Plastic bag use not going that fast- Shifeta


Local plastic bag manufacturing giants may for now breath a huge sigh of relief as the environment minister told parliamentarians that an outright ban on the use of plastic bags was not the best foot forward.


Industry had visibly become panicky as calls for the ban of plastic reached government right in the wake of other African countries having done so.  


Kenya’s total ban on the manufacture, sale or use of plastic bags, became law in August last year, while Rwanda, Mauritania and Morocco, all have a total ban.


As consumers continued to use the bags oblivious to how it was throttling the environment, industries cashed in huge but it seems they are existing on borrowed time.


For now, Pohamba Shifeta is happy with having to issue a levy although he said he remained committed to phasing out the use of plastic bags in the country, but in phases.


The minister said a number of consultations have been held on the modalities of the levy with the Namibia Trade Forum, retailers and industry as well as the cabinet committee on trade and economic development.


“I am confident that we will finish this process by the end of the month before giving due notice in the government gazette,” he said.


Shifeta also told parliament that the proposed second measure of banning only plastic bags containing calcium carbonate (‎CaCO3) was another significant step moving forward.


“These bags are considered to be the most damaging type of bags to the health of the environment as they cannot be recycled. We are in consultation with the ministry of finance to see how best we bring in a regulation to give effect to this ban,” said Shifeta


He said this work will be concluded by the end of this month.


Meanwhile, as a due diligence measure as well as responding to environmental concerns of plastic bag use, Shoprite, South Africa’s biggest supermarket chain, said recently it would pay customers for reusing its newly introduced recyclable bag as it joined domestic rivals in efforts to curb plastic pollution.


It is presently not clear whether such a move will be seen in the Namibian market and questions sent to Shoprite’s management were not answered.


Moneyweb recently reported that supermarkets have come under increased pressure to cut their use of plastic as images of littered oceans and beaches become commonplace, shocking both consumers and shareholders.


“South Africa does not have a law banning plastic bags. However, to reduce littering and discourage customers from buying them, South Africa increased the plastic bag levy in April by 50% to 12 cents per bag… Shoprite’s move comes weeks after department store chain Woolworths said it will remove single-use plastic bags from one of its stores during a six-month trial period… The UN Environment Programme estimates that some 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year… It wants to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 and says more than 60 countries, including China, France, Rwanda and Italy, have taken steps to ban or reduce plastic consumption,” it reported.