By Gerald Tenywa and Yasin Kintu
A ban on polythene bags, commonly called buveera, took effect yesterday.
â€œAnybody found producing, importing, selling or using the banned type of carrier bags and materials shall be violating the ban and will be arrested and charged,â€™â€™ said Dr. Aryamanya Mugisha, the executive director of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
â€œAs of today October 1, 2007, the importation, production and use of polythene bags and materials of 30 microns (120 gauge) or less is illegal,â€™â€™ said Mugisha. â€œThis gauge is irrespective of the colours and size ranges used to produce the bags and materials.â€™â€™
He warned that importing or using polythene bags violates the national environment Act and waste management regulations.
In the national budget speech read on June 14, the finance minister, Ezra Suruma, announced a ban on the importation, production and use of polythene bags and materials of less than 30 microns. Mugisha cited the bags commonly used for packing commodities such as sugar, salt, water, passion juice among the illegal ones.
Mugishaâ€™s statement said an excise duty of 120% was imposed on polythene bags and materials of more than 30 microns.
â€œWhoever is still having the above-mentioned materials and polythene bags of 30 microns or less in stock is reminded as stated above and asked to dispose of them in an environmentally friendly manner with guidance and supervision from NEMA.â€™â€™
A survey conducted yesterday by the New Vision in the markets of Nakasero, St. Balikuddembe and Kikuubo, showed that traders were still packing items in the illegal polythene bags.
â€œWe are aware that plastic bags pose environmental hazards, but we ask the government to extend the ban because we still have the old stock of buveera,â€™â€™ Fred Ndiwalana, a trader in Nakasero, said.
Aisha Nambooze, a trader in Kikuubo, said part of their capital was locked up in the buveera stock, so effecting the ban would affect their businesses.
â€œWe need alternatives in form of paper bags that we can use to pack some of these commodities,â€™â€™ said Thomas Mwanje of St. Balikuddembe (Owino)
Linda Biribonwa, a senior environmental inspector at NEMA, said at least two local factories were still manufacturing the prohibited polythene bags.
â€œWhile some companies like BMK have become compliant, others are simply buying time,â€™â€™ she said. â€œWe shall soon crack down on such industries because we know them.â€™â€™
She cited one factory in Luzira and another one in Kampala Industrial Area.
Kizito Mugambwa, NEMAâ€™s officer in charge of environmental education and communication, said a plan to enforce the ban has been put in place.
He said it would involve the Uganda Revenue Authority, Uganda National Bureau of Standards, Ministry of Health, the Agriculture Ministry, civil society organisations and NEMA.
Mugambwa said the public would be continuously sensitised on how to dispose of the polythene bags in an environmentally friendly manner. â€œNEMA intends to stretch the ban of plastic bags from 30 microns to 100 microns,â€™â€™ he said.
Naome Karekaho, the NEMA publicist said supermarkets such as Uchumi use cloth bags for shoppers.