Tanzania casts a ban on the use of plastic bags

Kampala – The Minister of State for environment in the Vice President’s Office), Dr. Terezya Huvisa, has of 15th August, 2013 told a press conference in Dar-es-Salaam that the country has imposed a ban on the plastic bags as a way that they endanger lives of creatures both on land and in water bodies.

Dr. Terezya said that “The government has decided to ban the use of plastic bags after observing adverse impacts to the environment.” She went on to say that non-biodegradable were damaging soil thereby posing a serious challenge to agricultural activities and that also the incineration was causing air pollution.

Some of the African countries that have gone a step further to ban the use of plastic bags and use include Rwanda, Botswana, Zanzibar, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Africa, Mali, Mauritania, and Kenya. They have banned plastic bags as they pose an environmental threat. Some countries like Uganda have also gone ahead but it has become rhetorical as there has never stringent measures to have a total ban.

Some years back, Mali’s environment ministry described plastic bags as a “disastrous scourge” and “a menace to public health.” The Malian authorities described that issues associated with use of plastic bags include the discharge of plastic bags that block drainage systems. They also pose a dangerous risk to animals such as sea turtles, which die after eating plastic bags because they resemble jellyfish.

Bangladesh was the first nation worldwide to outlaw polythene bags in 2002.

Dr. Huvisa on the other hand noted that the Tanzanian government had earlier permitted the use of plastic bags with less than 30 micrometer but she said since the people could not differentiate the size of the plastic bags the traders used the loophole to introduce them into the market. It was on that stand that she passed on a warning to the manufacturers and shop owners that if they continue using them, they will face the wrath of the law. She pointed out that with the exception of plastic bags with 100 micrometers; the ban involves those plastic bags used for carrying products from shops, markets and homes.

In July 2012, the Mauritanian Ministry of Environment prohibited the importation, distribution, manufacturing and use of all plastic bags used for the conveyance or packing of goods, with a six-month moratorium. Substantial fines ranging from 7 to 2500 Euros may be levied for noncompliance. The environment ministry official, Mohamed Yahya said that more than 70% of cattle and sheep had been dying in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott due to eating plastic bags.

The then Environment Minister Amedi Camara went to say that nearly all of the plastic package waste is not “collected and is found in the natural environment – land and sea – where they are sometimes ingested by marine species and livestock, causing their death.”

Countries that have gone ahead to impose a TOTAL ban on plastic bags include Germany, Italy, Australia, India, Somalia, Philippines, Japan, Turkey, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Belgium, South Korea, Singapore, Sweden, Bhutan, Malta, Mexico, and China which is often criticized as environmentally irresponsible, restricts the use of plastic bags.

Italy became the first European country to do so in 2011. France plans to follow suit in 2014. Even China,

East African Community (EAC) Polythene Materials Control Bill, 2011
On 3rd February 2012, The East African Legislative Assembly in the Ugandan capital passed a bill on control and use of plastic bags in East Africa.

The Bill was moved by Hon. Patricia Hajabakiga, member from Rwanda aimed at providing a legal framework for the preservation of a clean and healthy environment through the prohibition of manufacturing, sale, importation and use of polythene materials.

Hon. Hajabakiga stated that the Bill was intended to control the use of polythene while advocating for a total ban on plastics.  The mover noted several dangers of plastics and polythene materials notably soil degradation through burning of wastes, harmful emissions of toxins and the endangering of human and animal lives.  She further pointed out that while plastics can be burned, they emit chemicals and the corresponding photo-degradation which has consequential impact on human and infrastructure.

There have been various meetings that have been called to create awareness about plastics and also visiting plastic manufacturers with a view to interfacing with them and suggest for improvements on the Bill

One of the EAC committees, once reported that Uganda enacted a law for the control of polythene materials in 2009 though the law has not yet been fully implemented especially with challenges in regard to disposal of wastes and absence of recycling facilities.

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