Finally, the death of plastic bags

05 August 2019 | Opinion

Namibia has finally caught up with the rest of the world in terms of plastics. Without any legislation driving or forcing any retailer to do so, they have now started charging for shopping bags. Most, although not all, are using the money generated from the sale of plastic bags for corporate social responsibility programmes which further enhances the benefit of reducing the application of single-use plastics.

Consumers are slowly beginning to respond. It is quite the mind shift to remember to carry a reusable shopping bag at all times, but members of the public are slowly getting there.

In 2015, the highly respected journal Science estimated that between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year. And it is not just parts of the ocean in close proximity to human settlements. Plastic has been found in deep-sea sediments.

Plastic bags populate Namibia's landscapes and are probably the most common form of litter, besides beer bottles. And neither are any good for a country described as pristine.

There are arguments that the majority of Namibians are poor and cannot afford to pay for plastic bags but these arguments do not hold water.

In fact, we would argue that we stand before a wonderful opportunity.

SME development.

We can only imagine the smorgasbord of Namibian re-use shopping bags, culturally relevant, colourful and even woven baskets. Women in this country sew and they weave. And tourists who come to this country too have to use re-use shopping bags at home.

And now, Namibians too have to use these bags.

It could become a blossoming trade if the opportunity is taken.

It truly is a win-win for all, including our fragile environment.

The biggest problem with plastic bags is that they do not readily break down in the environment, with estimates for the time it takes them to decompose ranging from 20 to 1 000 years. Should an animal that ingested a plastic bag die, it decays at a much faster rate than the bag. Once the animal has decomposed, the bag is released back into the environment more or less intact.

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