PLASTIC bags have been used for decades now in Tanzania. It is with no doubt that most millennials have found these bags in use and circulation. These bags are thin in size and are therefore portable. They come in heavy and light weight types, traditionally made of polyethylene materials.
The kicker comes in when these bags prove to be degrading the environment at an alarming rate. Oceans and other water sources tend to be clogged with used plastic bags endangering aquatic life. A permanent solution to curb this type of environmental degradation is thus required.
Urban centres collect and dispose of tonnes of waste everyday and a huge portion of the waste materials is of plastic bags. Plastic bags bring several concerns to the longevity of the natural and built environment. Due to the fact that these bags are available across the country, they tend to end up in several places and in a haphazard manner within our built environment.
Plastic bags are used by every minute in the major cities including Tanga, Mwanza , Arusha and Dar es Salaam, Morogoro etc because of business interaction which prompts high demand for packaging materials. Randomly discarded plastic materials end up in sewage systems clogging free movement of sludge and water within our built environment.
This can be witnessed mostly in rainy seasons where drainage and sewage systems fail to operate. Landfills and disposal points tend to feature a high quantity of plastic bags. According to scientific and environmental studies it would take approximately 500-1000 years for a plastic bag to be degraded, hence most of the materials degraded are harmful to the soil composition in the ground, leaving an ecological peril in its wake.
It is estimated that more than a million barrels of oil are used in the production of plastic materials bottles and bags inclusively, thus plastic bags are made out of a very environmental degrading process and materials. Sadly, hot food stuff is packed in them and sometimes consumed in them daily, but health experts have appealed for people to be wary of storing food in plastic bags.
The natural environment is also prone to degradation from plastic bags discarded by travelers, hikers, picnickers and locals living within quiet and still natural environment. Numerous cases have been raised regarding using plastic materials and discarding them outside on land and overboard in oceans, lakes, rivers and streams. Wild and domesticated animals have been witnessed to get choked to death when they consume these bags scattered within their niche and grazing lands.
Our soils are also open to degradation because plastic bags don't break down easily, they tend to last long in the ground making soil infertile. Plastic bags detrimental effects manifest also in air pollution, when plastic bags are burned in landfills they release very harmful smokes with extreme health risks to human beings.
Zeroing down to growing cities such as Tanga and Mwanza with hawkers and street side sellers, plastic bags are used in a huge quantity every day due to the constant flow of these harmful bags in the market. Despite the harm it poses a plastic bag is still produced, supplied, sold and used across Tanzania.
The government under the Vice President's office, Union and Environment Affairs has taken note on the necessity of banning plastic bags which aligns with the national environmental laws, but with a keen eye towards sustaining the economic factors underpinning these factories and it's labor force.
Hence shutting down the factories in realization of the ban with no adequate substitute into the lucrative plastic bags production would cripple taxes collection to the government and income generation to both producers and workers in the country.
Narrowing down the narrative to the real people affected by plastic bags, various ideas emerge from consumers and users on daily basis.
Gathering people's thoughts, I managed to meet a customer who shared his thoughts on plastic bags usage, he cited "plastic bags make plants die if they leach into the soil they affect it and make it infertile, also when discarded they don't degrade until burnt now that is problem".
However, fruits, snacks and fast food vendors, kiosk keepers, hawkers, department store workers and midsize shopkeepers, are found at the core of this problem, as they are the ones circulating the bags into people's hands from wholesalers.
Rob, a young shopkeepers in Ubungo Dar es salaam insists that " I have not been aware on the perils of plastic bags discarded into the environment by any authority, but I can figure out plastic bags effects to the environment, land pollution is one of them".
By assessing Rob and his other two business competitors 10 meters away, it came to the realization that they use more than 40 pieces of plastic bags, which comes in a bundle and packed in a huge sack containing more than 40 bundles bought from wholesalers.