EALA Bill on Plastic Bags: Right or Wrong Timing?

plasticDespite several efforts by authorities to manage the environment, the use and right disposal of polythene materials have been a problem. EAC Countries like Rwanda have long ago banned the use of plastic bags as a measure to safeguard her environment. Not so many months ago, Tanzania followed this example by banning liquor sachets to protect the environment but it is yet to totally ban plastic bags.

The East Africa Legislative Assembly has brought forward a new precedent by passing the Polythene Materials Control Bill 2016 that if it becomes a law it will totally ban the use of plastic bags across the East African Community. According to stakeholders, plastic materials threaten the ecosystem. The bill proposes the use of biodegradable packaging materials. However exemptions have been made for materials used in medical stores, industrial packaging, and agriculture. The bill gives the Partner states the mandate to punish those caught breaking the law.

During the Stakeholders meeting the United Republic of Tanzania generally supported the Bill on the understanding that only plastic bags should be banned and not all polythene materials. The same is the case with the Republic of Burundi. In Zanzibar, the report notes that issues concerning the environment are non-union and in 2008, the isle took the initiative to ban the use of plastics with a three year transitional period provided for in the law, expiring last year. Moreover counter arguments were raised by manufacturer and stated that this action could lead to loss of at least 60,000 jobs across the EAC.

One does not simply escape from asking whether it is possible for the companies to produce sustainable packaging materials and retain jobs at the same time. Could the Bill be the right piece of legislature for the EAC but brought forth at the wrong time or vice versa?

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