After growing from a local initiative in 2008 to an international movement in 2018, the United Nations has set aside September 17 every year to celebrate World Cleanup Day. The day is marked to raise awareness of the prevalent waste management crisis affecting the world today.
In tackling this issue, the UN movement brings together millions of volunteers, governments and organisations across various countries, to participate in cleanup actions as one of the many ways to build a new and sustainable waste-free world. This has captured the attention of people worldwide, who have been inspired to follow suit with the same ambitious ‘One Country, One-Day’ formula. This global movement has gone way beyond just picking up litter, to a point where citizens are conscious of keeping their environment clean by disposing PET waste properly.
Poor waste disposal is one of the major environmental problems that developing nations face. The lack of efficient waste management, if unabated, will continue to pose a harmful risk to citizens’ health, drainage, environment, society, and economy. Careless dumping of refuse, into drainages, failure to recycle recyclables, and garbage burning are common practices amongst Nigerians which perversely produce gastrointestinal, dermatological, respiratory, genetic, and other adverse effects.
The Coca-Cola system in Nigeria, alongside its philanthropic arm, The Coca-Cola Foundation, has been instrumental to championing recycling knowledge and awareness around effective waste management, how to create wealth from waste, favorable and safe living conditions for Nigerians, and taking action with its partners towards the reduction of environmental degradation.
Beyond marking the World Cleanup Day, Coca-Cola is engaging in community sensitisation of rural and urban communities across Nigeria, in its advocacy for behavioral change toward waste recovery and recycling. Through its African Sustainability platform, JAMII, the organisation has continued to foster collective action and partnerships across industries, government, and society to address PET waste challenges.
JAMII was launched to build and expand on the past accomplishments of The Coca-Cola Company across three core areas, namely waste management, water stewardship, and economic empowerment of women and youth.
With a vision to develop a circular economy through its waste management initiatives, Coca-Cola Nigeria has been championing environmental sustainability to enable the collection and recycling of 100 percent of every bottle or can it sells by 2030, make the company’s packaging 100percent recyclable by 2025, and use at least 50 percent recycled content in its packaging by 2030. This vision is being implemented in partnership with like-minded partners and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to support a healthy and debris-free environment. According to Nwamaka Onyemelukwe, Director of Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, the organisation has pledged its commitment to waste recovery and therefore organises signature interventions ranging from volunteer cleanup exercises to waste management interventions across Nigeria.
“There is a clear gap in the area of sustainable infrastructure and effective waste management. This is why Coca-Cola Nigeria continues to form partnerships with various stakeholders like civil societies, the Recyclers Association of Nigeria, customers and government agencies -to build effective and innovative waste management infrastructures that contribute to sustainable waste management”, Nwamaka noted.
“In executing interventions, we have over the years, supported and funded NGOs such as the Growing Businesses Foundation, Nigeria Climate Innovation Center, FABE International Foundation, African Clean Up Initiative, Mental and Environmental Development Initiative for Children (MEDIC), Statewide Waste and Environmental Education Foundation (SWEEP), Platform for Society Support Initiative, Aid for Rural Education Access Initiative (AREAi), Do Good Social Impact Foundation, WASTE AFRICA, and RecyclePoints Foundation—to bridge the gap in waste management, especially through advocacy campaigns and providing recycling infrastructure closer to households in remote communities. “This means penetrating specific communities to raise awareness of waste management and recycling to drive home the social and even economic benefits available to us all,” she explained.
To rid Lagos State’s waterways of plastic and packaging waste, five companies, comprising Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, its bottling partner, Nigerian Bottling Company, Nestle Nigeria Plc, Seven-Up Bottling Company, and Nigerian Breweries Plc., signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), four years ago, with the Lagos State Government to rid Lagos waterways of packaging waste. Today, the Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance (FBRA) has evolved to over 28 member companies supporting over 12 packaging aggregators to recover post-consumer waste from the environment.
Recently, The Coca-Cola Foundation (TCCF) funded a recycling project in Lagos, Nigeria, implemented by the FABE International Foundation, tagged “TidyNigeria”. The project is aimed at educating, sensitising, promoting waste recovery by encouraging households and communities to subscribe to the intentional and proper sorting of waste from source in exchange for value.
Coca-Cola’s long-term environmental sustainability interventions resonate and flow seamlessly into the core vision of World Cleanup Day, which is the world’s largest single-day civic action. World Cleanup Day is not just about clean-ups; it is also about a strong and unique network of doers who share the vision of a waste-free world.