South Africa’s plastic bags dubbed ‘national flowers’

3rd July 2009 By: Beth Shirley

Internet-based facts and figures organisation Reusable Bags reports that, in South Africa, plastic bags have been dubbed 
‘national flowers’, because so many can be seen flapping from fences and caught in bushes.

Reusable Bags reports on countries adapting to plastic bag legislation, and focuses on facts and figures associated with worldwide trends in reducing and recycling plastic bags.

However, efforts have been made by the South African government to reduce the use of plastic bags. Negotiations led to a plastic bag tax in May 2003, which is paid by manufacturers 
and passed onto consumers. Efforts continue in recycling, 
reducing and reusing plastic bags.

Meanwhile, the Kenyan government, in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme, issued a report in 2005 which suggested that Kenya ban the common plastic bag that consumers received at grocery stores, and place a levy on other plastic bags. This was aimed at
tackling the country’s environmental challenges resulting from the use of plastic bags.

Reusable Bags reports that Tanzania has been the most 
aggressive African country in the fight against the use of plastic 
bags. In 2006, Tanzanian vice-president Ali Mohamed Shein declared a ban on all plastic bags.

In 2007, Kenya and Uganda implemented less severe restrictions, which prohibited the manufacturing and use of thinner plastic bags and imposed levies on thicker ones. Kenyan Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai urged shoppers to carry baskets instead of bags.

However, 48-million plastic bags are produced in Kenya each year, and plastics manu-
facturers have not bowed to 
political pressure. Further, people 
have been slow in adopting the use of recycled and reusable bags.

Ireland was consuming 1,2-billion plastic shopping bags every year, before introducing the PlasTax in 2003. Since the 
introduction of this tax, which is about $15 a bag, consumption has plummeted to 90%. The $9,6-million raised from the tax in the first year was put into a green fund to benefit the environment.

Ireland believes that its PlasTax has been extremely effective as there was a 95% reduction in the consumption of plastic bags in 2005. The amount of plastic being sent to Irish landfills has been reduced dramatically and 
18 000 ℓ of oil have also been saved.

Exemptions from this tax 
include heavyweight reusable plastic bags; bags used for meat, fish or poultry; bags for unpackaged produce bags; and ice.

Meanwhile, Taiwan introduced a ban on the distribution of free 
single-use plastic bags by government agencies, schools and the military, in 2001. Subsequently, the ban was extended to 
include supermarkets, fast food outlets and department stores. Disposable cutlery and dishes are also prohibited. The plastic bag industry lobbied against the ban, but it was, nonetheless,
implemented.

However, in 2006, Taiwan lifted the ban and now free plastic bags can be offered by food ser-
vice operators.

In the US, San Francisco banned plastic bags in 2007. The city hopes that its legislation will be a model for other US cities.

In Bangladesh, an outright ban was implemented on all poly-
ethylene bags in the capital of Dhaka, in 2002. This was the result of findings indicating these bags were responsible for the floods of 1998, which submerged two-thirds of the country. The discarded bags choked the drainage system. After the ban on poly-
thene bags, the country saw the revival of the jute bag. Jute grows abundantly in Bangladesh and 
requires a lot less energy to pro-
cess compared with the processing of polythene.

In 2006, Jute bags started making inroads into the Australian market.