Lagos Coastal Plastic Search

DID YOU KNOW?

Each year 8 million tonnes of plastic is dumped into our oceans. Not only does this tragically kill animals and marine life but it also destroys people’s livelihoods by wrecking things such as fishing boats.

Plastic is now in every ocean and sea reaching even the most remote parts of the Arctic Sea Ice.

DID YOU ALSO KNOW?

Basic household objects can take hundreds of years to decompose. Below is a small list of household items and their decomposition times.

  • Plastic Bags – 500 to 1000 years
  • Styrofoam – 500 years
  • Nappies (Diapers) – 500 years
  • Plastic Bottles – 450 years
  • Aluminium Cans – 200 years

Check out the bottom of this article to see a few top tips on how to reduce your plastic usage and save a few quid whilst you do it!

LAGOS COASTAL PLASTIC SEARCH

No matter where I travel, I see the odd bit of rubbish, some countries worse than others. Now, I’ve not (yet) travelled to every inch of the planet, but by far, here in Lagos, Nigeria, the plastic waste is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Nigeria produces 2.5 tonnes of plastic waste per year with a huge 70% of this ending up in landfills, sewers, beaches and water bodies. You literally cannot look outside without seeing rubbish. The biggest offenders….. plastic bottles and Styrofoam containers.

Plastic Waste
This barely scrapes the surface with the amount of waste all around Lagos.

At work, I am part of the Greening Committee and it was through here that I learned about the Lagos Coastal Plastic Search initiative ran by the Mental and Environment Development Initiative for Children (Medic NG). Volunteers were drafted from far and wide between 21st and 27th November 2020 to complete operation plastic search and pick up. At the start of each day we were all to pledge to stop using single use plastics, do you think you could do the same?

Below is the schedule, photos and stats of what was collected.

Day 1 0700- 1500: Started with cleaning Five Cowrie Creek and Ozumba Mbadiwe to Oriental Hotel

  • Recyclable Plastic – 388.3kg
  • Contaminated Plastic – 105.2kg
  • Total Amount of Plastic – 493.5kg
  • Marine Waste – 0kg
  • Total amount of volunteers – 84
  • Most interesting find – Math set Stencil

Day 2 0700- 1500: Continuation of cleaning Five Cowrie Creek and Ozumba Mbadiwe to Oriental Hotel

  • Recyclable Plastic – 319.4kg
  • Urine Contaminated Plastic – 23kg – liquid content 2300cl which is 46x 50cl of urine!!!
  • Total Amount of Plastic – 320.1kg
  • Marine Waste – 43.7kg
  • Total amount of volunteers – 28
  • Most interesting find – Radiator Coolant (A plastic car engine part)

Day 3 0700 – 1500 – The big haul, Bonny Camp and Five Cowries Creek. This was called Reswaye day and so many women came out in force to help!

  • Recyclable Plastic – 388.9kg
  • Contaminated Plastic – 54.2kg
  • Total Amount of Plastic – 443.1kg
  • Marine Waste – 220.4kg
  • Total amount of volunteers – 28
  • Most interesting find – Human Feaces

Day 4 0700 – 1500 – Bonny Camp continued – as you can see from the photos, it was a big job! Day 4 also saw the support from Ocean in Florida, USA who assisted with gloves, caps and bags!

  • Recyclable Plastic – 247.1kg
  • Contaminated Plastic – 247.8kg
  • Total Amount of Plastic – 494.9kg
  • Marine Waste – 0kg
  • Total amount of volunteers – 37
Our wonderful leader, Doyinsola Ogunye
Bonny Camp. Would you have waded through this to help?

Day 5 0700 – 1500 – Five Cowries Creek – now this was supposed to be another day of Bonny Camp but the team hit a milestone and manage to completely clear it followed by the army beginning the sandfill!

  • Recyclable Plastic – 221.2kg
  • Contaminated Plastic – 100.5kg
  • Total Amount of Plastic – 321.7kg
  • Marine Waste – 0kg
  • Total amount of volunteers – 49

Day 6 0800 – 1400 – Badore Terminal alongside a clean up and hangout with the Reswaye Women. Today was not only our organiser’s birthday but also a real treat for the Reswaye women who were treated to a makeover!

