Tanzanian authorities has advised plastic bags producers in the east African nation to adopt new technologies of making biodegradable bags saying the plastic bags will be banned from January 1, 2017.
“Plastic bags will not be used in the country from January 1,” Luhaga Mpina, the Deputy Minister in the Vice-President’s Office responsible for Environment, told a Parliamentary Committee on Industries, Trade and Environment on Friday.
The minister presented a draft ban regulations which indicated that there will be an exemption on plastic bags used in medical services, industrial packaging, construction industry, agricultural sector and in sanitary use and waste management.
Mpina added that there will also be a special phasing out exemption time of up to two years for plastic bags manufacturers either to shut down their facilities, laying off workers or changing technology.
“For industries which will still have raw materials to process the bags which were ordered before the official announcement of the ban will be allowed to manufacture the bags provided if the bags will be for export only,” said Mpina.
He said the plastic bags have been causing devastating pollution and the government has tried since 2006 to set regulation to combat the problem by banning the use of plastic bags below the width 30 microns.
In 2015 the ban was extended to plastic bags below the width of 50 microns, but now they have decided to do away with the matter altogether, he added.
The minister said in Dar es Salaam alone authorities spend up to 5 million U.S. dollars annually to repair water supply infrastructures due to blockages caused by the plastic bags.
For their part, the Members of Parliament expressed concern over the government’s aptitude to stop illegal importation of plastic bags.
Mushtak Walij, the chairman of Plastic Manufacturers Association of Tanzania (PMAT), said the manufacturers had no problems with embracing the biodegradable technology.
However, Walij said importing chemical additives to make biodegradable bags will increase the production costs by between 20 to 25 percent.