Are plastics good for the environment ?

Solid waste management is undoubtedly one of the most topical environmental challenges of our time. Approximately 1,65million tonnes of waste are produced annually in Zimbabwe, of which 18 percent is plastic. Plastic waste remains a challenging issue because of its non-biodegradable nature. Global statistics indicate that 10 percent of all human generated waste is plastic and 5 trillion plastic bags are used each year, hence the magnitude of this waste stream.

What are the dangers of plastics to the environment?

Plastic is a handy and potentially durable material, which makes it ideal for a number of commercial and household uses. It has become a substitute for many items which used to be made from other substances and, in many cases is extremely useful and convenient. However, it has many environmental downsides starting from production to disposal.

Plastic is a derivative of petroleum, natural gas or similar substances. They are transformed into a substance known as polymer resin, which is then shaped and formed into whatever object is desired. However, as a petroleum by-product, plastic production presents a major source of air and water pollution.

Huge volumes of plastics, especially plastic bags, end up in landfills. Besides the fact that available landfill space is becoming increasingly scarce, plastic poses problems for landfills because most plastic is not biodegradable, which means that it does not break down to its simple component parts. It remains in landfills indefinitely, posing a threat to animals and birds that frequently become tangled in plastic bags and plastic rings for soft drink cans, either choking or breaking their wings.

Plastics have the following setbacks:

They are produced in huge quantities, and are one of the products most commonly disposed in the environment;

Plastics have a slow rate of decomposition, and are very dangerous to sea life;

They are sources of “micro plastic” particles, which is vastly present in many marine areas around the world;

Plastics absorb high concentrations of the toxic substances in water, which can in turn be absorbed by living organisms;

They are one of the most easily reproduced plastic materials using biodegradable biopolymers;

They clog sewer reticulation systems resulting in constant sewer burst exposing communities to health risks such as cholera which is a feacal-oral transmitted disease through contaminated water or food. Cholera resulted in 3 deaths in 2017 while 2032 Typhoid cases were confirmed during the same period, a recurrence of it should be avoided at all costs;

They clog water reticulation systems resulting in constant bursts leading to excessive loss of treated water and water rationing;

They choke storm drains in most towns and cities resulting in flash floods and water pools conducive for mosquito breeding;

They lead to the death of livestock, every year domestic animals such as donkeys, cattle sheep and goats are killed after ingesting plastic bags.

What has Zimbabwe done?

In Zimbabwe, the manufacture for use within Zimbabwe, commercial distribution or importation of plastic packaging with a wall thickness of less than 30 micrometers is prohibited by Statutory Instrument 98 of 2010, Environmental Management (Plastic Packaging and Plastic Bottles) Regulations.

Similarly, the manufacture or importation of polystyrene for use or commercial distribution within Zimbabwe is prohibited is prohibited by Statutory Instrument 84 of 2012, Environmental Management, (Plastic Packaging and Plastic Bottles) (Amendment) Regulations.

In addition, the use of reusable shopping bags or baskets is greatly encouraged as opposed to using plastic bags upon every purchase.

Shopping bags and baskets have the following advantages:

They are stronger and re-usable;

Lead to a reduction of plastic waste in the ecosystem;

They sustain more goods at once;

Less is used leading to a reduction in the ecological footprint.

Our call as the Environmental Management Agency is for retailers to adopt non-plastic shopping bags or other bio-degradable alternatives because of their benefits. Consumers are also encouraged to adopt the same alternatives because we all have a duty to protect the environment. Upholding our right to live in a clean, safe and healthy environment comes with responsibility.

Where Else in the world has plastic been banned or controlled?

Rwanda — total ban; Kenya — total ban

Morocco — total ban

outh Africa – levy on plastic bags;

India — New Delhi — total ban on all forms of single use plastics.

France — total ban

Zero Tolerance to litter — Everyone’s Responsibility.



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