The Minister of Land and Environment, Ivete Maibaze, revealed on 13 June that 100,000 tonnes of plastic waste are annually discarded into the environment, polluting the country's rivers and oceans. Maibaze, who was speaking in Maputo at a seminar on the impact of a plastic bag ban, pointed out that "of this amount, 17,000 tonnes go into rivers and oceans."
She lamented that the polymers used in the production of disposable plastics are not biodegradable and on average only begin to decompose after 500 years. In addition, she warned that there was a health risk posed by the contamination of hot food and drinks packaged in plastics that may contain chemicals such as Benzene and Stellin.
The minister, citing 2018 data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, stated that in Mozambique the average plastic waste produced is 6.1 kilogrammes per capita per year, a level far below the world average of 29 kg per capita per year.
"However, Mozambique's waste collection rate is 30 per cent and the collected plastic waste is improperly disposed of in open dumpsites, with only a small amount is recycled", the minister explained.
Maibaze also noted that the negative impacts caused by the proliferation of plastic bags include the clogging of drainage ditches, urban flooding, the emergence of diseases, and the loss of marine and terrestrial fauna. In addition, "the burning of plastic causes air pollution through the emission of gases that, when inhaled, are harmful to human health and other living beings".
For his part, the conservation manager at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Mozambique, Rodrigo Fernandez, stated that in 1990 the world production of plastic was 150 million tonnes per year and today, 32 years later, this has risen to 308 million tonnes per year. He added that only 75 per cent of all plastic produced throughout history is recyclable. "We are talking about 6,200 million tonnes of plastic waste. And it is estimated that one-third of the plastic produced annually reaches nature as pollution. In the specific case of the oceans, there are about 150 million tonnes accumulated in the marine environment", he said.
Fernandez noted that the absence of a systemic and effective response to this problem threatens economic and sustainable growth and has direct consequences on the environment, wildlife species and people. "We, therefore, call on all governments to set national targets for plastic reduction, recycling, and management and to adopt legal and appropriate instruments to encourage innovation and viable alternatives to plastics".
Mozambique has already taken some steps in this direction. A law of 2015 banned the use of ultra-thin (less than 30 micrometres) plastic bags, with a few exceptions. Shops were banned from distributing free plastic bags to their customers. When shoppers had to pay for their plastic bags, they tended to use them more than once, and, in the best cases, opted for bags made of other materials.