Kampala. The national environment watchdog, Nema, will with effect from tomorrow enforce a ban on the production and use of polythene bags locally knows as kaveera.
The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) announced yesterday that the implementation of the ban on polythene bags of less than 30 microns (mainly used for conveyance of goods and liquids) will be implemented with KCCA.
This means that traders, shopping malls, supermarkets, shops and markets will in effect pack the shoppers’ items in biodegradable material such as paper bags.
Other alternatives include craft/cloth bags, nylon bags which can be used many times and bags made from biodegradable materials.
According to earlier statement issued by Nema, “the economic, health and social costs of the continued use of Kaveera outweighs the economic benefits derived from the production of kaveera and its cost is reflected in the increasing cost of malaria, reduced agricultural productivity and infrastructure repairs.”
Nema spokesperson Naomi Karekaho told Daily Monitor that the implementation of the ban first announced during the Budget speech of 2009 was delayed due to uncoordinated directives from implementing government agencies.
Nema will begin with the ban on carrier bags usually given free by supermarkets and shops, Ms Karekaho said.
“We are starting with the supermarkets as we create more awareness among the public about the dangers of polythene bags and then resort to the law,” Ms Karekaho said at Nema offices in Kampala.
She explained that Nema is working with manufacturers of polythene bags to ensure there is no more supply as those in the market are phased out.
Ms Karekaho warned that anybody who will not comply with the directive will be arrested and their kaveera confiscated. She added that manufactures will be told to manufacture according to the agreed standards and ensure they recycle the polythene.
KCCA spokesperson Peter Kauju said they are aware about Nema’s stance “and we are going to work with all the concerned agencies to agree on enforcement.” “Environmental challenges in the city are real,” Mr Kaujju said.
According to Nema appropriately 39,600 tonnes of polythene waste is released into the environment and most of it accumulates in the soil each year in Uganda. Ordinary plastic bags and packaging can take up to 400 years to degrade when they are improperly discarded.
Former Finance minister Syda Bbumba imposed a ban on polythene bags of less than 30 microns that are used “for conveyance of goods and liquid in order to protect our environment” and an excise duty.
A moratorium of six months was given to the public as transition period that saw kaveera manufactures reducing the importation and manufacturer of the said bags but failure to implement the ban led to more importation and manufacture.
Recently, plastic manufacturers under their umbrella body; Uganda Plastics Manufacturers and Recyclers Association (UPMRA) petitioned President Museveni seeking to halt the ban on use of polythene bags saying their business does not impact greatly on the environment as claimed by Nema.
Uganda Manufacturers Association records show that the decision to ban kaveera will affect about 20 factories manufacturing polythene bags in Uganda.
Asked to comment about the implementation of the kaveera ban, Mr Ssebagala Kigozi, the executive director of Uganda Manufacturers Association, said Nema cannot “just issue directives without engaging stakeholders”. He said they will appeal to the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda today over the same.
“You cannot issue directives like that because manufacturers did not get licences from heaven and have been paying taxes there. Are they willing to compensate those whose factories are going to close?” Mr Sebaggala asked.
Ms Joseph Ssempala, a kaveera dealer in Kikuubo, said Nema should not target distributors’ first but rather the manufacturers.
“We know the danger of kaveeras but we sell them to survive. I wish Nema targets the importers and manufacturers and not us who already have our stocks,” he said.
Mr Ssebagala Kigozi, the executive director of Uganda Manufacturers Association, could not be reached for a comment as he was reportedly in a meeting.
Mr Bernard Mutua, the country manager Nakumatt Uganda, however, said they will support Nema in their efforts since protecting the environment is everyone’s responsibility.
First ban flopped
Former Finance minister Syda Bbumba in her 2009 Budget speech announced a total ban on the importation and production of all polythene materials arguing that they pause a danger to the environment and violate the citizens right to a clean environment. But close to six years, government has not implemented the ban after the business community protested the move. As such, the consumers continue to use and litter polythene bags, which are an environmental hazard, as they block drainage systems and degrade the soil by reducing the amount of water flowing into the earth. An excise duty of 120 per cent was also imposed on some plastic materials.