Jacqueline Mwamba, 56 survives through scavanging at Lusaka's Chunga Dumpsite.

Zambia on the path to beat plastic pollution

Doreen Chilumbu ,Lusaka

Jacqueline Mwamba, 56 survives through scavanging at Lusaka's Chunga Dumpsite.
Jacqueline Mwamba, 56 survives through scavanging at Lusaka’s Chunga Dumpsite.

IN DECEMBER 2018, Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection announced a ban on the use of packaging materials such as plastic bags and their resultant waste.

Making the announcement in Lusaka, Permanent Secretary Ed Chomba said the ban is in accordance with section 58 of the Environmental Management Act No 12 of 2011.

“This is the Extended Producer Regulations which extends the responsibility of the producer of a product or class of products to the post-consumer stage of the product or class of products.

The extended Producer Regulations is one of the tools that government will rely on to manage, in an environmentally sound manner, packaging materials such as plastics and their resultant waste,” Dr Chomba says.

According to the Act, the extended Producer Regulations will also regulate non-returnable glass and plastic bottle, cartons, beverage cans, waste oils, pesticides or chemical containers, used tyres, electrical and electronic equipment.

“The regulations require a person or persons whose activities generate waste with potential to pollute the environment to employ measures essential to minimize waste through treatment, reclamation, re-use, recovery or recycling,” Dr Chomba says.

Already, among the key stakeholders that have so far been consulted include the Zambia Association of Manufacturers, Zambia Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Oil Marketing Companies, Chain Stores and Shopping Centre Managers.

“The process of engagement is ongoing and will cover other sectors such as the electrical and electronic equipment merchants and chemical industry,” Dr Chomba says.

The Ministry has since informed stakeholders and the general public that the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) has been engaging stakeholders from all sectors of the economy on the content, framework and the way regulations will operate.

And ZEMA director for Legal services Humphrey Mwale says would-be offenders will face appropriate action.

And a shopper at Lusaka’s Levy Mall says the ban is a move in the right direction.

“We need to move. Our surrounding are in a mess because of plastic material. I have been to Europe, countries like Denmark have no plastics for shoppers, and they use either eco-friendly bags which are on sale to shoppers or just carry the goods purchased with their hands. We need such in Zambia,” Selina Chikwanda says.

Ms Chikwanda says the eco-friendly bags are slightly expensive but people in those areas have learnt to reuse them.

“We are also need to learn to reuse eco-friendly bags too just like people in Europe. It is something we had never done before because supermarkets and traders gave us the bags freely,” Ms Chikwanda says.

Eco-friendly, reusable packing made from non-plastic materials including jute, sisal, paper and papyrus, gunny bags, starch and cassava have been rolled out as options for plastic bags.

And another concerned citizen, Faith Nawakwi says it is gratifying to see that Zambia has joined more than 30 countries which have either passed the law and implemented it or passed the law with the intention of implementing it.

In Africa, countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, Mauritania and Morocco, have imposed a total ban on the use of plastic bags and bottles.

Ms Nawakwi says the harmful effects of plastic bags are well-known adding that when plastics get into the soil, they (plastics) slowly release toxic chemicals.

“The sad part is animals eat them (plastics) and often get choked and die. It’s a good move, however for change to be accepted, there is need for sensitization programs to marketeers, retail outlet owners and households at large. Change is inevitable. This initiative requires proper planning and time.

Ms Nawakwi says to successfully handle this change, a National Change Management Process has to be initiated, planed and realistically implemented, failure to which there will be resistance.

As part of the African capital cities, Lusaka City Council (LCC) has put in place an initiative called “No Plastic Day” and this year was declared that this year November 24 was celebrated as such.

“LCC is working with the supermarkets in the city to help reduce the plastics given to customers at the stores. The stores will reduce the amount of plastic carrier bags given on the last Saturday of every month gradually until we have a full no plastic day,” LCC assistant public relations manager Brenda Katongola says.

Furthermore, Ms Katongola says the “no plastic day” is to encourage shoppers at chain stores use reusable carrier bag hence reducing the amount of plastics in the environment.

Partners like the Centre for Zero Waste and Development in Africa, an initiative of the Youth Environment Network (YEN) Zambia says reusable and eco-friendly bags are a way to go if Zambia was to win the fight against plastic pollution.

Founder Billy Lombe says manufacturers of plastic bags need to diversify and consider using eco-friendly material.

YEN Zambia recently introduced the Kathumba bag, a reusable bag designed creatively to help people kick out the habits of single-use plastic bags in Zambia.

“The Kathumba bag is a perfect replacement for plastic bags. It is made of strong material, ideal replacement for consumer groceries and can be used countless times.

Mr Lombe says partnerships with government, private sector companies and the general public are key to eliminate plastic pollution.

 

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