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The Problem With Plastic

Shopping for groceries at the supermarket is an inescapable part of our lives, some of us do it on a daily basis, some weekly and some monthly.

Regardless of which store and in which country, what is guaranteed is that if you buy something you will get a plastic bag to carry it in.

In Swaziland, plastic bags at till checkpoints are free of charge to customers, unlike in South Africa where plastic bags are sold to customers for a small fee, in part to encourage customers to either purchase durable reusable grocery bags, or to use plastic bags more than once.

The availability of plastic bags at no charge exacerbates the environmental threat posed by using plastic bags in first place.

Plastic bags pose a multi-faceted threat to the environment.

The United Nations Environmental Programme reports that plastics form part of ocean debris, and thin film plastic in particular is notorious for choking marine life. Plastics are also not biodegradable, meaning if you throw a plastic bag onto the ground today, its existence may succeed 4 generations after you. If it were possible, plastic bags would have to be banned altogether.

The government departments responsible for environmental matters must consider alternatives to sway the public from relying on plastic. If Swaziland needs to import ideas from neighbours and international friends, then so be it. The way in which plastic bags are used in grocery shopping is simply not sustainable, not in the long run anyway.

The government also has to look into formulating policy that will “force” the consumer to consider alternatives to plastic bags, for instance subsidising reusable non-plastic bags can go a long way into lessening the use of plastic.

In South Africa it is not uncommon to see consumers carrying non-plastic bags, and it seems that the South African consumer has bought into the conservationist policy that their government has adopted. There is no reason why Swaziland cannot do the same.

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