Africa's thin plastic bag ban to hit PE imports

10 September 2007 09:43  [Source: ICIS news]

Ban on thin PE bags to slow Africa imports in coming weeks, and encourage consumers to recycle the bags By Prema Viswanathan


SINGAPORE (ICIS news)--A recent crackdown on thin polyethylene (PE) shopping bags by the governments of Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya is expected to slow PE imports into these countries in the coming weeks, suppliers and traders said on Monday.


“However, in the long term the new government regulation mandating the production of thicker plastic bags would lead to increased consumption of PE,” a supplier said.


On 1 September, the governments of these African countries implemented a new regulation banning the production, trade and use of PE bags with a thickness of less than 30 microns from the current minimum thickness of 10 microns on environmental grounds.


“The thin bags block sewerage lines and pose an environmental hazard, so the governments are entirely justified in banning them,” said a second supplier.


The regulation would encourage consumers to recycle the bags and minimise waste disposal problems, the first supplier said.


Some traders said the move would dampen buying sentiment.


“The higher PE costs of producing thicker bags will be passed on by converters to consumers, most of whom are too poor to afford the increased costs,” said a Middle East trader.


The move would also put smaller converters out of business for whom bag making is a household industry, a second trader said. Other ancillary trades could also be affected, he said.


South Africa’s ban on plastic bags of less than 30 microns in 2003 hit hard the household production of hats, handbags and baskets made from recycled plastic bags.


Despite these concerns, Rwanda in 2005 banned articles made of plastic below 100 microns, setting an example for other African countries to emulate.


According to the suppliers, the benefits from the ban would far outweigh the adverse consequences.

By: Prema Viswanathan
+65 6780 4359

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