One of the issues which I discussed extensively last year was about the ban on the use of thin plastic bags by the Malawi Government. For those people who have been out of this country for some time or those who rarely follow what happens in their country, government banned the use of thin plastics less than 60 microns starting from July 2015. The main reason, as contested by environmentalists for many years before is that these plastics are non-biodegradable and, of course, there numerous presence in the environment is an aesthetic environmental nuisance. Agriculturalists will even tell you the impact of the same plastic bags on soil composition and thereby productivity.
As most of you may recall, this ban led to two major innovations. The first was a modification of the size of the plastic carrier bags to a thickness of more than 60 microns. This was actually a dictate of the government through the ministry responsible for environmental affairs. Thicker ones, which conform to the required standards, have now become common.
This, of course, came with an associated economic innovation from the grocery store merchants. These new thick plastic bags came at a cost. They are no longer free. One has to pay a minimum of K35 for each.
On July 8 2015, this column, however, did not leave it there but provided pieces of advice to the public, especially those who follow this column on how they could apply some general waste management principles on this issue, thereby saving their hard-earned cash.
First, I encouraged people not to buy plastic carrier bags if they feel it is not necessary. 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, in order to use it (them) during the next purchase of goods. This is about reusing a plastic bag.
The third practice falls within the reducing waste generation principle. Use of woven or plastic baskets or career bags made from cloth most commonly woven baskets.
I should confess here that I liked the introduction of prices for the thick plastic carrier bags. This has led to the consumption of plastic bags go down thereby reducing the generation of possible solid waste. I wish I knew what theory of Economics is at work here. Because it looks to me that the introduction of the fees is incentivising the reduction on waste generation.
Most interesting is what I have recently observed on the behaviour of people in the grocery stores. A good number of people decline to buy the plastic bags but rather carry groceries in their own hands if they are few. Or most people are even minimising on the number of carrier plastic bags they are purchasing. In addition most grocery stores are even selling carrier bags made from clothes which people even buy to reuse for longer periods.
I hope you are not left behind. Please practice some of the environmental behaviours explained above. Your friends are already practising and helping reduce waste generation from plastic bags. Let this be one of your resolutions for 2016. n