By Mavie Gavin Thwala – Head of Exploration

On 25 November 2020, the Acc. Lab in collaboration with Eswatini Environmental Authority (EEA) launched the Phatsa Sako Nawe (Bring your own bag) - Towards a plastic bag free Eswatini . The campaign seeks to advocate and address:  

-  The reduction in the distribution of single use plastic carry bags by major food retail outlets during the festive season;

- Raising awareness on the adverse effects of single use plastic bags on the natural environment;

- Encouraging the sale and use of multiple use carry bags to be possibly sourced from local textile MSMEs;

- Influencing the passing of Plastic Bag Regulations Bill in Parliament. The Bill advocates for the introduction of a plastic bag levy with an option of completely banning single use plastic bags.

The Lab, EEA and major food retail outlets undertook a solution mapping exercise to explore ways in which the distribution of single use plastic carry bags in Eswatini can be minimized. A partial ban strategy was agreed upon as an experiment.  The partial ban will entail retailers not issuing single use plastic bags from Friday to Sunday of every week for three-months starting from 4 December 2020. Shoppers will have the options of purchasing affordable multiple use carry bags or bring your own bag.

Eswatini has been grappling with the challenge of plastic waste pollution. A 2016 survey by the Eswatini Environmental Authority (EEA) indicated that three out of the five major retail distributed about 1.9 million single use plastic bags per month. Approximately 60% of these plastic bags are taken to landfills while the rest either pollute the aquatic ecosystem or the aesthetics of the natural environment. Domestic animals, considered in Eswatini to be a symbol of wealth especially for rural small holder farmers, have also been put at risk as they tend to ingest single use plastic carry bags while trying to forage on discarded food they contain.

Important to the eradication of single use plastic bags is behavioural challenge from both retailers and consumers. In Eswatini, there is no law that compels retailors to issue plastic bags, but rather this has been a goodwill practice by retailors in their quest of creating convenience to shoppers.

As part of monitoring behavioural change of consumers during the campaign, participating retailers will continue to give shoppers single use plastic bags as usual from Monday to Thursday of every week for the duration of the campaign. Data will be collected weekly on the number of plastic bags utilised and comparison will be drawn from baseline data. Secondly to encourage youth participation, an essay or poster competition will run throughout the two-month campaign. Qualitative data will be collected throughout on consumer feedback, complaints, and reaction to the campaign. 

The experiment will also identify textile MSMEs in the country that can produce the cheapest multiple use shopping bags made from durable material with a high propensity to biodegradable. The idea is to create a local supply pipeline for multiple use shopping bags that will be a common feature for both retail outlets and consumers.

Single use plastic bag pollution has necessitated EEA to put together Plastic Bag Regulations’ Bill that currently awaits parliament approval. The bill is two pronged; first it introduces a levy on every single use plastic bag issued by retail outlets and it then provides an option for government to completely ban single use plastic bags. This phased approach is meant to allow both retailers and consumers to prepare for a complete ban of single use plastic bags.

Although the levy approach has proven to be effective in reducing the distribution of single use plastic bags by retailors, studies have shown that the effectiveness of the levy is price inelastic in the long run. The levy tends to create a cost shock for consumers in the short run that deters consumers from demanding plastic bags, but in the long run, the additional cost of the levy becomes negligible compared to the cost of the shopping basket. A complete ban of single use plastic bags is the most effective way of dealing with plastic bag pollution in the country. The partial ban introduced by the ‘Phatsa Sakho Nawe’ campaign will serve a practical example of the impact of the desired complete ban.

For more information contact;

Mavie Thwala – Head of Exploration - mavie.thwala@undp.org

Nontobeko Mlangeni – Head of Solutions Mapping  - nontobeko.mlangeni@undp.org

Zandile Mthembu – Head of Experimentation - zandile.mthembu@undp.org

 

 

 

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