The 18 months transitional period given to businesses and the public to find suitable alternatives to using plastic packaging ends on April 23 2014 and the government has promised to move to the repressive stage to implement the ban.
Environment Minister Hele Pierre has been on a nationwide tour to sensitize stakeholders on the dangers of the fabrication, sale and distribution of plastic bags.
Mr Side Bare is the regional Delegate for Environment in the Littoral Region.
Doris Fankem Ebonkeng has been talking to him about the ban
Q. What are some of the factors that motivated this decision?
In conformity with the Prime Ministerial decree No 2012/2809/PM of September 26 2012 and the joint decision of the ministry of Environment and ministry of Commerce No 004 of October 2012 on the utilization of plastic packages ( non biodegradable and biodegradable) equal to or less than 60 microns was banned. The ban will take effect as from April 24 2014.However. plastic packages with thickness greater than 60 microns were not banned.
Q What are the factors that motivated this decision?
There are many factors. Environmentally speaking, these banned plastics pose a huge sanitation problem. They easily litter the environment, they can easily be carried by wind and blown into gutters and they can gradually formed heaps on the roads and pathways. This usually leads to blockages and contribute to floods in our urban areas. Also, when buried in the soil, they intercept with natural existing soil processes reaction, thereby negatively affecting soil fertility.
Health wise, when used as food packaging to wrap corn fufu, the heat from the food causes some disintegration of the hydro carbon content of plastic. This could poison our food and when we eat the contaminated food, we get exposed to all types of illnesses including cancer.
Also, when animals like goats eat these plastic, it could block their digestive system which could lead to death.
Q What alternative is the Cameroonian government giving to the public?
As alternatives to the use of these plastics, my ministry gave 18 months from when the law was promulgated in order to have all stake holders adhere to the demands of this law. During this period, serious sensitization was done.
The minister carried out several sensitization visits to different regions of the country and held question and answer sessions with importers local producers, distributors of plastic, NGOs, associations and civil societies organizations. Also, a team of the centralized service of the concerned ministries and civil society operating in the environmental sector are on the field, sensitizing the population on the dangers of plastic packaging.
Radio and TV programs were recorded and broadcast still to sensitize the public on this new measures adopted o protect public health. This sensitization period ends on April 23 and from April 24 2014, we will move to the repressive phase.
A mixed team made up of officials of the regional brigade, ministries of Environment and Commerce, representatives of the governor’s office, law enforcement officials will go out to make sure the law is respected.
All banned plastic packages will be seized and destroyed and the offending businesses will pay for the destruction.