Despite a government directive stopping usage and importation of plastic bags with a thickness of less than 60 micro centimetres some vendors and shops in Lilongwe are still selling the product with reckless abandon.
Recently government placed adverts in the media which hinted that selling of thin plastic bags after August 8 would be illegal.
However, random visits to some parts of Lilongwe revealed that while some shops like Peoples, Chipiku, Shoprite, Sana and Game Stores have stopped issuing free thin plastic bags to customers, vendors are still selling the products.
Some vendors said in an interview that they are not yet ready to stop the selling of the bags because that is the source of their livelihood.
“Yes, we heard that they want to stop the selling of thin bags but that will mean we will be put out of business. I am a married man with three children and I survive through selling the plastic bags so once we are stopped then that is the end of me,” said Patrick Vileso a vendor at Tsoka Flea Market.
A woman who only identified herself as Nabanda and sells plastic bags at a shop at Tsoka Market said her boss told her to continue selling the bags because the directive has just come into effect.
“My boss has told me to continue selling the bags until such a time we finish the consignment that was already manufactured and after that we will be selling the thick bags as directed by government,” she said.
But Nabanda said vendors will have problems selling the thick bags because customers will end up using the same bag for a very long time.
Surprisingly, while the vendors are freely selling the bags, Malawi Bureau of Standards officials on Monday confiscated a consignment of plastic bags from Sana so that they are not given to customers.
Sana Cash and Carry managing director Rauf Chaudrey confirmed the incident, saying they have since stopped giving out free bags.
“It is true that we have been stopped from giving out thin plastic bags. What we were told was that 30 microns bags are not good and we should be using those that have 60 microns because they are environmentally friendly. Now we will be charging all the plastic bags and customers must bear with us because the 60 microns bags are expensive,” said Chaudrey.
Efforts to talk to Malawi Bureau of Standards Director General Devlin Chokazinga proved futile as he was allegedly in transit to Blantyre from Lilongwe.
According to an earlier statement from government, thin plastics bags are difficult to dispose of as they do not easily decompose.
Due to this most people resort to the hazardous practice of open burning and this results in the release of dioxins and furans into air contributing to the rising cases of cancer in the country.