By Jade McClune at Walvis Bay
WHAT appears on the surface to be a minor by-law to regulate and reduce the use of plastic bags at Namibia’s favourite holiday spot, Swakopmund, on closer inspection may prove to be a crucial move to protect the coastal environment.
Following widespread consultations over the past year, Swakopmund Town Council is now forging ahead with plans to gazette and impose a compulsory levy on the use of non-bio-degradable plastic bags: the Levy on Single Use Plastic Bags (LSUPB).
The new regulatory policy introducing the levy within the town was in principle approved last year October, following submissions by the Otto Herrigel Environmental Trust. Council this month initiated an awareness campaign ahead of the publication of the new by-law, which would be a first in Namibia.
The money collected through the new levy and other donations would be held in the municipality’s new Environment Fund and would be used to finance cleaning, recycling and other projects in an effort to create jobs and ensure environmental stewardship.
Earlier this month, health services general manager Clive Lawrence said the move is aimed in the long term at eliminating the use of harmful plastic bags, but the medium-term goal is to reduce the use of such bags. He said the change would also offer business opportunities for people to consider joint-venture projects to produce bio-degradable bags, for example.
The scale of the environmental problem became clear during a consultative meeting in October last year, when Jaco Venter of Plastic Packaging Namibia reported that Swakopmund uses about 25 million disposable plastic bags every year – more than 2 million bags a month, most of which end up in the desert, on the beaches or in the ocean, and so enter the food chain.
It is estimated that consumers globally use around 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year, about a million bags every minute, or 150 bags a year for every person on earth and that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the sea, of which 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer have sunk into the deep blue sea.
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