The government of Tanzania under President John Magufuli has banned use, manufacture and importation of plastic bags but concern over job losses is delaying implementation.
Sixteen years after Bangladesh, the first nation in the world to outlaw polythene bags, few countries have taken the step. In E. Africa, Tanzania continues to deliberate impact of the ban on the manufacturing sector.
Even though the country imports up to 70% of the plastic material it consumes, still, government officials say, ban on plastic bags will not be effected just yet because of job loss concerns.
Just recently, the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) passed the EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill 2017.
The Bill seeks to control use of Polythene materials outlawing manufacturing, sale, importation and use of Polythene materials.
Reasons for the ban are clear, environmental impact due to pollution of the non-degradable materials and the risks they pose to humans and animals alike.
However, while these facts are plain, Tanzanian officials say they are still weighing the aftermath of effecting the law, because of the foreseen job losses.
“We don’t want to continue generating plastic wastes but at the same time we are concerned on the loss of jobs in factories producing polythene materials,” he said the Minister for State, Union Affairs and Environment, Mr January Makamba.
This not the first time Tanzania has tried to ban the use of plastic bags. Some seven years ago, the EA Legislative Assembly (EALA) passed the East African Community (EAC) Polythene Materials Control Bill, 2011.
Two years later, Daily News, a government owned media outlet reported that “…the government has decided to ban the use of plastic bags in order to protect the environment.”
The then Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office (Environment), Dr. Terezya Huvisa, told a press conference in Dar es Salaam prevalence of plastic bags was endangering the lives of creatures on land and in water bodies.
“The government has decided to ban the use of plastic bags after observing adverse impacts to the environment,” the minister said citing soil damage from the plastic bags and the threat it poses ion the agriculture sector.
However, five years down the road, Tanzania is yet to effect the ban on plastic bags. However, it should be noted that the deliberations have only been aired on Mainland, officials on the Island of Zanzibar have made it clear that plastic bags will not be tolerated.
Learning From Your Neighbours
While Tanzania deliberates the ban and its impact to the economy, neighbours Rwanda and Kenya have already effected the law.
In fact Kenya has the world’s toughest law on plastic bags involving imprisonment of up to four years or fines in excess of $40,000.
Other countries in the region to implement the ban are Eritrea and Ethiopia. Further out are South Africa, Mali, Mauritania and Botswana.
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.