The government – through the Plastics Carrier Bags Regulations 2019 outlawed the importation, manufacturing, sale, storage, supply and use of plastic carrier bags (regardless of their thickness) effective June 1, 2019.
The regulations - published under the Government Notice No. 394 of 2019 on May 17, 2019 – impose a fine of up to 1bn/- or a two-year jail term or both to someone who manufacturers or imports the prohibited products.
Likewise, possession and usage can land one into serious trouble with authorities whereby he/she may be compelled to pay up to 200,000/- or imprisonment of up to seven days, or both.
The National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) however decided to go slow on some wrapping materials, with tubing plastic bags being offered a leeway to remain in the market.
Unfortunately, that goodwill gesture by the government – designed to protect businesses that deal in products whose nature demand plastic wrapping – has been largely abused by some unscrupulous manufacturers who harbor profiteering motives.
Some manufacturers are currently manufacturing/importing tubing plastic bags of abnormal sizes to the extent that they were being used as carrier bags and thus competing with the legally-accepted alternative carrier bags.
The NEMC director general, Dr Samuel Gwamaka, said in Dar es Salaam at the weekend that the environmental watchdog will exercise no further leniency on those who will be found to have contravened with law 30 days from now.
“The fact that these tubing plastic bags are found in large quantities and that their use has been skewed from wrappings to carrier bags defeats the very logic behind banning single-use plastic carrier bags in the country,” said Dr Gwamaka.
He said the tubing plastics were not only harmful to the environment but that they were also creating an unfair competition for the legally-accepted alternative carrier bags.
NEMC and Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS), said Dr Gwamaka, will conduct a nationwide inspection that will result into the slapping of fines and initiation of legal proceedings against manufacturers and distributors who will have been found to be going against the law.
He said it was the government’s goodwill gesture to retain the tubing plastics in the market, noting however that with the new turn of events, it (the government) was left with no option but to enforce the law.
NEMC is optimistic that by striking a complete ban on tubing plastics, it will be playing an increasingly important role in identifying phony manufacturers. It will also go a long way to protecting genuine manufacturers, protecting jobs and guarding consumers against health effects of substandard products.