The Seychelles, a small island Developing State, at the forefront of the fight to save our Mother Earth and combat climate change yet Seychelles should stand envious of countries like Rwanda when it comes to plastic bags. In 2008, Rwanda got tough on plastic bags by deciding to effect a complete ban on the non-biodegradable polythene bags. The country is looking to ban other types of plastic and is even hinting at the possibility of become the world's first plastic free nation. Can we beat them to it? Like the Seychelles Constitution, the Constitution of Rwanda recognises the right to a clean and safe environment. A right that is recognised and enforceable under the law.
Throughout the world, the concern that a reduction or ban on the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags have been economic concerns such as harming small businesses if levies or taxes are placed on plastic bags. With the environmental cost being litter all over our prized paradise, threats to the eco-systems as wildlife choke on plastic bags, plastic bags don’t break down in landfills or in oceans, they add to our demand for oil and the improper disposal of plastic bags such as when they are burnt releasing toxic pollutants into the air, plastic bags have a higher cost to life in the long- term. Rwanda on the other hand devised a clever strategy to turn the ban into a boost to its economy. The local authorities incentivised companies that used to manufacture plastic bags to start recycling them by providing tax incentives. The policy further created a market for a new product such as environmentally friendly bags which were virtually non-existent before the ban.
After more than five years of the ban Rwanda is known for being one of the cleanest countries. However it is starting to face a challenge with a lucrative black marked for the shunned plastic bags. The excessive use of paper bags is also starting to raise concerns.
Seychelles has not been completely oblivious to the issue of plastic bags. It remains a national and international problem. In 2008 legislation was passed to restrict the lower standard of plastic bags entering the country – Environment Protection (Restrictions on Plastic Bags) Regulations 2008. Plastic bags which are suspected to be below standards are sent to the Seychelles Bureau of Standards for testing. Moreover the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change also prosecutes businesses who are caught using plastic bags which are below the standards. Unfortunately the Seychelles continues allow the use of plastic bags, but as long as it is above 30 microns (in diameter).
Even with this law in place the improper disposal of single use plastic bag continues to be a menace to our environment. The SIDS Youth AIMS Hub-SEYCHELLES, a youth-led NGO, calls for support in their Free from plastic bag campaign and asks that everyone makes a special effort to save our island and its oceans from plastic.
Practise the fourth ‘R’ and REFUSE plastic bags
CONTRIBUTED by Youth, SYAH-Seychelles