Namibia: Plastic Bags Use Charge for Coastal Towns

Supermarkets at Walvis Bay and Henties Bay will as from tomorrow start charging a voluntary fee for plastic bags as a means of deterring their use. All proceeds from the sales will go to local charities such as old-age homes, orphanages and farmers' drought relief programmes.

The Otto Herrigel Environment Trust initiated the programme, and it initially started at Swakopmund last year, where it led a successful introduction of a fee for plastic bags at major supermarkets there.

The trust's Angela Burrel said the initiative has been such a success that the shops from the other coastal towns agreed to follow suit.

"Swakopmund retailers reported figures of up to an 80% reduction on plastic bags being taken away. We hope that soon, no more plastic bags will end up in the sea or fly around in the desert," added Burrel, calling on retailers across Namibia to charge a dollar per bag for the "sake of Namibia's environment and the benefit of the people".

The trust spearheaded the initiative in 2017 to have a municipal by-law in place to ban the single-use plastic bags given away for free at supermarkets.

The by-law is yet to come into effect.

Plastic bags are blown far into the environment by the prevailing coastal winds, not only causing an eyesore, but also threatening animals and plants.

The trust was formed in 2016 with its initial aim to eradicate plastic bags from the environment at the coast, especially around Swakopmund.

A national ban on the use of plastic bags in game parks and national reserves came into effect late last year. A person who contravenes this ban is liable to a fine not exceeding N$500, or to imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both.

The ban makes provision for some exceptions, such as that a person may enter a game park or nature reserve with plastic bags which are designed to be used for the disposal of waste, intended for agricultural purposes, and/or used for sampling or analysis.

Other plastic materials allowed into parks include transparent resealable bags and plastic bags which were sealed before the sale in the local market, or for export.

The amendment to the law restricting the use of plastic bags in national parks was approved last year in the National Assembly.

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