The Government of Zambia through the Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection (MWSEP) issued a Statutory Instrument (SI) No. 65 OF 2018 which mainly boarders on the ban of use of plastic bags, this measure came into force on 15th February, 2019. The Act was implemented by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) in accordance with Section 58 of the Environmental Management Act No. 12 of 2011. ZEMA is a Statutory body which falls under the MWSEP and was established with an aim to advise on policy invention and make recommendations for the workable management of the environment, and Section 58 provides for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) that the Producer be responsible for their waste, therefore the SI restricts plastics below 30 microns in thickens among other things.
The Extended Producer Responsibility is the tool the Government will depend on to manage a sound environment by managing packaging materials such as plastics which eventually end up as waste. As the acts provides that the EPR should ensure that the producer is responsible for their waste, ZEMA did a wide consultation with its stakeholders which include Zambia Association of Manufacturers (ZAMA) , Zambia Association of Chamber Industry (ZACCI), Oil Marketing Companies, Chain Sores and Shopping Center managers to mention but a few before coming up with this SI.
The Government of Zambia introduced this new regulation to ban the use of disposable plastic bags as the effects of plastic bags on the Environment are really bad as plastic has proven to be resistant to soil and even if burnt they emit toxic gases that harm the atmosphere and Everywhere you go in Zambia you see plastic bags polluting the environment to an extent where drainages are blocked hence defeating the benefits of drainages as result mostly in the rain seasons water has nowhere to go, which in the end becomes the breeding places for various diseases such as diarrhea, malaria, Cholera to mention but a few.
Plastic are literally polluting the Country, killing animals causing floods by blocking drains and also adding to the deadly pandemic like cholera which made Government spent a lot of money and resources to contain it the money which could have been used on other developmental projects. The production of plastic bags releases toxic chemicals that can cause serious illness among those involved in their production. Food packed in plastic bags can also cause health hazards. Besides, as mentioned above waste plastic bags cause environmental pollution. Polluted environment is a major cause of various diseases caught by the human beings. The plastic have also affected our cherished Victoria falls which are dumped along the viewing points and collecting at the boiling point, and if left an attended the number of Tourists entering the Country will drop down. and may also affect the marine life. Plastics are responsible for inhabiting soil nutrients as well suffocating deaths in animals. Animals and marine creatures consume plastic particles along with their food. Plastic cannot be digested and thus gets trapped in their intestines. Large amount of plastic is accumulated in the intestines of various animals and sea creatures and results in serious health problems in them. Sometimes, animals gulp the entire plastic bag by mistake. This gets stuck in their throat or intestines and chokes them to death. Some water creatures are especially identified to have the full plastic bag in one go mistaking it for food. Research shows that waste plastic bags have been a major cause of untimely animal deaths.
In the quest to ban the use of plastic bags alternative measures have to be employed which should be both Environmentally and Customary friendly as the Government does not expect a customer to carry goods openly which may also become a health hazard.. This move will then encourage innovation of locally made handmade durable carrier bags or baskets, paper, reusable cotton and canvas bags and washable food and beverage containers that can last for years and have over hundreds of uses. Therefore, investing in good quality reusable items is better for human and environmental health and makes economic sense in the long run. The only reason that free-of-charge plastic bags and polystyrene packaging appear affordable to the average citizen is because they are not aware of the cradle-to-grave environmental and economic costs of plastic waste. Customers will definitely keep these carriers and reuse then for several times as they will have to pay for them unlike the Plastic bags which are quite popular because these are light weight and thus easy to carry. Besides, unlike cloth or paper bags, we do not even require purchasing these as we go shopping. These are economical and thus given freely by the shopkeepers on the purchase of goods. It is because of all these reasons that plastic bags are preferred by both shopkeepers and shoppers. However, we need to look beyond momentary convenience and see the bigger picture.
This will boast market for locally made carrier bags hence creating more jobs for the locals. When these jobs are created this means that many people will be kept busy unlike an idle mind which is believed to be the devils workshop hence reduction in crimes. These income will hence reduce the number of poverty levels and parents will be able to send the Children to school and have educated citizens reducing also the number illiteracy. . Sophisticated bags will have to be produced and great talented man power will be required by the Manufacturing factories so that they can make eco-friendly and greener materials. All these products will not present a health hazard to the people or animals and will not contribute to excessive waste in the usage or packaging.