BEMA, Somarelogo Tikologo slam ban on plastic carrier bags

Keikantse Lesemela
Tuesday, 27 March 2018
Mmantlha Sankoloba,BEMA CEO Mmantlha Sankoloba,BEMA CEO

Executive Director of Somarelang Tikologo, Boniface Olubayo and Mmantlha Sankoloba, Chief Executive of Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA), have slammed the ban on plastic carrier bags as “impulsive” and counterproductive. 

For Olubayo, the decision by Tshekedi Khama’s ministry is harsh, considering that it’s not based on any empirical evidence on the effects of plastics on the environment specifically in Botswana. 

“A research on the current actual negative impact of plastic carrier bags to the environment in Botswana needs to be undertaken and documented for reference purposes,” said Oluban, querying the “short notice” attending the ban on plastic shopping carrier bags.

Instead of banning plastic carrier bags, he says there is need for an “All Plastic Recycling Plant” to recycle plastic waste because there are other forms of plastic waste including used water bottles, soft drink bottles, broken plastic chairs/tables and polystyrene waste among others that are still environmental hazards ultimately. 

The recycling plant would create more employment and provide other products for use. “It is therefore our opinion that this ban be postponed to allow for wide consultations with all the stakeholders (including the general public) for a more agreeable and sustainable decision to be implemented,” said Olubayo.

Meanwhile, in 1997, Somarelang Tikologo organised a workshop on “Plastic Bags” that brought together government officials, NGOs, consumers, plastic manufactures and retailers. The convenor of the workshop was Mokgweetsi Masisi, then Patron of the environmental NGO, Somarelang Tikologo.  The final product of the workshop was the “plastic carrier bag policy” that was prepared by Somarelang Tikologo and presented to the relevant Ministry for detailed scrutiny and presentation to Parliament in 2007. 

The policy was to regulate the manufacturer distribution, use and disposal of carrier plastics through imposition of the plastic levy. The levy was meant to be collected by the government and support environmental conservation initiatives.

Currently there are more than 40 countries that have banned, partly banned or taxed single use plastic bags, including China, France, Rwanda, Kenya and Italy. 

As for BEMA’s Chief Executive, Sankoloba they feel althpugh they cannot at this stage reverse the ban, it could have at least been delayed reasonably to allow those directly affected to wrap up business, transform and or expand their export market base (South Africa remains the only export destination currently). 

The ban, she says, is detrimental to the manufacturing sector since hundreds of jobs are bound to be lost and more relocation of companies to other countries should be anticipated. “We have already lost one packaging companies to South Africa. In general, our manufacturing sector is extremely fragile, while the government relieves it of certain industries, such as the plastic manufacturing industry, there should be some “developmental mechanisms” to boost private sectors competitiveness for the export arena”, she said.

Sankoloba explained that the investment made abroad by Botswana in domestic enterprises and foreign investors in the manufacturing sector is highly compromised by this impulsive ban. “Now the question arises as to what sort of public apparatus is needed to enhance exports and mobilise private sector investment in Botswana? 

“When we as BEMA and other private sector representative bodies were  not consulted formally on this development,” said Sankoloba adding that the public sector is usually haste to impose bans and suspensions but the government hardly designs them in a way that it can meet the intended objective.

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