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Plastic Bags: Danger To Health, Environment 

By Dickson Ashu, Betty Musango and Rodinmercy Agwenjang* — The Buea municipality is gearing up to put an end to the rise in the circulation, use and disposal of plastic shopping bags, which pose a serious danger health and environment.


Following the announcement made by the Minister of Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development, Pierre Hele, during a press briefing in Yaounde on August 13, economic operators have been given months to liquidate their existing stocks, while manufacturing industries have been instructed to look alternative biodegradables shopping bags.

Minister Hele stated that plastic bags pose severe health threats because the chemicals used in manufacturing them are poisonous to the human system, most specifically when they are used in storing food. They easily dissolve in to the food and when eaten, they pose serious health problems, he explained.

Plastic bags are not only dangerous to human health; when not properly disposed of, they leak toxic chemicals into the soil. Due to their non perishable nature, they also clog roadside drains and give an unpresentable environment, when not properly disposed. The plastic bags are what in which most shopkeepers and vendors of other items parceled goods bought inside. They are mostly used by fast food shops, supermarkets, roadside eateries, markets, and manufacturing industries due to their low cost.

Delia Ayuk, a university student, affirms she uses plastic bags in her day-to-day activities.
“I use plastic bags, especially when I go to purchase perishable food items like bread, cake, sugar balls and others. I actually find them presentable since I can’t carry those items in my bare hands. Actually, they are light and cheap, that is why they are commonly used,’’ she averred. Desmond Musong; a shopkeeper in Molyko, admits he is aware of the danger of plastic bags, but says that is what is affordable for the moment.

“I sell my goods parceled in plastic bags and as well sell plastic bags to hawkers,’’ he said adding that he is in support of the Minister’s decision, but only if there shall be substitutes to the plastic bags. Francoise Ponda owns a fast food restaurant in Sand-pit, Buea, where she sells cooked food. She affirms that she uses plastic bags to serve her customers and she is equally aware of the Minister’s decision to stop the circulation of plastic bags.

“I understand the reason why the Government wants to ban the use of those plastic bags, but why did they, in the first place, allow them to circulate. They would not have permitted the production and circulation of them. It is because of their massive production that people go after them,” she said.

She added that she has been informed on the Minister’s decision to stop their circulation, but since then, she has not been able to see any action taken to show the seriousness of the decision. She said if the bags are banned, she would serve her customers using pieces of the paper bags that baking flour comes in. The difficulty, she added, would only lie on the situation when she has to sell in great quantity.

Charles Ossou Zolo, Southwest Regional Delegate of Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development, holds that it was a joint decision, which his Minister took with the Minister of Commerce, to make sure that Cameroon’s environment and inhabitants are protected. He further explained that not all plastic bags would suffer this decision, only those made out of chemical substances that are harmful to humans and take a long time to decompose.

He said the public can adopt the use of bags made from wood, baskets and from natural resources like bamboo. He said in Buea, they are adopting a sensitisation method to inform the public and those who trade in plastic bags, that they have up to 18 months to liquidate their stock. However, the decision will seriously affect companies specialized in the production of the plastic bags, dealers and retailers and workers in the production chain.

*(UB  Journalism Students On Internship)

First published in The Post print edition no 01458

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