In 2007, The government of Uganda banned the production, importation, sale, and use of polythene bags (kaveera) of 30 microns or less. 16 years later, the ban has failed to be fully imposed.
According to a study, the country spends about 10 Billion Uganda Shillings (over 2000$) annually to clear drainages of plastic waste. So, polythene bags just don’t cause harm to us and the environment but also cost us a lot of money. According to a study conducted by an environmental research and conservation company Bio Vision Africa, Uganda generates 600 metric tons (600,000 kgs) of plastic waste each day approximately.
Some Countries in the East African community, like Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania, have successfully fought against polythene bags, and hopefully, Uganda will soon follow suit.
One of the reasons why the ban has failed to be fully implemented is that only polythene bags under 30 microns were banned; this makes it difficult for traders and users to tell the difference in the thickness of the bags. Thus, even banned bags are still on the market.
Fighting the use of these polythene bags is also harder due to the nature of the industry as some of the factories producing these bags are so small that locating them is hard for authorities and they operate without registered names or addresses.
What are the dangers of Polythene bags?
- Polythene bags contain dangerous chemicals that mix with food when heated. Sadly since most hot snacks are served in these bags, they pose a great risk to our health. One of the chemicals is Bisphenol-A(BPA) which may cause certain cancers, ulcers, and reproductive problems in women. When these bags are burned, they pollute the air and can cause damage to us.
- They are non-biodegradable and take up to 2000 years to decompose. This makes them dangerous to the environment and causes land and water pollution. A bag that you use today will not decompose in your lifetime or that of your great-grandchildren.
- They can cause death to animals if they’re mistaken as food and ingested.
- Polythene bags are a problem right from production, the chemicals released as by-products of plastic production end up in our ecosystem and destroy nature.
- They block our drainage systems costing the country money and also being a factor in the recent floods in Kampala city.
What is being done to combat this problem?
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), together with Vivo Energy Uganda and a multimedia company Next Media developed and launched an environmental campaign dubbed “Tuve ku Kaveera”(Let’s quit polythene bags) that sensitized and created awareness about the dangers of polythene bags on human and animal health and to the environment.
The campaign included a special segment during the Evening news bulletin each day for a year that focused on the dangers of kaveera and showcased alternatives. These companies also prohibited the possession of polythene bags on their premises.
Some supermarkets and shops have also joined the fight and offer alternatives to their customers, such as paper bags and eco-friendly bags.
Some officials have called on Parliament to ban all polythene bags, not just those below 30 microns.
How can you join the fight?
Say NO to one-time-use polythene bags, and perhaps carry your alternative bags when shopping. You can use eco-friendly options and can support locally-made shopping bags. Unless we stop accepting polythene bags, shops and supermarkets won’t stop purchasing and distributing them.
Recycle polythene bags for decorations and recreational items like balls and mats. If you’re disposing of polythene bags, please do so properly.
Polythene bags are not environmentally friendly. Citizens are advised to avoid it desisting from its usage to save the environment. The news on the dangers of polythene should be spread to our family members.