By Patience Lunda
The battle against thin plastics is far from over in the country as the materials have emerged to be the most common type of litter in cities.
This is because of a court injunction which was obtained by manufacturers and is restraining Malawi Environmental Protection Authority (Mepa) from enforcing the ban against the plastics.
Spot-checks conducted by Times in Mzuzu, Zomba, Blantyre and Lilongwe showed that thin plastics have accumulated significantly in the central business districts and riverbanks.
Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy Executive Director Herbert Mwalukomo said in an interview the problem has worsened because there is high demand for the materials among local Malawians.
Mwalukomo suggested behaviour change on the usage of thin plastics, saying people heavily rely on them at the expense of alternatives such as cloth bags.
“People need to find other alternatives to thin plastics. The problem most shoppers have in mind the feeling that they can get the thin plastics when they go shopping because the plastics are everywhere,” he said.
Another environmental activist Maloto Chinkombero said the issue needs collective efforts from several quarters such as ministries of Information, Homeland Security and Forestry and Natural Resources and the judiciary to inform the public about the dangers of using thin plastics.
“The availability of these plastics is making it easy for people to use them but if they are informed about their dangers, they will go for alternatives,” Chinkombero said.
Director of Environmental Affairs in the Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources Tawonga Mbale Luka said plans are underway to vacate the injunction.
“There is a court injunction that is restraining us from enforcing the ban; that is why you may have observed that we have stopped enforcing the ban,” she said.
Olden Plastics, a plastic manufacturer, obtained the stay order at the Supreme Court in July this year.
Thin plastics take many years to decompose and toxic substances are released into the soil when the bags perish under sunlight and if they are burned, they release a toxic substance into the air causing ambient air pollution.