Eala bill on plastic bags gets the thumps-up across region

Sunday July 02 2017
pic plastics

Plastic bags never biodegrade, but they do breakdown. As they do so, any toxic additives they contain including flame retardants, antimicrobials and plasticizers are released into the environment. PHOTO | FILE

Mwanza. The East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) has been commended for banning plastic bags.

Eala passed the Polythene Materials Control Bill 2016 that if it becomes a law it will totally ban the use of plastic bags across the East African Community. According to stakeholders here, plastic materials threaten the ecosystem.

The bill proposes the use of biodegradable packaging materials.

Moreover, exemptions have been made for materials used in medical stores, industrial packaging, and agriculture.

Punishment for those caught breaking the law will be left at the discretion of member states.

Despite efforts by authorities to manage the environment, the use and right disposal of polythene materials have been a problem.

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The Lake Zone director for the National Environment Management Council, Mr Jamal Baluti, says the majority of the people are ignorant about the dangers of plastic materials to the environment.

He says people cannot manage the use of plastic bags because there are no other packaging materials to replace plastic bags.

“The idea of phasing out plastic bags across the bloc has been discussed by environment agencies of EAC member states.”

He noted that the amount of resources the government spends to unblock drainage systems and clean the environment is bigger than the cost of replacing packaging practices.

According to him, the introduction of right policies and proper enforcement mechanisms will have plastic bags phased out easily.

He cites Rwanda, which banned plastic bags in 2008 and replaced them by biodegradable packaging materials.

Tanzania banned liquor sachets to protect the environment but it is yet to totally ban plastic bags.

He spoke of plastic materials being dangerous to people, animals and marine life. They contaminate the food web in Lake Victoria.

“Many animals die annually from eating disposed plastic materials.”

If signed by the EAC heads of state, the Polythene Materials Control Bill 2016 will see all plastic bags banned within 18 months.

“The use, sale, manufacturing and importation of polythene shopping bags are banned in the partner states,” the Bill reads.

However, manufacturers have protested that the move could lead to loss of at least 60,000 jobs.

Mr Baluti says it is possible for the companies to produce sustainable packaging materials and retain jobs.

“Manufacturing biodegradable packaging materials is expensive but it is a lasting solution in curbing environmental degradation,” says Falcon Packaging Limited manager Prakash Rajaram.