East Africa plans to ban use of plastics

The East African Community (EAC) partner states have moved closer to a total ban on the use of plastics, after a regional legislative body passed a new law banning their use in the region.

Plastics from EALA

The East African Legislative Assembly passed the EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill 2011 that is now renamed ‘The East African Community Plastic Control Bill’ last week.

The EAC is an intergovernmental organisation comprising the five east African countries Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Plastic manufacturers in the region have been opposing the bill.

The Bill will become an Act of the Community once the East African heads of the five partner states of Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya sign it into law.

If any of the heads of state of the member countries fails to sign the Bill, it will be sent back to the legislative assembly, a statement released by the EAC Secretariat said.

The Bill was sponsored by Rwandan lawmaker Patricia Hajabakiga. She said the Bill would provide a legal framework for the preservation of a clean and healthy environment through the prohibition of manufacturing, sale, importation and use of polythene materials.

Total ban

Justifying the move, Hajabakiga said the Bill was intended to control the use of polythenes while advocating the total ban of plastics. She cited dangers of plastics and polythene materials, including soil degradation through burning of wastes, harmful emissions of toxics, and the endangering of human and animal lives.

Countries such as Bangladesh, Botswana, Israel, Rwanda and France have since enacted a similar law, Hajabakiga said.

Plastic manufacturers in Kenya, however, opposed the Bill. Stakeholders in Kenya were of the view that while polythenes are an environmental menace, a balance needs to be struck between eradicating them on the one side and the promotion and protection of investments on the other.

Stakeholders in Kenya suggested adjustment to specifications of polythene materials other than total ban.


Tanzania supported the Bill on the understanding that only plastic bags should be banned and not all polythene materials.



  1. Sorry to point out the obvious but wouldn’t it make sense to recycle the various “plastics”!!
    Not only does this make environmental sense it will also provide more jobs.

  2. @Kevin, that is an option, although with recycling you would need:
    1. capital investment in waste separation plants
    2. capital investment in recycling plants
    3. intense web of collection points
    4. regular collection schedules
    5. strong international regulation to ensure that all of the above is protected in case of economic uncertainty and instability

    Perhaps they should just ban the material?

  3. @Kevin & Dom, the unfortunate reality is that most disposable plastics are NOT recycled, even in communities that support recycling and offer citizens the resources to do so. San Francisco, for instance, is hailed as being the U.S. city with most successful recycling program, however it is estimated that only 1% of all recyclable plastic products that are used in the city, are actually recycled.

    Unfortunately, plastics are often the best option for many applications and can be essential to developing nations. They are cheap, they can be used to significantly lengthen the shelf life of food and are unequivocally the best option for sterilization and protective barriers. As such, one of the best emerging options is oxo-biodegradable plastics – plastics made with special additives that accelerate natural degradation to the point that plastic can biodegrade into organic biomass that supports plant regrowth and does not toxify the environment. These plastics can still be recycled like normal plastic, however if the end up on the ground or in a landfill, they biodegrade over a short period of time.