The ban on the use and production of plastic bags comes into effect Saturday in Tanzania, the 34th African country to apply this type of measures to try to stop pollution on the continent.
Tanzania has decided to ban the import, production, sale and use of plastic bags. It thus becomes the 34th African country to implement this kind of regulation, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
“Let me be very clear on this: after June 1, the government does not intend to add any day and it will not allow anyone to use them.No plastic bag will be allowed in the country,” he said. Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, announcing the measure in April.
The Tanzanian authorities have also issued a notice to tourists, saying they will have to “get rid of” their plastic bags before entering the country.
“The government hopes that, aware of the imperative to protect the environment and keep our country clean and beautiful, our visitors will accept some minor inconvenience with the ban on plastic bags,” says this text.
According to local media reports, anyone accused of producing or importing plastic bags or packaging is liable to a fine of one billion Tanzanian shillings (390,000 euros) or a prison term of up to two years.
The possession and use of plastic bags may result in a fine of $ 87 and / or a seven-day prison term.
Worldwide, 127 countries have legislation that regulates in one way or another the use of plastic bags, according to UNEP. Of these, 91 countries, including 34 in Africa and 29 in Europe, prohibit or restrict production, importation or commercial distribution.
– Various successes –
Patrick Mwesigye, regional program manager at UNEP, told AFP that the degree of success of these regulations varies from country to country.
Rwanda, where plastic bags have been banned for more than a decade, is considered one of the greatest successes.
“But Rwanda had the advantage that they did not make a lot of plastic,” when the ban came into effect, says Mwesigye.
Countries with plastic manufacturing or import industries have had a harder time implementing these measures because they have an impact on employment.
“In Kenya (…), it worked very well, but you still have plastic that is smuggled from neighboring countries”, like Uganda, he adds.
The Kenya ban, introduced in 2017, imposed particularly harsh penalties, with fines of up to $ 38,000 (32,000 euros) and up to four years' imprisonment for using plastic bags.
But in reality, while many people have been arrested in Kenya, the number of fines and prison sentences has been much lower.
– Single use plastic –
Mr Mwesigye observed that some countries have put in place these bans even before finding appropriate alternatives, and that monitoring and practical implementation are sometimes problematic.
UNEP Acting Director Joyce Msuya congratulated Tanzania for its initiative. “It is extremely important that bans come with efforts to identify effective alternatives to the single use of plastics,” she warned.
Nearly 300 million tons of plastic are produced annually in the world, and there are 5,000 billion pieces of plastic floating in the oceans, scientists said.
Most objects that pollute the world's most isolated places or the depths of the oceans, are made of disposable plastic, such as bags, straws, food packaging, which cause dramatic economic and environmental damage.
In March, the international community failed to agree on a timetable for phasing out single-use plastics, instead deciding to “significantly reduce” their production.
Countries like the United States, Canada or Australia have no national regulations for plastic bags, although some US states, including Hawaii and California, have banned them.
In March, the European Parliament endorsed the end of single-use plastic products in the European Union from 2021.