By Bahle Gama
The Eswatini Consumers Forum Chairperson Mandla Ntshakala believes that the Plastic Levy has arrived in time to curb environmental-related problems in the country and further encourage buying of reusable bags.
The levy is expected to come into effect on September 1 which is a result of the promulgation of the Control Plastic Bags Regulations implemented on May 21, 2021. According to the Eswatini Environmental Authority (EEA), plastic bags shall be levied as per Regulation 8 of the Control of Plastic Bags Regulations, 2021. Twenty-four litres of plastic bags with a plastic film of less than 30 microns shall be levied at 25 cents per plastic bag. Twenty-four litres of plastic bags with a plastic film above 30 microns shall be levied at 35 cents per plastic bag and a packet of 20 refuse or waste bags shall be levied at 35 cents per packet.
In an interview, Ntshakala expressed that the EEA engaged stakeholders including the Forum and discussed the need to curb single- use plastics in the country for the benefit of the environment. “We fully supported that plastics are a problem in the country, and we needed them to be controlled and the reason they spread begins in shops. We figured that retailers would be generating more income through these plastics, and we suggested that part of the money made should benefit the EEA the most, so it executes its duty of controlling other related issues, hence the levy,” he stated. Ntshakala stated that the Forum noted how plastics were being discarded carelessly because once they were out of the shops, they were found anywhere, from the side of the road to grazing land to the ocean, something which needed to be curbed immediately.
Eswatini Environment Authority (EEA) Environmental Information Officer Belusile Mhlanga disclosed that the levy which was passed by Cabinet would allow for the regulation of single-use plastic bags by retailers to protect the environment. According to Mhlanga, plastic bags may not be manufactured or imported in the country except only by the conditions of an import and manufacturer licence issued by the Authority in line with sub-regulation 4 (1) of the Regulations. On November 25, 2020, EEA in collaboration with Acc. Lab and the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs launched the Phatsa Sakho Nawe campaign which sought to address the reduction in the distribution of single-use plastic carry bags by major food retail outlets during the festive season, raise awareness of the
adverse effects of single-use plastic bags on the natural environment and encourage the sale and use of multiple use carry bags to be possibly sourced from local textile MSMEs. The intention was and continues to influence the passing of the Plastic Bag Regulations Bill in Parliament which advocated for the introduction of the plastic bag levy with an option to completely ban single-use plastics.