Importing, selling or using plastic bags and drinks containers is to be outlawed in Tanzania in a move aimed at curbing environmental damage.
Manufacturers and retailers have six months to phase out the harmful polythene – which takes up to 1,000 years to degrade – and switch to recyclable materials or biodegradable alternatives.
The announcement, from Tanzania’s vice-president, Ali Mohamed Shein, marks the first time an African country has banned all plastic bags outright.
South Africa introduced laws in May 2003 forcing shopkeepers to hand out thicker, stronger plastic bags that are more easily re-used or face an £8,000 fine or 10 years in jail.
The country’s environmental authorities estimated that eight billion bags a year were being used, most of which were thrown out and ended up clogging drains and choking wildlife.
“The ban of plastic bags and containers is necessary to protect Tanzania’s rapidly degrading environment,” Mr Shein said.
From modern hypermarkets to tiny wooden-hut market stalls, shopkeepers across Africa are rarely shy about packaging everything in one or more thin plastic bags which regularly rip within minutes.
A recent survey found that the 1.5 million residents of Kampala, Uganda’s capital, threw away 10,000 tons of bags each year. Like most African cities, neither Kampala nor Nairobi has widespread rubbish collection.
(Cf. news of Oct. 27, 2005.)
Telegraph April 04, 2006.