Environmentalists fear the African continent will be used as a dumping ground if they change stance against plastic waste.
In a Webinar by the Governing Plastics Network, organised by the University of Nairobi and the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, dubbed the Building Bridges meeting, countries were urged to come up with polices that ensure cycle-economy.
Africa is a world leader in outlawing plastic bags with 34 out of 54 countries having bans, or passed the legislation to ban single-use plastics.
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Already, oil and plastics companies are lobbying the United States to compel Kenya to change its position against plastic waste.
The request from the American Chemistry Council to the Office of the United States Trade Representative came as the US and Kenya negotiate what would be the first US bilateral trade deal with a country in sub-Saharan Africa.
Aime Tsinda from the University of Rwanda said the challenge that most African countries are facing is to put in place policy framework to ensure that industries operate under the principle of industrial symbiosis and cycle-economy.
“Some policies in plastic ban could greatly reduce plastic consumption,” Tsinda said.
Rwanda is one of the countries that has banned use of plastic bags. Last year the country moved to phase out single use of plastic bags.
He said plastics is top of the agenda for waste management and they have expressed concerns over the management of plastic waste.
“Reducing and recycling of plastic waste has been encouraged for years but not always effectively implemented in many years,” Tsinda said.
He noted that the government of Rwanda recently developed a national strategy for transformation and updated a national policy on environment and climate change, which was approved last year in June.
“All these show Rwanda's commitment towards recycle economy, which has also created opportunities for the private sector to invest in alternative packaging material,” he said.
Also, the emergence of Covid-19 has been occasioned by the incredible endorsement of single-use plastics, particularly those used in medical appliances.
The proponents of single-use plastics have continually made an argument for recycling as a mechanism to curb the pollution menace.
This is unsustainable because only about nine per cent of plastic waste gets recycled while 12 per cent is burnt. The remaining 79 per cent ends up in landfills or the environment.
Miriam Bomett from Kenya Association of Manufacturers noted that Kenya right now does not have the requisite infrastructure to recycle plastics, like many African countries.
Nicholas Oguge from the University of Nairobi said Kenya’s systems are not well structured and therefore most plastics end up in landfills or dumpsites, substantially polluting the environment in the process.
He noted that plastics are very important in the economy but at the same time a problem, as the materials they are made from makes them difficult to recycle.
‘We have set up a network that will look at plastics governing systems around the world and innovative approaches to the waste,” Oguge said.
Countries incorporated within the Governing Plastics Network include Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Malawi and Rwanda.