ALTHOUGH the government banned the production, supply and use of plastic bags on June 1, 2019, the ban has not been all that effective as expected.
Packaging plastic bags, also called tubbings, were allowed only for industrial purposes, but they are now sold again as carrier bags, a situation which contravenes laws and regulations regulating environmental protection.
This problem was at the centre of discussion on Thursday when the National Environment Management Council (NEMC) held a meeting with manufacturers and distributors of paper bags, which are a substitute for the banned plastic bags.
Minister of State in the VicePresident’s Office (Union and Environment) Azzan Zungu presided at the meeting.
Realising the magnitude of the problem, Mr Zungu warned against the manufacturers of the packaging bags, announcing that his portfolio would start hunting for the culprits.
“Stop this illegal business or else you will face legal action. We are going to embark on thorough inspection anytime from now,” he stressed.
He reminded the manufacturers that laws and regulations provided that anyone found guilty of the offence was liable to a minimum fine of 20m/-or maximum penalty of 1bn/-.
“I went to buy foodstuffs from a market recently and the seller put them into tubbings,” he told participants while showing them the particular packaging bag: “This is the one I am talking about.”
He went on saying that local producers of paper bags had also been producing low quality ones, which was also contrary to the law.
“Why we are not respecting the laws of the land,” he queried.
In his speech, Director-General of the NEMC, Dr Samuel Gwamaka, said local producers were concerned with rampant illegal importation of paper bags with low quality through illegal entries.
The situation has compelled some of the businesses to close down since their products had failed to compete as the imported ones were sold at a low price.
“There are many low quality paper bags that have been imported through informal borders and they have diverged paying taxes,” he said.
To solve the problem he called upon the local government authorities to continue campaigning against the plastic bags and low quality paper bags.
“The problem is when this responsibility is left to NEMC alone. It should involve every stakeholder,” he noted.
He further explained that since the ban on plastic carrier bags, there were currently 100 industries producing paper bags and 80 of them were located in Dar es Salaam alone.
Acting Director-General of the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) Jabir Abdi said they had been collaborating with NEMC to ensure the produced paper bags were up to standard.