  • Recyclable Plastic – 12.3kg
  • Post Consumer Plastic – 257 bottles/3.9kg
  • Total Amount of Plastic – 16.2kg
  • Marine Waste – 0kg
  • Total amount of volunteers – 36

Day 7 1000 – 1400 – Oniru Beach cleanup and closing ceremony This was a day for resting, after a little clean up of course!

  • Recyclable Plastic – 55.6kg
  • Contaminated Plastic – 0kg
  • Post Consumer Plastic – 465 bottles/7.2kg
  • Total Amount of Plastic – 68.8kg
  • Marine Waste – 0kg
  • Total amount of volunteers – 40

In total the Lagos Coastal Plastic Search removed 2158.3kgs from Lagos’s beaches and waterways!! A fantastic effort from all the team and volunteers but there is still so much that can be done. If you are interested in volunteering at future cleanups you can join the teams Whatsapp group using the following link:

http://chat.whatsapp.com/HfzOe44FpWA8aLwSV0rSc9

And for those that cannot assist or that also want to donate, you can do so on the Justgiving link below:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/lagos-coastal-plastic-search?utm_medium=email&utm_source=product&utm_campaign=p_email%2B2300-co-team-welcome

Lucky for me, I met the organisers, Doyinsola Ogunye and Olalekan (Lekan) Bakare at a Climate Change Reception a few days before the clean up began.

Environmentalist, Lekan firmly stated, “We are all in this!” And I couldn’t agree more.

Recycling

Going off the back of what Lekan stated above, we can all do our bit to reduce our plastic intake and along side that, make the effort to recycle. Back home in the UK we are all given recycle bins so that we can separate our glass, paper, plastic, aluminium and food waste etc… but here in Nigeria things are a little different. Recycling doesn’t really feel readily available.

Do not fear though as there is hope in sight! There are a few recycling companies here in Lagos that will accept your recyclable goods, offer collection and some even offer incentives. Below are just a couple of recycling companies made available to us.

Wecyclers have an app that you can use to organise collection, they also offer an incentive. The video below shares a brief insight to their mission.

So there we have it, hope in sight which really doesn’t give us much excuse not to recycle. Maybe you even have a company with the facility to offer a recycling point for your employees?

**TOP TIPS**

Here are but just a few suggestions on how you can reduce your plastic usage on a daily basis, especially single use plastics and really start to make a difference. Most of it will even save you money!

  • Take reusable shopping bags to the supermarket with you – who actually needs all those extra plastic bags clogging up your drawers anyway?? Not only can you take your own shopping bags with you, you can also take reusable bags to put your loose items such as fruit and veg in. I recently found a company selling these and I think it’s a great idea!
  • To add to this, you can buy reusable ziplock bags for sandwiches and fresh food items along with lids for a variety of bowls and dishes to stop you having to buy plastic containers. I have recently bought them myself and I can highly recommend them.

We all love a good takeaway and being a frugal Yorkshire lass, if I can’t eat all my food when I go out, I ask to take it home with me. Instead of getting yet another Styrofoam box which can’t be reused or yet another plastic container to add to your ever growing mountain, why not take your own with you? I felt a bit funny doing this at first but actually no one bats an eye lid and to be honest… so what if they do? Maybe even put some empty Chinese takeaway containers in the boot of your car just in case the opportunity presents itself. You can also keep a spare empty water bottle in your car for similar purposes.

To all those parents and parents to be out there, we are still living in the era when we were either in reusable nappies (diapers) or we used them on our own kids. Not only will using reusable nappies play it’s part in saving the environment but it will also save you a pretty penny.

  • Stop buying bottles of water, instead buy yourself a reusable bottle which in the long run will also save you money. The below example is actually made from recycled plastic that has been removed from the ocean.
  • Keeping on the plastic front – avoid buying plastic straws or using them in restaurants. You can buy reusable stainless steel, silicone and even bamboo straws and to be honest I think they look much nicer!
  • Especially since moving to Lagos, I’ve started buying shampoo and conditioners bars because I honestly can’t bear the thought of me being responsible for anymore plastic going into the Lagoon. I’ve actually come to prefer it. It’s really very good, long lasting and extremely useful for travelling! They also come in all sorts of scents and hair types, my particular favourite brand is Bath Bubble and Beyond which I can 100% recommend.
  • I also use the conditioner bar below, not only does it work amazingly but it’s lavender and lime scented which helps repel mosquitoes! Win win!!
  • In addition to the above, I also use the below toiletries, not only do they save me money, but these are also perfect for travelling with as well!
  • And one for the ladies out there – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Think of the money you’ll save!!

