Tanzania introduced the first phase of a plastic bag ban in 2017, which banned the production and “domestic distribution” of plastic bags of any kind. The second phase, which will take effect June 1, restricts the use of plastic bags for tourists.
In a statement released on May 16, the Tanzanian government extended the initial ban to include tourists, citing that “a special counter will be designated at all points of entry to drop off the plastic bags that visitors bring to Tanzania.” “ziploc” bags used to transport toiletries through airport security are also exempt from the ban if travelers take them home again.
The ban recognizes the need for plastic bags in some cases, including in the medical, industrial, construction and agricultural industries, as well as for sanitation and waste management reasons.
Africa without plastic
Tanzania is not the only African country to have introduced such a ban. More than 30 African countries have adopted similar bans, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, according to National Geographic.
Kenya introduced a similar ban in 2017. The ban provided for the harshest penalties, with those responsible being sentenced to fines of up to $38 or four years in prison. However, the government did not consider alternatives, which led to “plastic cartels” that were involved in the delivery of plastic bags from neighboring countries. In addition, enforcement of the ban was unreliable. “The ban had to be drastic and tough, otherwise Kenyans would ignore it,” said Walibiya, a city activist. While further attempts to expand the ban have been unsuccessful, the country is aware of its responsibility to do more.
Geoffrey Wahungu, Director General of the National Environment Authority of Kenya, said: “Now everyone is watching Kenya because of the bold step we have taken. We don’t look back.”
Rwanda is also hard at work on the environmental issue. She aims to be the first plastic-free country, and her efforts are being recognized. The UN named the capital Kigali the cleanest city on the African continent, “thanks in part to a 2008 ban on non-biodegradable plastic.”