Dar es Salaam. Stakeholders and traders dealing in environment-friendly biodegradable bags yesterday called for an aggressive public campaign and affordable credit if the government’s ban on plastic bags is to have the desired results.
They said at a meeting at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre that institutional and behavioural change should supplement the ban to make it effective.
The meeting was organised to discuss investment opportunities available in the production of alternatives to plastic bags and was officiated by Mr January Makamba, Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office (Union Affairs and the Environment).
It took place a few days after the government announced a total ban on the manufacture, use or trading in plastic bags in mainland Tanzania.
Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa told Parliament last Wednesday that the ban would come into effect in June.
With only two months to go, manufacturers, traders and environmental stakeholders suggested ways of turning the ban into a win-win situation for all.
Mr Makamba said during the meeting that was also attended by the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (Investment), Ms Angellah Kairuki, and Industry, Trade and Investment minister Joseph Kakunda that the gathering was part of ongoing preparations for the enforcement of the ban.
“Preparations are going on both within the government and its institutions and the relevant section of the private sector,” he said.
Mr Makamba rejected claims that the ban was arbitrary, saying there were preliminary meetings and public hearings prior to its announcement. “This is an issue of national importance. If we will continue to produce plastic bags, the impact will be too big for our children and grandchildren to handle.”
Mr Makamba clarified that the ban specifically targeted plastic carrier bags, and not packages.
Mr Jumanne Mgoda, chairman of a coalition of manufacturers and sellers of environment-friendly bags, Uwamita, commended the government’s decision, but faulted conditions for loans that members were required to meet.
“It’s both irrational and unrealistic to ask a Form Four graduate who recently took up entrepreneurship to produce a house as collateral for a loan. Why not ask such people form groups as a condition to qualify for loans?” he queried.
Mr Kakunda said those charged with enforcing the ban should not turn it into an opportunity to line their pockets through bribery.
“Both the enforcers and the general public need to be educated on the use of alternative carrier bags,” he said.
A Mufindi Paper Mills representative, Mr Gregory Chogo, assured the entrepreneurs that the firm was capable of producing enough paper needed to make environment-friendly carrier bags.
He added that the company previously sold the raw material to Zanzibar and neighbouring countries which had banned plastic bags, namely Kenya and Rwanda, because there was virtually no market for it in mainland Tanzania.
A representative from Nipe Fagio, an organisation specialising in environmental education, asked the government conduct an intensive education campaign to prepare the public for the ban. Many participants supported the proposal.