Paying for plastic

All supermarkets, shops and stores along the central coast – from Henties Bay to Walvis Bay – have been charging a fee for disposable plastic bags since 1 May this year. While the fee is voluntary and not a legal obligation, one chain store has made payment for plastic bags...

09 June 2019 | Environment

Swakopmund • Erwin Leuschner

When it comes to consuming and taking control of disposable plastic bags in Namibia, the three towns along the central coast are far ahead of the rest of the country. This is mainly thanks to the Otto-Herrigel Environmental Trust (OHET). “The trust is doing a fantastic job and has paved the way for the rest of the country,” says Clive Lawrence, head of the Swakopmund municipal health department.

Since December 2018, all supermarkets in Swakopmund have been charging a small fee for plastic bags at their respective cash registers. “About three months after the launch of this initiative, most supermarkets have already reported using 80% less plastic bags,” a representative of the OHET said.

Thanks to the success in Swakopmund, shops in the neighbouring towns of Henties Bay and Walvis Bay were also asked to introduce a fee, which became a reality on 1 May.

Unfortunately, according to Lawrence there is currently no control over the money that is made through the sale of disposable plastic bags.

The Swakopmund town council had issued a city ordinance stating that revenue should be paid into a dedicated environmental account. “In reality though, nationwide legislation on plastic bags is currently being worked out, so implementing our regulation is on hold,” Lawrence said.

Because of this, the introduction of the levies on plastic bags continues to be voluntary. “Some supermarkets donate the money to welfare organisations. However, that was not the idea. We just wanted to use the money for environmental projects,” Lawrence added.

However, this will be corrected by the coming nationwide legislation, which is currently being discussed by a forum which consists of various stakeholders. At this stage however, it is not known when the legislation will come into force.

In the meantime, the trust is calling on all business owners across the country to charge N$1 per plastic page.

“Every business owner has the right to charge a fee. It’s all up to you,” the trust said.

This would be a big step forward for Namibia’s environment. In addition, many people would benefit in the long term from the donations.

On the bandwagon

In a recent media statement, Pick n Pay (PnP) Namibia announced that they have begun charging 50c per plastic bag at all stores across the country.

This is part of the company’s “Plastic or Planet” campaign aimed at encouraging the responsible use of plastic, from which the decision to charge for plastic bags was born.

PnP Namibia’s Marketing Manager, Victoria Möller, said that they are aware that plastic has a critical purpose in various industries. “It is not the plastic as such that is the problem, but rather the behaviour of us humans with regards to the use and treatment of plastic that has led to the unfortunate impact it has on the planet today.”

She said that charging for plastic carrier bags has proven to increase awareness amongst users and that PnP Namibia felt that it is crucial play their part in raising awareness and sustaining the environment.

Möller encouraged customers to opt for the re-usable grocery shopping bag that are also available for purchase at any PnP store. A thicker, stronger carrier bag (thicker than the current 25 microns) which can be used more than once, will also be introduced at all PnP stores.

She said that a portion of the 50c paid for plastic bags by customers would be donated to the Recycle Namibia Forum (RNF) in support of its educational awareness campaigns to promote the Reducing, Reusing and Recycling (the 3R’s) programs and activities.

According to RNF coordinator, Anita Witt, they are most appreciative of Pick n Pay Namibia’s ongoing support and for becoming the first retailer in Namibia to charge for plastic carrier bags.

“Our relationship started a few years ago when PnP linked up with the RNF in its Bag to Nature campaign, which promoted the use of reusable PnP shopping bags instead of one way plastic bags. The uptake in reusable shopping bags has been tremendous, however we believe that it is time to take the awareness raising to the next level.”

Another chain store that has joined the action, is Woermann Brock that has undertaken to deposit 50% of the income generated from plastic carrier bag sales to their We Care Trust.

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