THE government has been applauded for imposing ban on the use of plastic bags, with experts saying the move is helping a lot to mitigate problems of improper waste disposal in the country.
The acknowledgement was made by Professor Kate Hampshire from the Department of Anthropology at Durham University, United Kingdom during a press briefing recently at the Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE).
DUCE has teamed up with six international universities to conduct research to understand the public health risks and environmental impact of plastic pollution in Tanzania and Malawi and to explore which interventions, policies and regulations best mitigate these risks.
“I really applaud what the government did to ban plastic bags. Tanzania and other countries in the region have been world leading in your efforts and many of us in other countries have to catch up.
“But clearly, the problem is not just limited to plastic bags, so we need to think about next steps beyond that and work in partnership with governments across the world. I think Tanzania can be a world leader in addressing these problems,” she said.
She added that plastic waste is a big world problem while insisting that some countries like Tanzania are far ahead others in managing waste products and called on multiple stakeholders to join the chain.
“No single stakeholder or academic discipline can manage this problem of plastic wastes. This project relies on having people from different disciplines who come together for the sake of finding out long lasting means to solve the problems,” she said.
On her part, DUCE’s Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography and Economics, Dr Emiliana Mwita who is the project coordinator, narrated that they are on the ground collecting data on how best to involve local community members, public and private environmental management stakeholders in order to fulfill project objectives.
“Improper disposal of plastic wastes is harmful to the environment and public health hence they are set to establish sources and drivers that lead to use of plastics and improper disposal of them.
Moreover, Dr Mwita informed that the project will unfold in four work packages; the first work package will find out the source of the plastics, how they get access into the country, the city, why people use them and where they do end.
“The second work package will deal with the impact of the plastic wastes on the environment and here, chemistry experts are going to be investigating how such wastes can endanger soils, water and plants which in turn could harm lives of people and other organisms.
“The third work package will address the financial and non-financial incentives necessary to change behaviours and business models to reduce the quantity of plastic produced and distributed.
“Replace current plastic packaging options through improved, sustainable alternatives and behaviour change; and remove existing plastics from the environment by working with local business men and women who collect and reprocess plastics.” she said.
“The final work package will use participatory methods to translate our project data and findings into a decision-making framework for plastic waste management recommendations and test public and stakeholder responses to these recommendations.” she remarked.
A representative from Malawi University of Business and Allied Sciences Dr Kondwani Chidziwisano said he has learned a lot on what the government of Tanzania is doing to curb improper disposal of plastic wastes.
However, other partnered higher learning institutions which are jointly implementing the project as UDSM-DUCE with funding from United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) are University of Malawi and six universities from UK which are Stirling University, University of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Durham University, University of Strathclyde and Heriot-Watt University.
Other researchers involved in this project being conducted at Msimbazi river catchment in Dar es Salaam are Prof Daniel Shila (UDSM), Dr Cresensia Massawe, Dr Dativa Shila, Dr. Daniel Sabai, Dr Alexander Songoro and Mr James Mwesiga, all from DUCE and Dr Harun Makandi from COSTECH.