Malawi introduces ban on thin plastic

In late 2011, the Poverty-Environment Initiative facilitated south-south cooperation between Malawi, Rwanda and Mozambique, where Government representatives from Malawi learned from the experience of the Initiative in Rwanda. Inspired by the visit and Rwanda’s success in banning plastic bags the Government of Malawi was determined to intensify its efforts to introduce a similar ban in Malawi. Unsustainable use of environment and natural resources, over-use of chemicals and plastic waste are causing environmental as well as social problems in Malawi.

The initial attempt to ban thin plastics was introduced in December 2012 but was suspended a month later as the Plastic Manufacturers Association of Malawi (PMAM) obtained a court order against the ban. Since then the Department of Environmental Affairs (EAD) in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining has worked closely with the PMAM to prepare them for the ban. Ministry spokesperson Sangwani Phiri said to the Malawi News that “since then we have been engaging them on a number of occasions and they know how to change their factory set-up to the required standards on the production of the plastic bags”.

June 30 is the cut off point for the use, sale, production, exportation and importation of plastic bags of less than 60 microns.

Manase township resident, Francis Kuntambila, supports the ban. “If you look around town, you will observe that these plastic bags constitute more than 50 percent of the litter that we usually have. I think the ban will at least bring environmental sanity in our areas,” he said in an interview with Malawi News.

In addition to the exchange visit to Rwanda the Poverty-Environment Initiative Malawi team has supported the Government in introducing the ban by providing evidence of and advocating for the benefits of such a ban in various studies and reports including the 2010 Malawi State of Environment Report. The Department of Environmental Affairs has worked to prepare the general public and the industry for the ban and is willing to continue to do so. “We are ready to provide the expertise and whatever help the interested groups may need. What we want is to promote the recycling of plastic papers. There are already two companies that have shown interest in this recycling business and we want more,” said Mr. Phiri.

Source: Poverty-Environment Initiative Africa and The Times (Malawi)

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