Environmental experts have expressed disappointment with the decision by the High Court in Blantyre to suspend a ban on the production, distribution and importation of thin plastics saying it beats efforts towards eradicating plastic pollution.
According to a court ruling dated July 12, 2018, high court judge Healey Potani suspended the ban pending inter partes hearing scheduled for August 9, 2018.
The decision by the Court comes barely a month after the same court upheld government’s ban, ending a two-year long battle between the authorities and the private sector.
Reads the court ruling: “It is here ordered and directed that the enforcement of the ruling of the court dated June 14, 2018 herein be and is suspended pending the inter partes hearing scheduled for 9th August, 2018.”
An environmentalist working for the Wild Life and Environmental Society of Malawi (Wesm) Tiwonge Gawa said as environmental activists they are saddened with the court’s decision as it means continued use of thin plastics and continued threat to lives of people and animals.
“When we got that positive ruling on June 14 we thought Malawi is moving with the rest of the world. Most countries have banned the use of thin plastics, I don’t know what is wrong with our country, I am just wondering whether the owners of these companies are thinking about what is good for our country,” said Gawa.
Gawa who was the chairperson of World Life Environment Day commemorations which took place on June 6 this year said they will continue to follow the court proceedings with keen interest and “most of all, we will continue with the advocacy because we have to see to it that thin plastics are banned if we really love our country.”
Church and Action in Relief and Development (Card), an organization running a number of interventions related to environmental protection also expressed worry over the ruling.
Executive director for Card Medson Luhanga speaking in an interview said they plan to meet to map the way forward.
In June 2015, the government effected a ban on thin plastics of less than 60 microns, arguing that they pose a threat to the environment due to their delayed rate of decomposition.
But in January 2016, Aero Plastics Industries Ltd, Rainbow Plastics and twelve other companies, obtained an injunction against the implementation of the ban, arguing it infringed on their business rights.
They were also against the closing down of their factories and imposing fines on suspicion that they were manufacturing, distributing and or selling thin plastics.
The companies sought judicial review challenging the ban however the court upheld the ban on June 14, 2018.
Efforts to speak to lawyer for Aero plastics and Rainbow plastics Frank Mbeta, proved futile as their phones could not be reached.
Environmental experts argue that thin plastics pose serious risks to human beings when consumed indirectly through fish as they can lead to diseases such as cancer.
They say accumulated thin plastics go into rivers and lakes, thereby endangering aquatic life.
Plastic bags also tend to disrupt the environment in a serious way as they get into soil and slowly release toxic chemicals. They eventually break down into the soil, with the unfortunate result being that animals eat them and often choke and die.
Besides this, they take so many years to breaks down, with researchers estimating that they take up to 100 years to degrade.
The government effected the ban on plastics using the 1999 Environmental Regulation Act on the management and disposal of wastes.