So there we have it folks, devastating facts, wonderful volunteers and what we can all do to help.

Obviously the above is not a full list of all the changes we can make. I’m sure you all have your own ideas on what we can do to assist, I know a few very handy upcyclers which is another option. If you have further suggestions please do add them into the comments at the bottom of the page!

But for now, keep fighting the good fight, recycle and spread the word!

Cat xx

#lagoscoastalplasticsearch #getonboard #legit

Pangolins – A Story of Survival

When I found out that I’d be moving to Nigeria, I thought I would be saying goodbye to the beautiful greenery, rolling hills and wildlife of Yorkshire and hello to the smoggy heat and grey bustling city life of Lagos.

How wrong could I be?

I never expected to find conservation centres home to Gorillas, Elephants, Monkeys, Crocodiles, Antelope and least of all Pangolins.

I didn’t even know Pangolins were native to Nigeria and I certainly wasn’t expecting to see any in the flesh in my life.

Pangolins are ant eating mammals covered in protective keratin scales and the only mammal known to have this feature. They are nocturnal creatures who spend most of their days curled up in tiny little balls sleeping; something they also do when feeling threatened, curling into a ball to expose their scales whilst using the sharp scales on their tails to lash out.

There are 8 different types of Pangolin, 4 listed as critically endangered and 4 listed as vulnerable and unfortunately, Pangolins are one of the most smuggled mammals in the world due to their meat being seen as a delicacy in China as well as their scales being used for medicinal purposes there.

For all the bad that happens to Pangolins, this is a story of 2 very lucky Pangolins, whom I like to call Mr & Mrs Pangolin.

Two friends and I were exploring a local market here in Nigeria. We had just come out of a Chinese market and my friend spotted what he thought was an Armadillo and some Turtles. After closer inspection I realised that we weren’t dealing with an Armadillo, the animal was a Pangolin.

As they were outside a Chinese market and given what we knew, the fate of the Pangolin was not going to be a good one.

My friend stealthily took a quick photo of the animals and we got out of there.

As soon as we got into the car, I got on the phone to start calling around organisations who could possibly go and rescue Mr Pangolin and the Turtles. My friend was on Google lining up the numbers whilst I kept hitting dead ends.

I remembered reading a BBC article before I came to Nigeria about a man who rescued animals. I knew he was the guy to call but for the life of me I couldn’t remember his name (this bit becomes relevant further on in the story.)

Eventually the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) enquiries team picked up the phone. I explained the situation and they were ready to help. Shortly afterwards, I was able to speak with Joseph Onoja, the Director of Technical Programmes of the NCF who assembled a rescue team straight away.

An hour and a half later a full rescue had been completed. And even better than we thought, there was a Mrs Pangolin as well as a Mr and a total of 8 Turtles. 😍

The rate this team were able to assist was incredible to say the least. I wanted to know more about the team and what their capabilities were so I requested to meet up with them and watch the Pangolins and Turtles be set free- a moment I will never forget.

After a weekend of recuperation with the vet, Dr Mark Ofua, it was time for the animals to be released.

Dr Mark Ofua Pangolin (as he is now known) arrived at the conservation centre with the animals and what a happy sight it was to see them.

I swear I recognised Dr Ofua but just couldn’t place him (again, this will become relevant later.)

Back Centre Joseph Onoja and far right Dr Mark Ofua. Myself holding Mrs Pangolin and my friend Marie to my right.

As soon as Mr Pangolin woke up and saw the forest around him, I think he knew what was going on. He seemed to get so excited like he knew he was going to be released.

A freshly awoken Mr Pangolin, I swear he’s smiling.

Mrs Pangolin having a quick bath and drink before her release.

After introductions, it was time for the release; we headed for a quiet spot in the bush and first up was Mr Pangolin.

The first smell of freedom.

What an incredible moment, seeing this little guy climb his way to freedom. It took all I had not to cry! But that wasn’t the end of it, next up was Mrs Pangolin.

