Travelers to Tanzania will no longer be allowed to bring plastic carrier bags into the country as of June 1, according to a government announcement.
Authorities will set up a check-in area at points of entry to confiscate plastic bags, the announcement notes, and the only exceptions made will be for Ziploc bags used to carry personal items.
The measure builds on the country’s existing efforts to reduce plastic waste within the country, and seeks to crack down on the underground market and smuggling rings for the materials.
“All plastic carrier bags, regardless of their thickness, will be prohibited from being imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied, and used in mainland Tanzania,” January Makamba, the country’s environment minister, posted in a statement on Twitter.
Official government notice to travelers planning to visit Tanzania in the wake of plastic bags ban. pic.twitter.com/uyOcJ3b7W4— January Makamba (@JMakamba) May 15, 2019
Tanzania is a pioneer in the movement to combat plastic waste. In 2016, the country announced that it would be unveiling a total ban on plastic bags, and that effort will be formalized in the months ahead, according to Africa News.
The country worked with manufacturers to create sustainable alternatives, and gave businesses a grace period to adapt to the measure, but this latest effort is an attempt to prevent the emergence of an underground market.
Other countries have dealt with this problem by enacting varying levels of punishment to ensure businesses follow plastic bans.
In Rwanda, for example, people found in violation of the plastic bag ban can be sent to prison. Most countries, like Tanzania, enforce the law through fines.
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In recent years, more than 60 countries have crafted laws to restrict plastic production to protect the environment from pollution. African countries, in particular, are leading the way when it comes to fighting plastic pollution and young activists across the continent are often the galvanizing force. Building on this momentum, the United Nations oversaw the formation of a global pact to fight ocean plastic waste and coordinate on cross-border waste management initiatives.
The new law by Tanzania sets a precedent for that sort of regional cooperation.
“The government does not intend for visitors to Tanzania to find their stay unpleasant as we enforce the ban,” Makamba’s statement read. “However, the government expects that, in appreciation or the imperative to protect the environment and keep our country clean and beautiful, our visitors will accept minor inconveniences resulting from the plastic bags ban.”