The discussions on the pros and cons of the ban have only been had between The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, NEMA and Manufacturers.
However, they have excluded some of the biggest and most important users of the plastic bags who are the businesses in the informal sector that cater to the mass population – the entrepreneurs, vendors and consumers of these goods in the city, estates and rural areas.
Definition of Primary Packaging: Any packaging that is in direct contact with the product inside.
Definition of Secondary Packaging: any packaging that is not in contact with product and is used as a mean to carry items from one place to another.
NEMA have said all primary industrial packaging is exempted from the Ban. This means any industry packing or repackaging products are allowed to use plastic packaging as long as it is in direct contact with the product.
NEMA also recognizes that there is no alternative to plastic to safeguard the shelf life freshness and contamination factor for these items.
However, where they have exempted the industrial and large cooperation they have banned the flat bags for the informal sector industries who are using primary packaging for the same purpose as industries.
They too pack and repack their products in accordance to consumption, freshness, contamination and longer shelf life but are not allowed.
Let us take the example of the value chain from the farmer to the industrial packers and the public market down to the consumer.
Meaning the price of vegetables (kale) will remain the same in major supermarkets, however, the vendors and entrepreneurs in the informal sector will not be able to pack in plastic primary flat bags to ensure freshness hygene and longer shelf life for their products.
They will have to increase the cost of their goods and most of them will shut down their businesses.
*As much as Primary Plastic Packaging will be allowed, manufacturers can only supply directly to the industrial packers and NOT the farmer. So how will the farmers package their produce?
Example 2 :
Another Example is that of Meats. The Industrial meat producers will be exempt from the ban in their primary packaging but not the small butcheries found in the CBD and in the estates
This means larger cooperation’s will continue to pack and distribute meats in plastic packaging.
However the small butcheries (the masses) have to look for alternative primary packaging as it is still in contact with the meat to achieve the same freshness, hygene and longer shelf life as the big cooperation will not be able to use primary plastic packaging. This will make them raise their cost.
Bakers who bake from their homes to sell and those in cottage industries will have to shut down their businesses. Cost of alternative packaging means increasing the cost of their goods and this will be unsustainable especially if unfairly competing with supermarkets.
In all these examples, the “ban on plastic primary packaging” is only applicable to the aspiring, cottage and informal sector while the larger industries and cooperation’s using the plastic primary packaging for the same purpose have been exempted.
The Industries have been exempted as they have proven that there is no application besides plastic that will achieve longer shelf life, freshness and cost effectiveness as plastic.
This type of inconsistency on the gazette notice and the definitions by NEMA are applicable from fertilizer, animal feed agro chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
A 25kg bag cannot be repacked into smaller bags for the consumer needs by a small shop or kiosk. However, the industries are able to import and repack in smaller packaging. Most of these items need a plastic application to sell the item.