PARLIAMENT– A November 2018 report by the Committee on Natural Resources on the National Environmental Bill 2017 has indicated that a ban on the use polythene bag commonly known as kaveera can’t be totally banned in Uganda and has recommended for a phased plan to rid the country of the items.
The report highlighted, “The increasing proliferation of plastic and plastic wastes is a threat to the environment. However, the Country cannot do without plastic products in the short run.”
It should be recalled that in 2009, Parliament passed the Finance Act of 2009, that imposed a ban on the importation, local manufacture, sale or use of plastic bags in Uganda and the ban was to take effect on 1st March 2010, but to date, the ban hasn’t taken effect with environmentalists and manufacturers engaged in back and forth debate over the ban.
Given the fact that Parliament was at the forefront to introduce the ban, the Natural Resources Committee argued that the laws passed by Parliament should not be passed in vain, but the laws passed by
Parliament should fit into society and society fitting the laws. During consideration of the Bill, the Committee received a submission from several witnesses among others, Advocates Coalition for
Development and Environment (ACODE), National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), African Institute of Energy Governance (AFIEGO) and Climate Action Networks Uganda (CAN-U).
This group called for the total ban on kaveera on grounds that the plastic carrier bags are non-biodegradable, as natural processes cannot degrade polythene because it does not readily break down in the environment taking between 50-400 years to break down.
The group also argued that the kaveera blocks natural permeation of water, air, and other nutrients in the soil thereby ruining soil productivity, not forgetting the fact that polythene bags impact on the public health as plastics contain 54 potential or cancer-causing agents.
Yet still, the Committee also received submissions from the Minister for Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, the Uganda Plastics Manufacturers Association and Operation Wealth Creation.
This particular group informed the Committee was that there are 45 factories licensed to produce plastic products, of these, 38 are involved in plastic carrier bags.
The group also rallied behind the investment in this sector arguing it is over US$100M (approximately Shs375,011,096,439Bn) in machinery and US$1O Million in housing and building infrastructure.
The Companies employ over 6000 persons on permanent basis and 20,000 people on semi-permanent basis on the production line and distribution and the companies also buy and recycle over 144,000 tons of plastic waste from micro small entrepreneurs involved in collection of the plastic waste across the Country.
The pro-kaveera users also pointed out that the value addition made by the kaveera industries stating that many industries utilize plastic packaging materials and there are no viable alternatives in terms of functional properties and affordability.
To justify why it would be hard for Uganda to have a total ban of kaveera, the Committee argued that there is no country that has implemented a total ban on plastic bags and in most of the cases, a tax has been imposed on shopping plastic bags in Countries like Ireland, Germany, South Africa, Taiwan, Kenya, and the money raised from this levy is generally dedicated to environmental projects.
Now, the Committee argued that; “To minimize the risk and loss of many businesses, this prohibition should be done in a phased manner. All the local industries should adopt a “package buy pack” policy for plastic bags. According to some studies, such a scheme would see at least 80 percent of the used plastic packages returned to the company and for recycling.”
The Committee called for introduction of mandatory recycling on producers as well as the need for creation of introduction of tax incentives to encourage production of other packaging materials other than plastics.