Ivory Coast plastic ban a mixed blessing

Africa
A woman cleans plastic bags bound for recycling in Abidjan, in September 2013. Following in the footsteps of Rwanda and Mauritania, authorities in the Ivory Coast have decided to ban the production and use plastic bags. Picture:

ABIDJAN - A law banning the production, use and selling of plastic bags in the Ivory Coast will take effect on Saturday.

Authorities are instituting the controversial law in an effort to improve waste management in the city.

But manufacturers and consumer advocates are up in arms, accusing government of not providing alternatives.

Ivory Coast’s Prime Minister, Daniel Kablan Duncan, said plastic would be an enduring problem if steps are not taken.

"We need to find a way to stop this type of pollution, because plastic does not disappear over a period of a year or two - it takes centuries," Duncan said.

Authorities have passed a law banning the production, sale and use of plastic bags. They are still allowed for agriculture products.

Hassan Cisse, whose company, Aqua-Ivoire, uses bags for the sale of water, is sceptical about the ban.

"This decision will have repercussions in the sector, at the economic and social level. I'm not sure it will change anything at the environmental level."

It is not just manufacturers whose livelihoods are on the line.

Ouattara Nourdine makes extra money by selling plastic bags to recycling companies.

"We use the money we earn for transport, for food, while we wait for our salary. We don't just depend on our salaries," Nourdine explained.

Environmentalists are urging government to find alternative solutions and to improve waste collection.

"There are options such as recycling, or re-using these plastic bags to make other things. But is banning them the best solution?” asked Brice Delagneau, Head of Amistad Environmental.

At this stage, there is no alternative to plastic bags so it is unclear how consumers will carry their shopping.

Bio-degradable bags are not an option yet as government will only consider them at a later stage.

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