Malawi: Supreme Court of Malawi Bans Thin Plastic Production

A single use plastic bag floating through the water.

Environmentalists in the country are celebrating having won the battle of thin plastic production ban following a landmark Supreme Court ruling.

Malawi environmentalists happy with thin plastic ban

The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by plastic manufacturers who said they were not properly consulted on the implications of the ban and the harm it would do to their businesses.

But the Supreme Court said the plastic manufacturers were given sufficient warning time to prepare for the stop on the plastic production.

The court's decision makes production of thin plastics under 60 microns in thickness illegal with immediate effect.

Manufacturers who disobey the order face fines, closure of factories and seizure of their products.

In June 2015, the government effected a ban on thin plastics of less than 60 microns, arguing that they pose a threat to the environment due to their delayed rate of decomposition.

But in January 2016, Aero Plastics Industries Ltd, Rainbow Plastics and twelve other companies, obtained an injunction against the implementation of the ban, arguing it infringed on their business rights.

They were also against the closing down of their factories and imposing fines on suspicion that they were manufacturing, distributing and or selling thin plastics.

The companies sought judicial review challenging the ban however the court upheld the ban on June 14, 2018.

Environmental experts argue that thin plastics pose serious risks to human beings when consumed indirectly through fish as they can lead to diseases such as cancer.

They say accumulated thin plastics go into rivers and lakes, thereby endangering aquatic life.

Plastic bags also tend to disrupt the environment in a serious way as they get into soil and slowly release toxic chemicals. They eventually break down into the soil, with the unfortunate result being that animals eat them and often choke and die.

Besides this, they take so many years to breaks down, with researchers estimating that they take up to 100 years to degrade.

The government effected the ban on plastics using the 1999 Environmental Regulation Act on the management and disposal of wastes.

At least 75, 000 tonnes of plastic is produced each year in Malawi of which 80 per cent is single-use plastic which cannot be recycled.

Malawi now joins 62 other countries who banned thin plastic production or use of single use plastics which cannot be recycled.

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