As you know, from July 1 2015, the Malawi Government banned the use of thin plastics less than 60 microns. This saw a modification, among others, of plastic carrier bags. Thicker ones, which conform to the required standards, have now become common.
These new thick plastic bags have come at a cost, though. They are no longer free. One has to pay a minimum of K35 for each bag.
On July 8 this year, this column presented an article whose main aim was to introduce readers to different waste management practices they need to follow to help them reduce the amount of money they pay for thick plastic carrier bags.
These practices are borne out of the common principles in solid waste management, commonly known as the 3Rs. Applying the first two of these principles in the thick plastic carrier bags situation means people undertaking two practices.
First, I encouraged people not to buy plastic carrier bags if they feel it is not necessary. For example, when I go into a supermarket and I buy two packets of sugar, I don’t need to buy a plastic carrier bag because I can carry the packets of sugar with my hands and place them on the seat of the car. In simple terms, never ever buy a plastic carrier bag if you and the people you are with can carry the goods in your hands either straight home or into your car. In this case, you help reduce the plastic bags generated as waste into your home and also save money. Remember, even government has warned on money scarcity.
The second principle can be applied by safely keeping the thick plastic bag(s) after the initial purchase, if you really required one to use during the shopping. One day, an attendant in one of the shops was surprised that after I bought some groceries, I temporarily left them on the till, and went into my car. I came back with a plastic carrier bag from another shop into which I bundled what I bought on that day. Re-using these bags will help you reduce the solid waste thrown away into the environment and also help save cash.
Finally, there is something that I did not say last time, which I want to remind us, especially our women. This practice falls within the reducing waste generation principle. It’s an old practice which I thought our women would easily embrace once the ban on use of thin plastic bags was imposed and the thick plastic bags were introduced; hence, requiring to pay extra scarce cash. Use of baskets—most commonly woven baskets.
I should confess that I am still perplexed with Malawian women of nowadays for continuing to pay for plastic carrier bags yet when we were children we were proud to carry a basket on behalf of our mothers. In those days, if on a Saturday you saw your mother telling you to take a basket, you knew that you would accompany her to the market and it would be Christmas Day, but not on December 25.
My question to women is: Where are your beautiful woven traditional baskets? You are busy in super markets bundling groceries into plastic carrier bags at an extra cost instead of saving extra cash for oranges to keep you healthy. Come on! go grab one from the main market or once you visit the lake again. Be our environmental ambassadors as our mothers used to be.