By Cheruto Valentine

The government of Tanzania has imposed a ban on the use of plastic carrier bags to be effected from June 1st this year, prohibiting the import, export, manufacture, sale and supply of these bags within mainland Tanzania. This is an attempt by the government to promote and protect the environment from degradation caused by disposing of plastic waste.

Any travellers intending to visit the Tanzania have been advised to avoid carrying plastic carrier bags or packaging carrier bags or items in plastic carrier bags in the suitcase or hand luggage before embarking on a visit to the East African country.

However, not all plastic bags are prohibited. In the statement released from the office of the Vice President titled: “Notice to Travelers Planning to Visit Tanzania,” some plastic carriers were exempted from the ban due to their uses.

“Plastic or plastic packaging for medical services, industrial products, construction industry, agricultural sector, foodstuff, sanitary and waste management are not prohibited,” the statement read.

In addition to the above, Ziploc bags which are used specifically for carrying toiletries are also exempted from the ban. This is because they are expected to remain in the permanent possession of the visitors throughout their stay in the country and are therefore not expected to be disposed in the country.

The statement also reveals that the government will designate special desks at all entry points where such banned plastic materials will be surrendered.

This ban was an unsurprising act because the government had forewarned the country of its intentions. In August 2016, the government had warned plastic bag manufacturers to diversify their line of business ahead of the full implementation of plastic ban.

In addition, Tanzania’s Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa, in his speech last month in the National Parliament made it clear that polythene bags will no longer be used for commercial purposes or household packaging. During the budget session where Majaliwa addressed the lawmakers in the capital, Dodoma, the Prime Minister warned producers and suppliers to dispose of their stocks of polythene bags.

“The government does not intend for visitors to Tanzania to find their stay unpleasant as we enforce the ban. However, the government expects that, in appreciation of the imperative to protect the environment and keep our country clean and beautiful, our visitors will accept minor inconveniences resulting from this plastic bags ban,” the statement reads in part.

Tanzania has now joined more than 40 other countries around the world that have banned, restricted or taxed the use of plastic bags. Such countries include France, Italy and China.

It has also joined about 13 other African countries that have either banned or introduced a levy on plastic bags to control and eventually stop its use. These countries include Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda. Rwanda is one of the pioneer countries in Africa that banned the use of plastic bags 10 years ago in an attempt to mitigate the effects of plastic bags waste.