East African lawmakers consider ban on plastic packaging

By Mark Astley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Tanzania

East African lawmakers consider ban on plastic packaging
An East African regional government organisation has passed a Bill that would make the manufacture, sale, importation and use of polythene materials, including food packaging, illegal.

The EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill 2011, which has been passed by the East African Community (EAC), brings the prospect of a complete ban on plastics in several countries inches closer.

The main objectives of the Act, which applies to all types of polythene materials, include the establishment of a legal framework for the control and use of polythene and the promotion of the use of environmentally friendly packaging material.

The Bill applies to synthetic industrial products with a low density composed of numerous chemical molecules of ethane.

EAC heads of state from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi must agree to the bill before the measures are implemented.

Liable for conviction

If the Act is passed by all member states, any person who wishes to use, sell, and produce or import any polythene material must apply for a written authorisation.

Violation of the law could be punishable by up to twelve months in prison and or a fine of up to $5000, according to the Bill.

A law supporting the Bill is already in place in Rwanda and Ugandan officials enacted a law for the control of polythene materials in 2009, although it is yet to be implemented fully.

The United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of Burundi also support the Bill, however, Kenyan stakeholders have reiterated that a “balance needs to struck between eradicating them on the one side and the promotion and protection of investments on the other,” ​said an EAC statement.

Arguments on the economic effect of the Act, including loss of income, jobs and reduced revenue, were raised during public hearings.

Total ban on plastics

The Act, which was raised by Rwandan EAC member Patricia Hajabakiga, “aims at providing a legal framework for the preservation of a clean and healthy environment through the prohibition of manufacturing, sale, importation and use of polythene materials.”

It is intended “to control the use of polythenes while advocating the total ban of plastics,”​ she added.

Similar measures are already in place in countries such as Bangladesh, Botswana, Israel and France, according to Hajabakiga.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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