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Tanzania set to be the latest East African Community country to ban plastic bags

Rwanda, Kenya and Burundi have been pioneers as the only members of the East African Community to ban the production, importation, sale and use of all single-use plastic bags. Now Tanzania has made a formal commitment to phase out single-use non-biodegradable plastics.

Tanzania is the latest East African country to make a formal commitment to phase out single-use non-biodegradable plastics, a move towards tackling pollution from non-biodegradable waste. It will join more than 60 other countries that have entirely banned, partially banned or taxed single-use plastic bags, including Kenya, Rwanda, China, France and Italy.

Tanzania’s Minister for the Environment, January Makamba, told parliament, “The regulations are ready for publication. It is possible that 1 July will mark the end of the use of plastics in the country.”

The Office of the Vice President will enforce the ban through regulations that will be introduced under environmental law.

In 2015, plastic packaging waste accounted for 47 percent of the plastic waste generated globally. Plastic bags, disposable single-use plastic items and microbeads are three important sources of plastic pollution, with plastics being described as the world’s number-one consumer item.

“The disastrous effects of plastic litter on beaches, rivers and ocean wildlife show that there are major gaps in the ways plastic is regulated by different countries,” said Celine Salcedo-La Viña, Research Associate, World Resources Institute on the UN Environment website.

The more countries that join the fray the better as a blanket ban across the East African Community (EAC) will be more effective in the enforcement of the single-use plastic bag ban. Kenya’s National Environment Management Authority Director General, Prof Geoffrey Wahungu, told The East African that despite the ban in the country, the regulator still faces challenges in controlling contraband materials.

Read: Kenya starts implementation of world’s toughest law against plastic bags

“We have done well but we will not be free from plastic pollution if Uganda and Tanzania continue to produce the materials, which are sneaked into the country through the borders,” Prof Wakhungu told The East African.

Leaders were expected to assent to the EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill, 2018, which would have seen the region having a common framework regarding the elimination of the use of these bags.

Importance of the ban

A 2018 report from the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Resources Institute offers new insight on the global movement to curb single-use plastics. The findings detailed in the report found that there has been a surge in momentum regarding the banning of plastic bags, while other harmful single-use products, such as microbeads, remain largely overlooked.

The report elaborated that 66% of countries worldwide have adopted some form of legislation to regulate plastic bags, while only eight out of 192 countries assessed (4 percent) have established a ban on microbeads through national laws or regulations.

“Having one planet means that we must do all it takes to safeguard future generations. Countries must now do more to develop and implement legislation against harmful single-use plastics and micro plastics,” said Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of UN Environment. “The massive momentum we have built up this year in our global fight against single-use plastic must now be complemented by policies and actions that lead us in the right direction.”

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