Thursday, 13 June 2019 15:38

No More Plastic Please

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Plastic. Versatile and strong; practical and cheap… and everywhere. The astronomical demand for plastic has made it one of the most consumed products in the world.

While environmental groups have been raising the issue and subsequent news reports and international attention have made some dent, it is a sad fact that a large percentage of plastic in circulation is still not biodegradable. As a result, landfills over-spill into the oceans and marine wildlife is choking out of existence.

 

However, there are those that are beginning to do something about this issue. And it seems that while the western world is largely creating the problem, that Africa is proving to be a world leader in the fight against the plastic tide. This month on the 1st June, the government of Tanzania released a statement that “all plastic carrier bags regardless of their thickness will be prohibited from being imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied and used in Mainland Tanzania” Tourists are being warned not to bring any plastic bags into the country in order to avoid fines. This follows on the heels of the tiny island of Zanzibar bringing in similar measures to dissuade the use of carrier bags and the similar example of Kenya from two years ago as the government in Nairobi joined the African revolt in favour of a plastic bag-free society.

But the fight against plastic is not something new. As early as 2008, Rwanda imposed a similar ban on plastic bags, issuing fines and detaining people who tried to bring them into the country. However, the local communities struggled with inadequate alternatives and a black market sprung up with people smuggling bags in from across Rwanda’s many borders. While the drawbacks of plastic are clear for all to see, there just hasn’t been an alternative implemented by the government which is why locals are defying the law to continue using single-use plastics day to day.

It remains to be seen how effective the ban can be in Kenya and Tanzania or if this African leadership can inspire other countries around the world to follow suit. But it’s hoped that the governments of East Africa take note of the Rwandan example to ensure that a post plastic-bag society can be a practical, as well as an environmentally friendly place.

More in this category: Overtourism or Overhyped? »

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