GRN to introduce levy on plastic bags

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and Edgar Brandt

Windhoek

In an attempt to curb littering in Namibia, government plans to introduce a charge on plastic bags and other legal instruments to encourage businesses and consumers to reduce litter.

Namibia’s Environmental Commissioner Teofilius Nghitila on Wednesday said the ministry is considering introducing environmental levies. “If you go into the big retail shops, the provision is there at the tills to charge a fee for plastic bags. Now instead of banning plastic bags completely, we have to charge and re-invest that fee into the environmental awareness we are embarking on,” he argued.

He said some of the complaints are due to a lack of awareness, hence there is a need for joint efforts from all stakeholders.

“The brown environment (waste management) is a leading employer in other countries. Business people can tap into this venture and exploit it properly to ensure it also receives attention like the green sector, but littering attracts fines.

“Those who are found littering, especially this coming holidays at the coast will be fined,” he threatened.
He said customers will be asked before paying the fee whether they brought their own carton, bio-degradable bag or if they want to buy the plastic bags.

Further, he said such fees have to go through all the legal processes, such as drafters before it can be gazetted into law.
“Consultation has been completed and now we are at the final stages with the minister of finance; after that we move it forward. We will use all possible measures in the pipeline and many others,” he noted.
Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism Tommy Nambahu encouraged people to use recyclable materials and to move away from producing or using plastic bags.

He said in other countries people are charged, or plastic bags are totally banned. “We want awareness to be created so people get the culture of cleanliness. We don’t want visitors to say ‘Namibia is beautiful, but dirty’.
“I was watching a documentary a few days ago about well-dressed gentlemen from one of the French-speaking countries. They even apparently go and borrow money to dress in expensive clothes. They were walking on a pile of litter where they live, but they were so well-dressed and clean.” The situation was deplorable, he said.
He said government is not there to punish people, but first wants to create awareness so that people learn how to take care of the environment.

He said so many animals die due to eating plastic bags that are lying around. Nambahu further warned against those who say “I’m littering because I’m creating employment”.
“You are littering Namibia, your environment, and you think you are doing the right thing. These are the things we are discouraging and everyone has to condemn these practices. If you are found littering and you do it on purpose, we have to have ways to deal with you,” he warned.

Equally, he said long distance bus drivers will need to have garbage bags on their buses to avoid passengers throwing rubbish outside.
Meanwhile, managing director of Pick n Pay Namibia Norbert Wurm, commented that more than levies need to be introduced to prevent littering.

Wurm noted that as part of the O&L Group, Pick n Pay is a member of the Recycle Namibia Forum (RNF), which strives to make Namibia the country in Africa with the highest success rate in the 3R’s (Reducing, Reusing and Recycling).

Wurm noted that one of the challenges facing the country is that collection and containment systems for recyclables are not widely available to provide consumers with easy access to ensure their post-consumption waste enters the recycling value chain.

“Therefore, even if there is a heightened awareness of the why, the practical situation often acts as an inhibitor in delivering the desired change in behaviour.

“Levies alone do not address the need to change attitude and behaviour and this is evidenced in countries, like South Africa, where levies on plastic bags have not been effective in curbing littering,” said Wurm.
He further noted that Pick n Pay Namibia is now promoting the use of cloth bags and is working with the RNF to raise awareness amongst consumers as to why and how they can help look after the environment.

He added that N$1 of each cloth bag sold will go directly to the RNF to support their awareness-raising initiatives and systems, such as the Schools Recycling Competition, which saw Namibian schools recycling more than 180 tonnes last year.

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