Columnists

Is Zambia ready to ban plastics?

JULIUS KAZEMBE-LUNGU

Analysis: JULIUS LUNGU
THE Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a report on the state of global warming and its emphasis on maintaining the 1.5oc capping on temperature rise in order to avoid catastrophic consequences arising from global climate change. This has been adequately addressed in other articles and fora.
The IPCC has challenged all of us to play a role at individual level in order to mitigate the situation. Amongst the things that we could do as individuals is cutting of greenhouse gasses, less use of non-bio degradable products especially plastics and that is the focus of my article.
I read a letter to the editor in one of the daily newspapers where the contributor wrote that global warming is actually “global warning” because God is warning us that He is upset with what is going on here on earth with all the adultery, rape, child abuse, senseless wars etc. As a Christian this indeed is food for thought.
I dealt extensively on the use of plastics and how much of an environmental nuisance this poses in my article of September 20, 2014 published in this paper. Some excerpts of which have been reproduced in this article.
By definition, a plastic is mostly a non-biodegradable product made from synthetic polymers of mainly petrochemical base. Plastic is highly moldable and as such it is preferred in production of most day to day products replacing steel, glass, wood, ceramics, the list is endless. The very fact that most of it is non-biodegradable has become a source of worry for environmentalists and well-meaning citizens all over the world particularly single use plastic bags.
The issue of banning of plastics especially single-use plastic bags can be an emotive one, manufacturers of these plastic bags will always lobby against the ban for obvious reasons and too are customers who think they can’t do without these plastic bags.
A few years ago, Hon. Sylvia Masebo, as Minister of Local Government and Housing did propagate the idea of banning plastic carrier bags from our society but I feel she was not supported enough by her fellow legislators and also by environmentalists (I being one of them) to carry the day, a huge let down it was indeed. She only managed to have plastic wreaths at grave sites banned but alas they’re back.
The European Union has taken steps to ban the use of plastic bags, California and other States in America too have banned single use plastic bags and closer to home, Rwanda was the first country in Africa to ban the use of plastic carrier bags but instead encourages paper bags. Kenya last year in August, has gone a step further and imposed a total ban on plastic use which also includes a fine and or jail term and has the world’s stiffest laws on plastic carrier bag use.
The Cabinet at its recent sitting approved the publication and introduction of the Solid Waste Regulation and Management Bill that will promote sustainable regulation and management of solid waste. The Bill among others will regulate the construction of landfills and other disposal facilities in order to enhance cleanliness. Truth be told, these plastic wastes are an environmental hazard and an eyesore to say the least.
The Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) established through an Act of parliament amended through the Environmental Management Act (EMA) No. 12 of 2011, must spearhead the enactment of a law banning the use and enforcement of laws governing the disposal of plastic waste, I feel ZEMA is not doing enough on this front. Seven years on and we have seen little movement.
Lusaka City Council has initiated a “No Plastic Day” and has declared that this be observed on November 24 and the last Saturday of the month as part of the Keep Zambia Clean, Green and Healthy Campaign. ZEMA has welcomed this initiative but I feel ZEMA should be the one spearheading this and have all stakeholders come on board. At individual level, let us all come out in numbers and support this initiative.
Pick-n-Pay Stores are promoting reusable bio-degradable carrier bags which are being sold at K14 each, this is commendable and as environmentally conscience citizens we should all play our part in reducing the environmental catastrophe associated with the use of plastic bags.
If I may ask, what happened to the humble shopping basket that our mothers used to carry to the market? Driving to the Eastern Province recently, I stopped over at Luangwa Bridge and there one finds reed woven baskets of different shapes and sizes, why can’t we encourage the use of these instead of plastic carrier bags? This enactment will be creating jobs for our people as well.
The question remains; is Zambia as a nation ready to ban the use of plastic bags?
The author is an engineer, environmentalist and technical director, JKL-Associates.

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