call it the world without waste. Everybody’s waste is someone else’s raw material. Waste is actually valuable and we want to start looking at waste in that perspective. Not just the PET bottles that you consume, every packaging that you use can actually be made into another material. Therefore, if we pay attention that we can create wealth out of waste, then we can begin to change our behaviours or we can begin to change the way we actually approach wastes.

She stressed the need to recycle the plastics to ensure the environment was safe for all and tasked consumers to patronise sustainable packages more than plastics.

The DAWN PROJECT programme was convened under the leadership of the organisation’s collaborators, Dr Pamela Ajayi, Mrs Angela Emuwa, Stanley Mbe, and Desmond Majekodunmi.

Other guest speakers at the programme included: Team lead (Environment & Community), Nigeria Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Lagos Regional Office; Lucy Okeke; Head of Prosperity, British Deputy High Commission, Lagos, Kris Kamponi; the Managing Director, Lagos Waste Management Authority, Ibrahim Odumboni.

Also guest speakers were the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Professor Akin Abayomi and British Deputy High Commissioner, Ben Llewellyn-Jones Obey.

At the programme, checks, bronze, silver and gold medals were also presented to winners of the competition held to raise awareness about the environment using the arts. The competition featured school children and students from high schools in Lagos and other states, as well as students from higher institutions like the University of Ibadan and the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, among other young individuals who won prizes for their arts, poems and articles.