The recent ban on plastic carrier bags leaves a lot to be desired.
The plastic bag has over the years become one of the most convenient items for shoppers, who use them to carry their groceries and are, in themselves, part of a huge industry that employs many people, with significant benefits downstream.
While the scourge of littering – especially through plastic bags that are hard to dispose of – has become a serious cause for concern, there should be a better way to manage the problem without unnecessarily punishing people whose livelihoods revolve around plastic bags, which is virtually every citizen.
Plastic bag production is a vital cog in the country’s economy, given that it’s one of those fast selling products, which means its contribution to the growth of our economy cannot be over-estimated.
If you look at all the people who work in the plastic bag production industry, and those who benefit downstream, then it becomes clearer there is need to seriously reconsider this otherwise retrogressive move.
All those people cannot be punished simply because of a few rogue elements who throw the plastics everywhere after use without regard for the need to keep our environment clean.
Looking at the bigger picture, it is crystal clear that this decision is as anti-business as it is anti-people. Imagine all those companies that produce plastic bags having to scale down operations, or even close, because the production of plastic bags has been “criminalised”.
Then it means that those who work for these companies will also be affected as they will be less work, something that can force the companies to retrench them.
We think there are better ways of ensuring that customers will not use those carrier bags to litter the environment. Retail supermarkets and such other business, for instance, should desist from giving out the plastic bags for free, but should sell them at a price that will compel customers to value them.
The pricing should be such that a customer will think twice before throwing away the carrier bag. Rather, they will retain it for future use to avoid continuously buying the plastic bag and losing a few precious extra dollars unnecessarily.
With the greater part of industry in a comatose state, we should at least be grateful that we still have some industries vibrating with life, such as those involved in plastic production.
The government needs to seriously revisit this matter and think more about it.
The problem with Zimbabwe is that there is always a quest to resort to drastic measures notwithstanding the inconveniences that these would cause to the public.
It only makes sense for government to provide an alternative to plastic bags.
In countries where plastic bags are banned shops provide more durable bags which are affordable. We have not seen these here.
Is this the most pressing issue for the Environmental Management Agency?
What about refuse collection, deforestation and illegal streambank cultivation?