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.
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.