Dr Mark Ofua ready to release Mrs Pangolin.
Look at that face 😍

Mrs Pangolin was a little more shy than her other half so we decided to give her some space, release the Turtles and come back to check on her. So next up… the Turtles!

Dr Mark Ofua putting the Turtles into the lake.

It was decided that 4 would be released at Lekki Conservation Centre and the other 4 at a nearby lake. This way the Turtle population could grow in 2 separate locations.

On the way back over to check on Mrs Pangolin, I had the chance to speak properly with Dr Mark Ofua. It turned out this wasn’t his first Pangolin rescue. He had returned around 20 back into the wild not to mention numerous snakes and other animals local to Nigeria.

Fairly recently he had even rescued a little black cat which was going to be used for ritual purposes. This is one of his few rescues that I think will end up permanently living with him.

I asked Dr Mark Ofua if he checked up on the animals he had released and whether he could track them. After a release, Dr Ofua goes back to site to check on the animals however, unfortunately the funding isn’t there in order for him to attach trackers to the animals.

Tracking is not only important for research into these animals but it also aids their protection. This is where you and I can help. I have set up a justgiving page to raise money for this crucial equipment.

If you can help, no matter how big or small please do so to help Dr Ofua in the amazing work that he does and to help the protection of these animals.

Not only is Dr Ofua a vetenarian who helps to save animals in his spare time, he also tries to educate local kids about animal rights πŸ‘ŒπŸ»πŸ‘ŒπŸ». What a guy. You can check him out on Instagram by clicking on this link.

Right… back to Mrs Pangolin. We headed back over to the bush to make sure she was ok and to our delight, we got back to where she was released just in time to see her clambering up a tree 😍.

Shortly after the seeing Mrs Pangolin make her break for freedom, Dr Ofua had a call about another animal in need of his assistance. This time it was a Python.

We swiftly made our way to the entrance of the Conservation Centre where the snake was waiting for him. The poor little guy was tangled up in a fishing line.

Dr Ofua quickly set to work, he made a secure bag to place the snake in (just out of what he could find) and slowly cut the snake free.

After the snake was securely in the bag I jokingly said, “you’ve done that before” to which Dr Ofua replied, ” I’m the snake man of Lagos, you can Google me!”

The penny suddenly dropped! This was the guy I had previously read about and been searching for on the internet when I was scrambling around to find someone to save the Pangolins! You can check out the BBC article about the Lagos Snake Man, here.

This truly was a humbling day. Seeing the work Dr Ofua and the NCF do is incredible and being witness to these endangered, beautiful animals being released back into the wild into a safe place was out of this world.

If you too enjoy seeing wildlife in it’s natural habitat and have a genuine interest in conservation then you should check out Lekki Conservation Centre, either for a visit or as a volunteer.

Please also check out their website. Here you can enquire on how to become a volunteer or even donate to aid the good work they do.

One of the stunning views in the centre.

The NCF who run Lekki Conservation Centre, was founded in 1980 by the late Chief S. L. Edu and it 1982 it was registered as a charitable trust.

The foundation has a vision of “a Nigeria where people prosper while living in harmony with nature.” After speaking with Adedamola Ogunsesan, a conservationist at the centre, it became apparent that this vision is as alive now as it was back in 1980.

For more photographs of the centre and some its inhabitants, please see the bottom of the article.

**Top Tips for visiting Lekki Conservation Centre**

  • Please be respectful. This is a conservation centre so please put all your litter in the bins provided.
  • Use reusable plastic bottle and straws. Not only will this help reduce rubbish at the centre but it will help reduce plastic in the Lagos area and on a wider scale.
  • Keep noise to a minimum. This area is home to many animals, it is not your home. Besides, the quieter you are, the better chance you have of spotting something in the wild.
  • I would advise going earlier in the day to beat the crowds…. and the traffic.

Please do all you can to help this precious planet and its inhabitants. We only get one shot! For those of you that have donated or given up your time to volunteer with the NCF, from the bottom of my heart, thank you ❀.

See you there.

Cat x

P.S. Please leave your comments at the bottom of the post or contact me directly for more details. Please help to share this article using the buttons at the bottom of this post, this will help to raise awareness and much needed cash for the trackers! Xx