It’s time to take a stand on the use of plastics



   Continued from yesterday

Kenya leads the way with the strictest ban on single-use plastic in the world. And it’s clear how this title was earned: importing, manufacturing, or selling single-use plastic bags could earn companies a fine of $40 000; using one, on the other hand, could see individuals slapped with a $500 fine. Even though plastic bags are still smuggled into Kenya, the ban has been considered successful by many. In June 2019, Kenya’s president announced a ban on the use of single-use plastics in protected areas.

But there is still work to be done. Rwanda, despite their successes, shares Kenya’s smuggling problem, and it seems that implementation is a shared problem across the continent, with enough local nuance to make anybody scratch their heads. In Mauritius, the law was promulgated in August 2015, and strictly prohibits import, manufacturing, sale or supply of plastic bags. However, in 2016, the Mauritian government exempted a list of plastic bags from the ban. Which means that plastic ban is being partially implemented. Plastic pollution in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been linked to flood-related deaths in the past. The cause? Rivers and sewage systems blocked by plastic rubbish – a completely avoidable consequence. The government banned the manufacture and sale of plastic bags and bottles, but implementation remains a challenge.

In 2007, Botswana established a minimum thickness for bags and mandated that retailers apply a minimum levy to thicker bags, which would be used to support government environmental projects. Many retailers charged more than the minimum tax, and prices fluctuated over time. A study of four retail chains 18 months after implementation of the charge showed that bag use fell by half. In 2018, the Zambian government banned the use of packaging materials such as plastic bags and their resultant waste. However, there are no existing regulations on the implementation of this ban. In Gabon, there is a prohibition of the import and marketing of non-recyclable plastic bags – which doesn’t help much considering that only 9 per cent of all plastic ever gets recycled.

In 2014, Cameroon placed a ban on non-biodegradable plastics. The ban covers the importation, production, and sale of single-use plastic items, and followed a ministerial calculation that the country dumped more than six million tonnes of plastic waste annually. Cameroon has struggled to implement the ban, facing numerous obstacles in terms of plastic waste management systems and infrastructure. Moroccan consumption of the raw material used in manufacturing plastic bags dropped by 50 per cent since its plastic bag ban came into effect in 2015. In Zimbabwe, apart from plastic bags used for bread, the manufacture for use, commercial distribution, or importation of plastic packaging with a wall thickness less than 30 micrometers are prohibited, biodegradable or not. Also, no ink shall be used for printing on plastic and plastic bottles unless the ink and the printing comply with compulsory specifications. 

The UNEP has published the revised draft text of the international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. The revised draft text identifies primary plastic polymers; chemicals and polymers of concern; problematic and avoidable plastic products, including short-lived and single-use plastic products and intentionally added microplastics; and micro and nano plastics. Options relating to extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes, emissions, and releases of plastic throughout its lifecycle, waste management, and trade are also listed. We therefore urge the federal government to institute its law banning the use of single-use plastic and ensure that Nigeria becomes a party to the international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.

With a global push for the ban of plastic, Nigeria must take a stand and begin the use of alternatives. The benefits are huge.

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