In Nigeria, plastic waste in the form of discarded food packaging, plastic bottles, and single-use bags has become commonplace. The African country generates roughly 2.75 million tons of discarded plastics per year, and inefficient waste management infrastructure means 70 percent of it ends up in landfills, sewers, beaches, and other waterways. Waste from Lagos, for example, flows into the Gulf of Guinea, leaches dangerous chemicals into the water supply, and causes numerous public health risks.
The country’s worsening pollution problem caught the attention of Jumoke Olowookere, an artist and former teacher based in Ibadan City, who decided to stow used plastic, nylon, and corn husks in her kitchen while learning how to give the material a second life. The ecopreneur opened the Waste Museum with the goal of training individuals and organizations on sustainable ways of creating wealth through recycling and upcycling their waste. “We have a long way to go to get that sustainable world without waste,” Olowookere told Reuters. “We need to get up and take responsibility for our waste.” The institution displays her latest artworks made out of tires, fabrics, wine corks, and plastic bottles, which she also uses to create equipment for school playgrounds. Works from other artists are featured too, including ottoman furniture and ceiling panels crafted using tires and jewelry produced from bottle caps.
The museum’s debut arrives as the conversation around plastic waste has been intensifying. Last week, world leaders from 175 countries agreed to develop a legally binding UN treaty to regulate plastic production and design on a global scale for the first time. Passed at the UN Environment Assembly using a recycled plastic gavel, the treaty also establishes universal targets to curb plastic waste—much like the Paris Agreement does for carbon emissions.