I wonder at which point we moved from our core Nigerian culture to embrace this plastic rage we’re currently living in. Even though I didn’t realize until recently, we were generating lesser waste, had cleaner cities, and less clogged waterways.
As a country, we adopted the plastic rage a little bit later than most countries. As the world moves to reverse their actions, we are also too slow to pick that up. We are also very indifferent about the disposal of our plastic and can’t be bothered about their end. After going through how we lived 20 years ago, I realized that we used to be very environmentally friendly people. If we hadn’t dumped our core cultures to fit into the world, we’d have been the champions for others to emulate!
Some Of our Old Culture on Environment
Chewing Sticks: It is our culture to use chewing sticks before we adopted plastic toothbrushes. The chewing stick end-waste is flakes of chewed wood. Non-harmful and compostable.
Leaf wraps: Before the plastic rage, leaf wraps were used in cooking some food. Apart from being compostable, leaf wraps do not pose any health risk unlike the leaching of chemicals from heated plastics. Leaf wraps are useful waste from the agriculture industry.
Plastic Mending: These artisans called “Dike-dike” in Yoruba, go around town mending broken plastics for a fee. Plastic waste that ends up in landfills is reduced because repairs elongate their shelflife.
Bottle Recycling: Apart from the plastic menders, some women also go around town buying and selling glass bottles. It was a beautiful way of generating income from waste and recycling waste bottles. They serve as an intermediary between the waste discarder and the new owners. They promote the use of previously owned products.
Reusable food packaging: Take-away plastic was not a thing back then. People bought food with their containers. This made it impossible for the colored mess that’s clogging our waterways. Reusable lunch boxes, coolers, and warmers dominated our food retail industry and it was good for us.
Trade by Barter: Another set of artisans traded plastics for your old clothes, called ‘Bola jari.’ It was also a beautiful avenue to generate income from unwanted clothes because those plastics can be sold. It reduced the number of clothes that ended in the landfills.
Tree Planting: Growing up, I knew the trees in each compound across my street and the next. Homeowners were of the culture of planting trees for shade, for fruit, as a windbreaker and for the Nigerian environment at large. Now, they cut down these trees to cement their floors.
Trends of the World
Every point mentioned above are trends of the world now. Countries are promoting recycling, tree planting, and reusable plastics. If we had stayed on course, we’d have been the models for others to emulate. These practices were all part of our Nigerian culture on the environment back then.
Although we’re far from our old values, we can start imbibing them again to save our environment. Unless we do so, the adverse effect will be suffered by all and sundry. The question remains, are we ready to do so?