An independent South African research consultant has said strong political will is needed to halt the environmental degradation ravaging Malawi due to thin and single-use plastics.
Elaine Hake said this in Lilongwe yesterday as she shared some of the findings in a research she and other experts carried out on the use of thin and single-use plastic papers in the country.
Findings of the report, yet to be made public, generated a debate on the matter among environmental experts who noted that up to 75 000 metric tons of plastic papers are manufactured each year in Malawi and cause a number of woes, including toxic litter, flooding where waterways are blocked, particularly since the litter is hardly recycled.
She said: “Low rates of recycling means that enormous quantities of plastic are ending up in the environment, ultimately entering drainage systems and increasing the risk of flooding and the pollution of water, rivers, lakes and fish.
“Without urgent attention, Lake Malawi is at risk of suffering crisis levels of pollution and environmental degradation.”
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resilience and sustainable growth manager Andrew Spezowka spelt out the need for the country to explore alternatives that may replace the use of thin plastic bags, bearing in mind the implication a ban may have on the economy of people working in manufacturing companies.
During the debate, speakers saluted countries such as Rwanda, which have managed to address plastic pollution through political will that saw the production, use, importation and sale of all polyethylene bags banned in 2008.
According to the report, the country also introduced a monthly community service day, where its citizens are involved in regular clean-ups, resulting in it being the cleanest country in Africa.
On the regulatory framework, Rwanda drafted a law January this year seeking to extend its ban to all single-use plastics.
The assessment was commissioned by the Malawi Government with support from UNDP and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust.