Tanzania leads the fight against plastic

In May this year Tanzania passed a law making the use of plastic bags an offence with a hefty fine or imprisonment. The law was implemented within a month, on 1 June, and the effect was immediate, with all stalls and shops using a new paper-based bag in varying sizes and colours.

Now as you walk through the streets of Tanzania there is not a black plastic bag in sight to be seen in the streets, which before would have been a common sight in the ditches, on the roads and in fact everywhere. These black bags were given to you in the market and from small roadside stalls selling fruit and veg, clothes and much more.

Tanzania, a country 81st in the UN GDP listing (the UK is fourth), has done this, and the people we spoke to were very much in favour and, poor though they are, pay a few pence extra for a paper-based bag which can be used time and time again.

As a wealthy western country, all our government has done is bring in a small charge on single-use bags which, while dramatically reducing their use, still does not address the problem completely. This pussyfooted decision is a reflection on our government’s priorities – no doubt largely influenced by aggressive commercial lobbying.

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