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Industry develops cold feet on plastic ban

27/11/2017
by Kelvin Chiringa
Business

Namibia’s leading captains of industry are still dragging feet on the motion to accelerate the ban of plastic use, rather asking for more research to be carried out before the ban can be put in place.

Spearheading the agitation for a moratorium on the use of plastic and the formulation of law to effect the move is Elize Shakalela, and although her call has gotten the attention of government and the private sector, nothing much has happened.

Beginning of this year, after government had bought into her campaign with the health minister giving his blessing by adding his voice, Namibia’s leading plastic manufacturing company, Plastic Packaging got jittery.

They invited Shakalela to their factory to try to buy her into their line of argument after its managing director penned a long article in a local daily defending plastic manufacturing and clarifying some “grey areas.”

Yet Shakalela says she has covered ground in her campaign which has the support of some parliamentarians including, as she says, presidential affairs minister, Frans Kapofi.

“We made some progress. Spar is on board. We are running initiatives to that regard. We had a meeting last of last week to see the way forward in terms of objective number three which is to simulate legislation on plastic. The meeting went well, it was a big team, it was O&L, Coca-Cola, Namib Breweries and City of Windhoek.”

“It was orchestrated by my partner, Namibia Chamber of Environment. There are some positive things going on but then the group felt like we still need to have research based on the Namibian perspective,” she says.

With the rest for the world moving away from non-bio-degradable material, Shakalela feels there is no need to be still feet dragging as it is an open secret that plastic is harming the environment and its ban is a matter of urgency.

 

“I think it’s to buy time for their agenda or something, they said the stakeholders were not sufficient, that we need to discuss this with more stakeholders,” she says.

Shakalela has however found a wiling partner in Swakopmund Municipality which has taken a different approach.

“I worked on their regulation framework on plastic. Their committee accepted it and we will be starting wit the regulation itself next year. They will still have to take it for the committee’s approval. They already met with the industry because what they want to do is to have a plastic levy,” she says.

The ministry of environment and tourism also sits in this committee and the framework will need to be placed before the industry for review to see if all their concerns are captured in the document.

From there, it will be taken through the law making process which falls under the cabinet committee on legislation then to parliament for debate.

The proposed levy is meant to be charged by retailers to consumers after the committee found that it would have more impact if costs are transferred to the end users rather than the opposite.

“People will be reluctant because they are receiving the plastic for free, what was found out is that they would not put more effort to actually discourage the use of plastic. Therefore, it’s better we pass the costs on to the consumers,” Shakalela explains.

The municipality is looking at a fee of about a dollar per plastic bag.

“The framework has been accepted, industry is fine with it in Swakopmund. So what is left is for me to draft that regulation and pass on to them again,” she says.

Although the process is proving to be not that fast enough, but the fact that both the private and public sectors have now began to seriously look into this matter has made Shakalela feel very positive.

“I am thrilled that I have their attention now. If we look three months back, the ministry of environment, the environmental investment fund of Namibia had a talk together with the Namibia Economic Network or something like that on (the issue of the) plastic levy,” she says excitedly.

However, it is clear that these stakeholders will not be up for the idea of doing away with plastic entirely, rather, they are more drawn to the idea of a levy than a ban, Shakalela says.

“Jobs would be in jeopardy, and more consumers would switch to environmentally unfriendly paper bags,” said Plastic Packaging Managing Director Jaco Venter beginning of this year when the campaign was gathering dust. 

When health minister Bernard Haufiku spoke to The Villager on the matter, he said “If they have a solution other than banning of plastic, then they must lay it on the table.”

“Nothing can stand against the environment,” the minister stamped.