As a planet, we have produced around 9 billion tonnes of plastic worldwide, but only nine percent has been recycled. Some of the problem is a lack of logistical sophistication in the recycling systems, and much of it is societal, but according to a report by the United Nations, the widespread production and consumption of single-use, non-biodegradable plastic is among the world’s greatest environmental challenges.
These plastics, often in the form of plastic grocery bags, drift on the wind, usually winding up in the ocean, pooling in great ‘reservoirs’ of polluted water, collecting in the sand on beaches, and causing significant damage to wildlife populations. It is estimated that the total weight of plastics in the ocean will soon exceed the total weight of the fish. It is a problem getting more difficult to ignore.
So far, more than sixty countries have taken a stance to eliminate or reduce the use of these plastics – and Tanzania has just joined their ranks.
What it Covers
Single-use plastics are used for a variety of purposes, the most common of which are plastic grocery bags and common food product packaging. Most straws, coffee stirrers, and many soda and water bottles are also single-use.
It is as yet unclear what will be covered by Tanzania’s new rules, but January Makamba, Tanzania’s Environment Minister, has stated to their Parliament that the regulations are ready for publication and should be released by the 1st of July, 2019. A formal announcement on the ban of single-use plastic bags is planned for late May.
How it Impacts Tourism
The impact on tourists varies from country to country. The most serious consequences occur in Kenya, Tanzania’s neighbour to the northeast, where even carrying a single plastic bag can result in a mandated sentence of up to four years in prison or a fine of £31,000 – they are not playing around. As a neighbouring country, it is speculated that Tanzania’s new laws will be of similar severity and coverage.
The most obvious impact to tourism, is that travellers to Tanzania (or other states with similar laws) are not allowed to bring in single-use plastics, and may face charges if they do. Items like Ziploc bags for carrying toiletries and personal items in cabin luggage, plastic bags for laundry, or for items purchased on the concourse prior to the flight, even items like disposable razors may come under the ban.
Some have warned of less obvious impacts that will affect the populations of these countries to a severe degree. Loss of jobs and economic momentum are among the top arguments against the move. Some say the act will cost more than 30 million USD for recycling technologies, up to 60,000 lost jobs, and untold losses in revenue due to higher production and running costs.
Such costs would obviously impact local economies, affect prices and availability of certain products and services, and could potentially change the experience for tourists with an upsurge in poverty, homelessness and public begging.
It should be noted, however, that few concrete numbers have been offered to back up these claims, and it may be a situation in which employment opportunities shift from one sector to another, rather than a loss of the jobs altogether.
The ban covers a wide range of products and an even wider range of packaging. Some items, however, have been noted as exempt from the ban.
Exempt items include plastic components or plastic packaging for medical products necessary to the health and wellbeing of the carrier. That means that syringes and similar single-use items will be allowed. Certain construction- and agriculture-related items and packaging are also exempt, but these are of less immediate concern to tourists and most business travellers.
More Laws to Come
Tanzania is not the only newcomer to this trend, though several of the 60+ countries currently enforcing laws against single-use plastics are members of the European Union, the EU as a whole has not implemented laws against its use – yet. It has, however voted to do so for all EU member states, effective in 2021. Further phases of the campaign against wasteful plastics are planned for 2025 (increased use of recycled plastics in bottles) and 2029 (90% of all plastic bottles must be recycled).
If the UK is still a part of the EU, or still negotiating a Brexit deal, then those laws will be in effect here as well. If Brexit has occurred, it is still possible that similar laws would be put on the books independently by the UK.
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