HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsPlastic bag ban needs urgent rethink

Plastic bag ban needs urgent rethink

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We notice with surprise and some bottled anger at what is happening at the retail outlets in Zimbabwe at the moment.

People have to bring their own bags to the supermarket to carry groceries in the interest of “environmental protection”.

That the plastic bags are cause for concern can never be in doubt, but the execution of the task appears “hamfisted and kneejerk” noisily constructed and with little afterthought.

I would like us to pause for a moment and think of what is going to happen looking at the health side when bread is no longer available with the protective cushion of this plastic bag. In fact far too many products are packed in plastics including vegetables and so on.

On another front, this product polyethylene is one of the biggest by-products of petroleum and as a commodity ranks in the top 10 in global sales.

Now given the state our industry is in presently, where productivity is still hovering under 30% in most sectors, coupled with antiquated machinery, where is this legislation taking us?

What ready alternative has been made available to mitigate our health concerns when it comes to the ban on these utility bags?

What is the effect going to be on the plastic industry in this country?

How many people does this industry employ and what is going to happen to them?

Were the plastic and rubber industry unions consulted on this and what is their take on this?

Do they have statistics on the numbers that are going to be affected by this move in this sector and down/upstream industries?

Are we serious? Is this not a case of throwing the baby away with the bath water? Do we really need this right now?

In a country where most of the machinery is near obsolete, what is going to happen to the machinery on most company balance sheets?

What is the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries’ view on this near draconian legislation to the welfare of its membership in this sector?

I assume the Consumer Council does not concern itself with such mundane issues, they have more important issues to contend with . . . like . . . wait (can’t think of anything meaningful that they have done in the past besides usurping the work of the Central Statistical office dishing out statistics about the consumer price basket but doing absolutely nothing and then quickly folding its arms and going to sleep on cue.) Our good friends at the Tax Office must be truly upset about all those tax receipts . . . not so?

What alternative are the consumers going to use for their products since metal and glass are more expensive and the country does not have the capacity for this either?

Paper though a good alternative comes up with its own costs and limitations.

To get rid of plastic are we sending people into the forests, which are running out fast, thanks to Zesa, to cut trees in order to make paper packaging? Again, I ask, are we serious?

A couple of years ago we saw proactive environmental management when cages for disposed cans were posted all over the city.

Can’t we do the same for plastic bags which serve a purpose more important than cans?

Why not come up with plans for disposal and recycling to mitigate whatever environmental damage plastic is causing until such time as we have matured enough in our productivity to come up with alternatives to plastic?

Are we not trying to run before we can walk?

The media should lead on this issue and frankly I am disappointed that we were ambushed at the point of sale.

Tempers are getting lost and blood pressure levels are going off the scale ( another unnecessary cost to our health).

The question to ask is, where exactly are we rushing to with this senseless madness?

We appear to be in a rush to get nowhere, just like we do with most things, the indigenisation law, the 2011 election, and the farm invasions, now this?

All the above are good intentions executed badly. Can’t we teach ourselves to slow down a notch?

There is still time to have a rethink on this issue, methinks.

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